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The Oak Tree

oak tree

The Oak Tree

by Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr.

A mighty wind blew night and day.

It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark,

Until the oak tree was tired and stark.

But still the oak tree held its ground

While other trees fell all around.

The weary wind gave up and spoke.

“How can you still be standing, Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you

Can break each branch of mine in two,

Carry every leaf away,

Shake my limbs, and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched into the earth,

Growing stronger since my birth.

You’ll never touch them, for you see,

They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn’t sure

Of just how much I could endure.

But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,

I’m stronger than I ever knew.”

 

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But the Lord

Faith is always listed as a protective factor that can help someone at risk of suicide. We all experience dark days that require reminders of hope. The Bible offers many valuable quotes and verses on strength. It also encourages us to be strong in our faith and our daily walk with God.

September is suicide prevention month. Take time to review a few Bible verses that can help you or someone you know during the tough times of life. They are a great reminder that we are not alone.

Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue.  Isaiah 35:4

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23

Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  2 Corinthians 5:17

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalm 119:28

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Ephesians 6:10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Psalm 22:19

For he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with testing he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Psalm 28:7-8

The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.  Isaiah 33:2

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.  Habakkuk 3:19

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.  Ephesians 3:16

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

Dunkirk

In the summer of 1940, everything went wrong. The British Expeditionary Forces landed in France and began to take up fighting positions at the start of World War II. The French heavily relied on the Maginot Line. A line of armed fortifications built to prevent any kind of invasion along the Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg borders. German forces unexpectedly went through the “impenetrable Ardennes Forest” an area that was only lightly fortified. In five days, the Germans captured the city of Sedan and headed west. This flanking maneuver cut off the entire Allied Army. More than 350,000 soldiers were surrounded with their backs to the sea at a port town called Dunkirk.

German forces were now on their way and had the ability to wipe out the entire British Army.  When it seemed certain that the Allied forces at Dunkirk would be encircled and annihilated, a British naval officer only had time to send a quick cable.  He sent three words to London, “But if not.”

These poignant words were immediately recognized as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel. These men were given a choice:  they could worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 shares their response:  “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They bravely chose the furnace, rather than disobeying God. The message of these three words told in Daniel 3:18 were clear.  Even though the situation was desperate and the Army was trapped, they would not give in.

One Bible verse and three tiny words communicated a giant message. It also brought about the most unorthodox and successful rescue campaign known in the modern era. The British Navy ordered fishing vessels, yachts, and any civilian watercraft longer than 30 feet in length to report and join the naval rescue effort. The flotilla consisted of over 850 civilian and military vessels with owners and crews, ready to launch across the channel.

Just as the German General was ready to attack the surrounded city, Hitler ordered him to stop at the outskirts of Dunkirk. The German command wanted forces to continue south with their invasion of France, instead of pushing into Dunkirk. This coincidence and several days of cloudy weather gave the “Little ships of Dunkirk” and regular military boats 9 full days to rescue over 338,000 men.

Today, we call this naval rescue mission “The Miracle of Dunkirk” and it began with three simple words from Daniel 3:18.

 

GBA

It’s okay to say, “God bless America.” In Jeremiah 29:5-7 we find some interesting concepts.  God says to build houses and settle down. God also says to seek peace and prosperity of the city. In the last verse, we are told, “pray to the Lord, for if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Here, we are encouraged to pray for the city. The governmental institution that controls and runs much of daily life. Even more interesting is the place of this suggestion, because the people were in captivity, i.e. Babylon. If Israel needed to pray for the cities, towns, and government while they were in bondage, perhaps we should pray for our nation in both good times and bad.

Nations need healing, just like people. Nations can offer forgiveness to both enemies and friends. Nations can receive our gratitude and thanks.

When we say, “God bless America” it is a prayer, not a boast.  May we continue to celebrate what is right with our Republic and pray for God’s power to make it even better.

God bless America!

Memorial Day 2017

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 7,000 American service members have died in combat since 2001. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make. They counted others greater than themselves. They stood up to fight for a cause. They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note. It is humbling. It is loving. It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

palm sunday

It is easy to get into a rut during Holy Week. While the music, pageants, processions, and lessons can easily feel the same consider where you are standing.

As we enter into Holy week, we should enter into the story. We should imagine ourselves watching and cheering as Jesus passes. But we shouldn’t just watch. We should go with him. We should join in the procession ourselves. We must follow along after Him and continue to shout and sing in the praises of our Messiah.

As Christians, we are not to remain spectators cheering from the sidelines. We are to fall in line. We are to join the procession. We are to become part of the parade itself. We are to follow Jesus, marching with him, moving wherever God’s voice is calling us to go.

Precious God, allow us to see Palm Sunday and Easter with new eyes.  Help us to see Jesus and follow after Him with our entire heart. Amen.

The Season of Lent

lent

Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter. On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.

I have to admit that observing Lent is new to me. It is more common among liturgical or “high church” faith groups. I was not raised in that tradition, but I have an appreciation for the concept of subtracting something in your life to grow closer to God. While many will give up meat, sweets, soda, chocolate, or doughnuts during Lent, I like the idea of adding a spiritual practice in your life to grow closer to God. These practices can include daily devotions, a focused prayer time, creating a spiritual journal, volunteering at a charity, or performing community service projects.

This year I added a practice to help me grow closer to God. I will read through the Book of Psalms. King David was a warrior and a proficient soldier. He experienced great joy and rejoiced with reckless abandon. He also experienced dark times of sorrow, loss, and isolation. Through all of life’s ups and downs, he pursued God. There is much I can learn from that example and relationship.

While this approach may not be for everyone, the key is to find spiritual practices that appeal to you and honor God. It is also helpful to find a practice that will test or stretch your faith. Don’t fall into a rut and do the same spiritual discipline year after year. That would deny you the growth and opportunity God wants from us.

As we get closer to Holy Week, may your spiritual practice draw you closer to God.  Whether you are subtracting or adding a practice continue the daily journey toward the cross of Christ. Discover the great love that took Him there. See and understand the sacrifice of Jesus. Allow the atoning and redeeming work of Jesus to transform your life.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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