Yes, I know. Last post I said it was the last post on suffering. But I couldn’t let the series end without a short word on prayer. Prayer and suffering are just too connected to end it without addressing the issue of prayer.
My Desperate Prayer
I walked alone into the woods of the Rogue Valley, in Oregon. I wasn’t a Christian, but I was there to pray. I was making that hike and praying like that fairly often, because I was desperate for two things. One, I needed a job. Kathy was eight months pregnant with our first son Gabe. We were living in an 8′ x 24′ travel trailer and borrowing from my parents to make the rent. The shower was so small, and Kathy was so pregnant, that she couldn’t pick up a bar of soap if she dropped it. And I was unemployed.
The second thing I prayed for was strange because I wasn’t a Christian. The second thing I prayed for was Christian friends. Peculiar, I know. But I was so intrigued by Jesus that I wanted to learn more. And I felt the need to connect with other Christians so I could find out all I could about him.
I never saw God’s answer coming. The way He answered that prayer was completely outside of my imagination. I’ll share what He did Continue reading
The Grange Co-op was on fire. Steve Shafer and two other firefighters drug a hose line through an open bay door and disappeared into the thick black smoke. The thick smoke severely limited their visibility. They were feeling their way, peering through the darkness, looking for any sign of light from the flames that waited for them inside. It was all textbook so far, except for one thing, they couldn’t find the fire. They could feel the heat, there was dense smoke, but try as they might, no fire could be found.
Because he had only been on the department one year, it was Steve Shafer’s job to operate the nozzle on the 2 1/2 inch line taken into the Grange Co-Op, on South Pacific Highway, in Medford, Oregon. The Grange, as the locals called it, was a large retail store and warehouse that sold agricultural supplies.
Steve’s crew took a path that resembled the letter J. After working their way 150 feet deep into the structure, and still finding no flames, they decided to retreat back outside. In a situation such as this, firefighters are trained to follow the hose back out of the building, but Steve thought he could take a short cut across the hook of the J. So he dropped the nozzle, and headed for what he thought was the way out. He didn’t make it far. After a few moments he bumped into a wall. “Not good,” he thought to himself. He turned around and headed back in the general direction of the hose line, but somehow he missed it.
“By now I was totally disoriented,” Steve said. “I had no idea which way to go.”
He felt his way until he found a large roll up door, but it had a padlock on it. It was around this time his low-air warning-bell started ringing.
“So my low-air bell’s going off, and the roll up doors had these little narrow 4″ x 12″ windows in them,” Steve said. “I’m looking through them to the outside, but I can’t see anybody.” Continue reading
When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know… ”
…he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
The Election is Over, Now What?
“When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased.” (v.17)
He put Ephraim, Joseph’s second born, ahead of Joseph’s first born, Manasseh — and Joseph didn’t like it.
How about this election? One man was put ahead of another. How did you like it? I find it interesting we find ourselves at this precise point in Genesis, the day after the election. Because Continue reading
To read the last post on Genesis, go to Ready to Die.
Read Genesis 47:1-6
Joseph’s family are now with him in Egypt, and while that’s good, he still has a big frog to swallow. He has to present some of his family members to Pharaoh and gain permission for them to settle in Egypt, in the land of Goshen.
So Joseph goes to Pharaoh and tells him his family is in Goshen. He chooses five of his brothers and he presents them to Pharaoh.
What’s your occupation? Pharaoh asks.
Your servants are shepherds just as our fathers were, they reply. And we’ve come to live here for awhile, because the famine is so bad in Canaan we have no pasture for our flocks. So please, let your servants settle in Goshen.
Pharaoh says to Joseph, Your father and your brothers can settle anywhere you like. Put them in the best part of Egypt. Let them live in Goshen. And if any of them have special talent with livestock, put them in charge of my herds.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. While I was still a firefighter I traveled to New York City, after the towers were attacked, with a group of Christian police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers to see what we could do to help. I spoke with many firefighters who experienced the loss of family and/or friends when the twin towers were taken down. (There were so many killed, very often firefighters had to choose between attending the funeral of a fellow firefighter who was family, or one who was a friend, because they were held at the same time) I attended funerals where Mayor Giuliani addressed the crowd. I spoke with forensics specialists who collected gruesome evidence at ground zero.
I’ve given this terrible tragedy a lot of thought over the last eleven years. And I’ve not just thought about 9/11, but I’ve also given considerable thought to our country’s leadership during that tragedy, and the leadership to come in the 2012 election.
I’ve come to a conclusion.
Egypt had a tragedy with the potential to kill more than we lost on 9/11. A seven year famine could have been devastating. However through God’s intervention with His servant Joseph, Pharaoh and Egypt escaped this famine relatively unscathed. But in spite of his success, can’t you just hear the criticisms that must have come from the people?
Pharaoh didn’t handle it right. He shouldn’t have given the best of the land to Israel and his family. He shouldn’t have given them positions of authority over Pharaoh’s flocks. That land and those job positions should have been given to Egyptians. This only happened because Joseph is so well connected.
The Coming Election
Just a few minutes ago I came across a video about how 9/11 was an inside job. How President Bush knew. How it was all a part of Bush’s effort to usher in the new world order. (I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, so I won’t dignify this video by posting a link)
The last few months of the presidential race, I’ve seen both sides meet out huge doses of negative campaigning.
On Twitter and Facebook I see my friends and family lambasting the opposition, either Republican or Democrat, Romney or Obama, depending on their political leanings.
But think this thing through with me — Remember back to that moment of optimism after “our guy” won the election? How’s that been working for us? After “our man” was in office for awhile, was there any appreciable difference? Time and time again when “our man” is in there, the real tangible changes made have been negligible. Many today maintain that the differences between the parties are rapidly narrowing. The reality is…
…putting your time and energy into politics won’t make a difference.
In a democracy, where we elect our leadership, we will continue to get what we ask for. You and I and the rest of the voting population are responsible for who serves in political office. And the voting public seems to choose leadership that doesn’t change much, time and time again.
In a democracy, the voting population gets what they deserve — every time.
You know what? Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and Israel’s family weren’t made because of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and his family were all a part of God’s divine plan.
God is where the power is for change. So why invest your time and energy into a man?
Here’s my conclusion: Take all the time and energy you invest in the political process and reapportion it into prayer. Because here’s the real solution to effecting change in a democracy:
Because after revival, the voting public will no longer put up with mediocre leadership. They’ll vote in better (not perfect but better) leaders into office. After revival, many of the country’s problems will be mitigated. We’ll see a reduction in corruption, drug and alcohol abuse, broken families, crime, etc. We’ll see these things improve because after revival more people will walk through life closer to Christ.
So stop bashing the other guy, whatever side you’re on, and start praying.
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in your family, in your church, in your city, in your state, in your entire country.
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in you.
God is where the power is for effecting change.
“The key to prayer is simply praying.”
Today is the National Day of Prayer — so pray.
Pray for the Lord to take you deeper in your relationship with Him.
Pray for the people you love and care about.
Pray for our country.
Pray for yourself.
In verse nine the strangers asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?” Being strangers, how might they know Abraham’s wife’s name? Up until this point, for all Abraham knew, these three were just some nomads passing through. In his mind they were strangers that he would likely never see again. Yet he entertained them well. Abraham didn’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, and by so doing he showed hospitality to angels (and the Lord) without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. This may have been the first clue that these three were more than just strangers passing through.
“There in the tent,” he said in verse nine.
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” (v. 10)
Jesus said in Matthew 10 that “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)
So Abraham, having entertained angels and our Lord unawares, is now going to receiving blessings from the same. When they uttered this prophecy it must have, at this point, removed any doubt Abraham may have had regarding who his guests really were. These were no ordinary strangers. These were beings carrying God’s prophetic word from heaven!
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (v. 10, 12)
In Genesis chapter 17 Abraham may have laughed in delight in response to hearing God’s promises. But without a doubt Sarah laughs out of doubt, and even out of cynicism toward God’s promise here in chapter 18.
Then the Lord asks what must have been to Him the most natural question in the universe, He asked, “Why?” “Why did Sarah laugh and say, Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 13-14) He asked the latter question rhetorically of course. Then He answers the rhetorical question by saying in effect, “I have even set a date for this!” He says, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (v. 14)
Now the picture painted in the scripture to me describes that Sarah was out of sight behind the flaps of the tent and that she laughed to herself. So initially Sarah may have thought that she was safe from discovery. Surprised that these supernatural guests knew of her laughter and her thoughts she became afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” (v. 15) We often lie to avoid embarrassment but in reality when we try to cover up a mistake we only add iniquity to iniquity. God sees and hears what goes on behind the flaps of our tents. He knows our hearts. He knows our minds. There’s nothing hidden from Him. We’re transparent to Him. You might think that some things you do are done alone and in secret but in reality, you’re never alone.
Yet even though the Lord knows that Sarah laughed amiss and then lied about it, He shows great mercy when He doesn’t chastise Sarah but simply says, “Yes you did laugh.” (v. 15)
Sarah was looking at her circumstances and thinking, this is just too hard. But God’s response to Sarah was, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 14)
You might be out of work right now and you might be finding it tough to land a job. It seems hard, maybe even impossible. And you’re right, it is hard. Times are tough. The economy is down. Jobs are scarce. It’s hard. It’s hard for you, but pray it through! Because nothing is too hard for the Lord.
A friend of mine lost her husband yesterday. He passed away after an eighteen year battle with cancer. You may have lost a loved one recently, perhaps he or she passed away, or perhaps you lost your loved one when your relationship ended. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. You can feel it, even physically, I know. But the Lord will bring you through it because nothing is too hard for Him.
He created the earth and all that’s in it. He created the atom in it’s microscopic form, electrons flying around a nucleus and they somehow make up all matter.
He created the animals and the plants. He created the human body with all of its various systems: the circulatory system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, the muscular system, the respiratory system, and somehow all of these systems work in harmony to make up a physical living human being. And He did it using nothing but dirt.
He created VY Canis Majoris, the largest star in the known universe. It’s so big that you could fit 7,000,000,000,000,000 or 7 quadrillion earths inside of it.
He created a way for you and I to be saved from our sins, with His Son, Jesus, He provided the way.
If you want to be blessed and encouraged in your current circumstance, do a word search in scripture for the phrase “but God.” (Bible Gateway search for “but God”) You’ll learn how over and over, after human resources have reached their limit, God intervenes and changes everything. There are situations that are too hard for you and for me, but God…
Yes it’s hard right now, for you. But you’re problem isn’t too hard for God. Nothing’s too hard for God.
He’s there for you, you have access to Him.
Pray. Pray through the hard time.
You won’t regret it. I promise.
God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
[Image via Omar Infante-Ramos – Creative Commons]
Pray for the Haitian people.