Trying Times

girl-cropped  It seems that we daily read of another terror attack somewhere in the world or some measure of strife between people groups. From the Orlando nightclub attack to the most recent attack in Nice, France and the growing unrest between the Black Lives Matter movement and police here in the US, there seems to be increasing tension around the world. For those personally affected by these attacks, our hearts ache for you; our prayers go out for all the victims, their families and friends, and all those whose lives are forever changed.

With each and every incident, regardless of our individual political viewpoints, we collectively feel sadness, anger, and uncertainty. We long for peace in the world, some of us labor hard for it, but despite our deepest desires and best efforts, the feeling of increasing distress is often inescapable. We ask ourselves what can be done and we begin to wonder why our leaders can’t solve the issues. It seems there are no easy answers, and there probably aren’t.

But there is one thing we can do, and we can all do it right where we are, without delay and without hesitation. And that is to seek God, to submit ourselves to him, and offer our prayers with all the earnestness we feel in our hearts. In Isaiah 62:6 we read: “O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.” And in 1Thessalonians 5:17 we are instructed to “Never stop praying.” In fact, all throughout the Bible we see examples of people turning to God in prayer during difficult times.

pray-1492816_960_720  In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer.” (2Thessalonians 3:2) So we see, even in Paul’s time, there was evil in the world, and Paul’s response was to ask for prayer, for he knew God is (as he notes in verse 3) “faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.”  For Paul knew, as we should, that while it is people we see committing these atrocious acts of violence and fostering growing levels of animosity, the Bible reveals that underneath it all is a spiritual battle. And to win a spiritual battle we must fight on a spiritual level.

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Ephesians: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

When Judas betrayed Jesus, the Bible tells us that it was Satan who entered into him and caused him to commit this heinous act (Luke 22:3; John 13:27). And Peter cautioned us to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8). Indeed, what we see happening around us in the world today, all the tension and terror, has roots in the spiritual realm and represents the work of the evil one in this world. Jesus called Satan the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and we are wise to recognize this fact. But in Jesus we have victory, as he said in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

So let us now turn to the Lord, let us seek Jesus with all of our hearts. Let us pray without ceasing. For Jesus is the answer.

And in these trying times, as you seek His face, may God bless you and keep you. And for those who have been personally affected, may you find comfort in Him.

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The Watchmaker

watchmaker-1163433_960_720  How do you know there is a watchmaker?

Because there is a watch!

If you take a moment to look at the timepiece strapped to your wrist, or located in your pocket, or if you’re one of those who has no watch, the cell phone you use to check the time, you can tell it is an amazingly complex piece of micro-machinery. Whether your watch has the old fashioned mainspring-driven gear mechanism or the latest digital microchip technology, upon examination it is pretty obvious that the pieces didn’t just randomly fall together and start tracking time.

And while the old style mechanical watches with their tiny gears, tightly wound mainsprings, delicately weighted balance wheels, and precision escapements have been around for centuries, we instinctively know they contain ingenious amounts of meticulous engineering. And then there is the latest marvel of silicon technology, the Smart Watch. Would it be presumptuous of me to guess that there are exactly zero human beings on Earth who believe these marvels of technogeekdom just randomly fell together as the result of random chance?

I didn’t think so.

So now that you have examined and thought about your watch for a few minutes, take a look at the world around you. Not just a cursory look, but a long, detailed look. Notice the trees, the grass, the insects, the birds, the sky and the clouds floating across it. Feel the temperature and humidity against your skin. Think about why you can feel that in the first place, and why it feels either just right, or a bit too warm or a bit too cool. Take some deep breaths and consider the oxygen you inhaled that your lungs used to revitalize your blood. Drink a cold glass of water and consider the complex processes by which your body uses that cold drink to nourish and rejuvenate you.

Look at your own hand and consider the complexity of this biomechanism and all the intricate tasks you can use it to perform. Perhaps you play the piano, or the guitar, or you’re an artist or a writer like me. Go into your kitchen and pick up an egg or a marshmallow and consider just how it is that you can manipulate your fingers just right to grasp the object, apply the precise amount of force required to hold the object without dropping it, yet hold it delicately enough to keep from crushing it. Do you really believe all this complexity you see around you, indeed even your own body, just randomly fell together, the product of aimless natural forces?

You are being disingenuous if you say you do. Just as we know there is a watchmaker because there is a watch, we also know there is a creator because there is a creation. The world around us – indeed our very own bodies – are all the evidence we need to know there is a God who created us, the world around us, and the universe within which we exist. Yes, we know the truth about God because He has made the truth obvious to us – Romans 1:20 states, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

So regardless of what you are willing to publicly admit, you do, in fact, know that God exists. You know this beyond a shadow of a doubt and we can let all pretenses fall away right here and now. And in this moment, as you read this, I want you to shut out all the other people in your life. Tune out your friends, coworkers, family, and anyone else that might come to mind. For this is just between you and God. And right here and right now I want you to speak to God. Admit to Him that you know He is there, that He created all that there is. If you have been publicly denying this (as I once did many years ago) then apologize to Him and ask for forgiveness. Ask Him to help you come to know Him better. For it is God’s good pleasure to draw near to those who draw near to Him. (read James 4:8)

I will leave you with this truth from Romans 3:23-25a:

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

May the God you know exists bless you and keep you!

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