WHEN THE TROUBLES OF LIFE ARE TOO MUCH TO BEAR!

1024px-Climbing_in_Eagle_Lake_Cliff_-_Lake_Tahoe,_California

 

Genesis 24:67 (New Living Translation) – And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.

John 14:15-17 (New Living Translation) – “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Comforter, Encourager, and Counselor], who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

 

Despite the wealth of Isaac, son of Abraham, when his mother Sarah died, he needed a comforter. Like Isaac, there will be times and seasons in our lives when the troubles of life seem too much to bear; in those times, some seek comfort in food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, careless sex, and even in violence against others.

We reach out to a comforter or comforting experience because we are in pain, we are hurting, and are struggling to cope or overcome what troubles us.

Jesus understood this, and spent much of his time being a comforter to those who were hurting and looked to him for solutions. Towards the end of his time physically living with us on Earth, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will come, and the major part of his work, will be to comfort, encourage, and counsel us.

As Christians, we experience good times and bad times – loss of a job or family member, ill health, difficult times with our studies, false accusations by close acquaintances, race based stress in society, broken homes – I could go on and on. What makes us different is that we have a comforter from God to help us overcome our setbacks.

As Christians, in times of troubles, we need to take time out to pray to God, asking for the comforter, the Holy Spirit to help us overcome, asking the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom to keep going until we emerge out of the darkness into light.

Don’t let the troubles of life destroy you, ask the Holy Spirit for help, ask shamelessly and persistently, and he will answer, Amen!  

 

Image: Rock climbing California (Source: Wikimedia)

THE REAL SUPER-MAN!

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Matthew 11:2-5 (New Living Translation)

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

 

When news that the actor Christopher Reeve, who played the role of the children’s comic book hero Superman, had broken his neck while horse riding in May 1995, I was shocked and sad. Like millions of children who adored Superman, I was sad to accept the truth that the man who acted as Superman was flesh and blood, like myself.

As I think back on the Superman movies, I see that the producers did an excellent job in presenting Superman to us children as the solution to human problems. Here was a handsome young man, who could fly, see through walls, lift any object, defeat all the evil people in the world, but was a humble and nice person to be around.

The creators of Superman presented him as a messiah – and as a child I believed them!

Contrast this with John the Baptist, a firebrand preacher, who had been locked up by the King Herod, for his strong preaching against the King. Jesus did not fly like Superman to go free John from jail, neither did he go beat up the King to release John. So messengers from John, came to Jesus to question whether he is truly the Biblical Messiah.

The response from Jesus is beautiful – “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” It says to John, I may not be flying in to release you, but see what it is that has preoccupied me, judge for yourself if this is messianic work!

To strengthen his messianic status, Jesus rose from the dead, and is now in heaven, from where he continues his ministry to the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf, the helpless, and the hopeless, in every generation, in every nation. This is a hero who cannot broke his neck while horse riding, who is divine not flesh and blood.

Jesus was full of godly power while he walked on Earth, but was kind, gentle, and compassionate. In him, we find a precious, faithful friend, who understands our pains, as we live in this tough world. He is our Superman – call on him today and every day, and you will find help in the day of trouble, Amen! 

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Image: A very human superman (Source: Wikimedia)    

 

SHAMELESS PERSISTENT PRAYER

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Luke 11:5-10 (New Living Translation)

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

When it seems like you are praying and praying and praying, and heaven is not answering, pray some more, keep at it until the answer arrives. The answer may sometimes seem not the best, but over time we come to see that God always has our best interests in mind. Let’s not quit in prayer, lets be shamelessly persistent!

This is not me asking you to be persistent, this is from the teachings of Jesus as you can see from the above passage from the book of Luke. Yes, it can be frustrating praying over a specific issue time after time, but if Jesus says we should, then lets stick with it. The words of Jesus are true, and he says shameless persistence pays off eventually!

May the Lord give us the strength to be shamelessly persistent in our prayers, Amen!

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Image: Climbing stairs to the summit of Tian Menshan Mountain China (Wikimedia)

JESUS FAVORITE SERMON

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Matthew 13:31-32 (New Living Translation)

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants…”

 

Reading through the gospels, it is clear that Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God more than any other topic. He told the crowds that followed him that the kingdom was near, and asked them to repent, so they can be a part of it.

He explained the nature of the kingdom to them using many parables and stories like the one above about the mustard seed. Indeed as the image above shows the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds; but when fully grown it is a good size tree.

Jesus is the seed that has given birth to the Kingdom of God on Earth.

The Kingdom of God is simply the place where Jesus is King. The Bible teaches that Jesus is King in the hearts of all who sincerely believe in Him. These are the Church of God; not the Church referring to buildings, but of people who believe in Jesus; not perfect people but people who see their sinfulness and look to Jesus for healing.

These make up the Kingdom of God on Earth, and the number grows daily. It started with a single seed, Jesus, over 2000 years ago, and has been growing and growing. There is no exchange of money to get in, the visa is belief in Jesus as the one who can give us power from the inside, power in our soul and spirit, to live godly lives.

As you seek for daily bread, for career success, for friends, for intimate relationships, for fun and laughter, seek Jesus a little more through prayer and Bible reading. Be part of the Kingdom of God on Earth today! 

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Image: Mustard seed and oil (Source: Wikimedia)

WISDOM FROM LAMENTATIONS

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Lamentations 1:1 (New Living Translation) – Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave.

Lamentations 5:21-22 (New Living Translation) – Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still?

 

These are the opening and closing verses of the book of Lamentations, written by Prophet Jeremiah. Many avoid Lamentations because it is about grieving with sorrow over a devastating event; in this case, it is Jeremiah mourning the horrible destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and taking the people as captives.

This happened about 1000 years after God delivered Israel from Egypt and took them into a land of milk and honey (see previous post on Milk and Honey Part 1 and Part 2). When David was King, Israel was a very powerful nation, and when Solomon was King, it was a very rich nation. Here they were in Jeremiah’s era, a captive people.

The books of the prophets in the Bible, explain that this happened because Israel turned her back on God; consequently her Kings ruled very badly; her court judges were corrupt; her markets had traders who often cheated buyers; men were unkind and women cared more for their dress and make-up than their character.

Despite the prophets warning Israel for about 500 years to repent, they refused; and were then cruelly destroyed by Babylon. If Israel’s leaders, greatly favored by God, could get it wrong so badly, what about leaders of our nations today? Is it wise to place ALL our hopes for a better life, a better country, in the ability of our leaders today?

Psalm 146:3-5 (New Living Translation) tells us – Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Lamentations teaches a wise lesson that human leadership, no matter how blessed, will fail the people, from time to time. The only secure anchor we have is God; so in these difficult times of political insecurity everywhere, seek God earnestly and sincerely, and he will keep you and give you peace, Amen!   

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Image: The Captivity of Judah (Source: Wikimedia)

 

HEALER OF THE BROKENHEARTED

 

John 4:7-9 (God’s Word Translation)

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

 

The meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman happened early in his ministry. He was going back north on foot to Galilee after a short visit to Jerusalem. Samaria was in-between both places; the people, the Samaritans, were children of Jews who had inter-married with gentiles for many generations. Sadly, they were considered impure by Jews, and contact with them was strongly forbidden by Jewish laws.

Relationships between Jews and Samaritans were often hostile, bitter, full of mistrust and pain. So it was a shocking surprise to this woman in the passage from Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John that Jesus is speaking with her, and even asking her for water. Adding to her surprise was that Jesus knew all about her five failed marriages, and about her current living situation with a man who was not her husband.

A normal Jewish religious leader would not associate with this Samaritan woman, but Jesus did. He not only interacted with this woman, he did not condemn her, he instead offered her redemption and salvation. This woman who came to the well to draw water alone with no friends coming with her as was the custom back then; a woman with a bad reputation; with deep emotional wounds; found a savior in Jesus.

This woman’s story in John Chapter 4 shows an aspect of God’s character revealed in Psalm 147:1-3 (God’s Word Translation) –  Hallelujah! It is good to sing psalms to our God. It is pleasant to sing [his] praise beautifully. The LORD is the builder of Jerusalem. He is the one who gathers the outcasts of Israel together. He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

John Chapter 4 is about Jesus truly bandaging the wounds of outcasts, bringing salvation to a troubled woman and to a despised people. This woman with no friends to accompany her to the well, was so full of joy and went to call everyone in her city to come see Jesus. He spent two days there and we are told that: Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman… (John 4:39).  

What is it that could be causing you deep inner pain? Failed relationships? Unsuccessful career? Financial hardship? Health problems? Discrimination against you because of racism, because of your ethnicity and tribe, because you are a woman, or because you believe in Jesus? What is it that has left you brokenhearted?

Don’t lose all hope; look to Jesus, connect with him through prayer – He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

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Image: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (Source: Wikimedia)

OUR DAILY BREAD

Homemade White Bread with Honey

 

Luke 11:1-4 (World English Bible)

…when he [Jesus] finished praying in a certain place, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

While some scholars say Jesus was born 1,250 years after God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt (the exodus), others say he was born 1,500 years after. During this long length of time, Israel had occupied the promised land, and under King Solomon, silver was as common as ordinary stones in Israel (1 Kings 10:27).

The Israelites saw God fulfill his word to bring them into a land of milk and honey (see my previous blogs MILK AND HONEY – Part 1 and MILK AND HONEY – Part 2); but by the time Jesus was born, many lived in poverty. This was because Israel became a wealthy nation and forgot about God; consequently life became difficult for them.

When Jesus came and was performing great miracles, his followers were amazed. They observed that he was prayerful, and felt this was why he was so powerful. They therefore asked to be taught how to pray. Jesus taught them to pray about heavenly issues, to pray about their sins, and to pray also for regular daily bread.

We should be concerned about heavenly issues and therefore study our Bible regularly to understand heavenly issues better and better. We should also pray for our daily needs for our spirit, soul and body, and do so without doubts whether God will answer. To be spiritual is not a call to a life of starvation, disease, and misery. 

O God of heaven, give us day by day our daily bread, in Jesus name, Amen!   

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Image: Homemade White Bread with Honey By TheCulinaryGeek from Chicago, USA – Homemade White Bread with HoneyUploaded by the wub, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27753532