When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)
I’ve just returned from a Borderland Conference where we were invited to report on our ministries in Border countries and opportunities for collaboration. While we have churches providing humanitarian aid to refugees along with worship services, our primary focus is their countries of origin—education and economic development as spiritual outreach. Our experience has been that people prefer to stay in their own culture and in their homeland if they can have their needs met.
In some places violence and poverty have created an environment that threatens the lives and well-being of many people. Such was the case in a city in one of the countries where we work in Central America. Domestic abuse, witchcraft, cults, and alcoholism led to poverty and violence that seemed endless. In fact, crime was so bad in that small city that it was necessary to have four jails just to house the criminals. Finally, the church people got desperate. They determined to do something extremely radical. They prayed.
Three to four times a week, church members got together to pray. Some even began the practice of fasting. They prayed and fasted, and they didn’t stop. Eventually, disruptive family members began coming to faith in Jesus, and violence declined. The crime rate dropped so dramatically that the authorities closed the jails.
As people began practicing their faith, their lives, their families, and their community were transformed. People began working again, and the economy grew. Their town is now one of the cleanest and most prosperous in the country. When asked if they’d like to join the “caravan” headed for the United States, people responded that there was no need to leave.
So one might think that the church has diminished their fasting and prayers, but instead, they say they need to be vigilant so that their story can be shared as encouragement that God can do what no one else can. They continue to meet together on Saturdays for prayer vigils, and others continue to fast.
The Bible challenges us with stories of God’s people who have encountered powerful enemies such as Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign (II Kings 19) and the Moabites’ and Ammonites’ attack on Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 20). And who can forget God’s deliverance of David from Saul and his many other enemies? In each of these biblical stories, the people in desperation turned in prayer to God, asking for his intervention and his wisdom. And God answered.
I am sorry to say that as I have shared the story of the folks in the transformed city of Central America, I have been greeted with polite smiles and, for the most part, silence. Is prayer too radical for us today? And as I heard someone say when prayer was mentioned, “Oh, my, has it come to that?” I think it’s time to get radical.
Father, you tell us that we have not for we ask not. We’d rather work through our situations on our own—until we can’t. Stir us until we again turn to you expectantly with our most serious of needs. It’s time NOW. We need to pray. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18
One of the countries in which we work is desperately impoverished, but the people themselves do not appreciate being labeled “poor.” And in truth, their dependence on Christ Jesus renders them very rich indeed.
In a brainstorming session with the regional Director of Education, we discussed strategies for motivating young students in our scholarship program. We spoke of this and that, and then I asked if we might host a dinner for the students who had excelled along with their families. As I watched this man processing the idea, his face began to light up, and his eyes twinkled. “And we could give each of them—a bar of soap,” he burst out with enthusiasm.
How often nowadays do I think of that bar of soap that would be prized by the region’s high achievers.
In all the world we all have been given the Savior, Christ the Lord, the greatest of all treasures. In our country, we have been blessed with abundance that is the dream of most countries of the world. In our families, even those who might be labeled “poor,” are rich compared to many struggling economies.
I am working on my Christmas list just now, happy that my family has agreed to limit giving amongst ourselves as we recognize God’s bounty and the needs of others. I am wondering how many faces will light up when they open their bars of soap?
Father, if heaven weren’t our future and your everyday blessings a reality, knowing you and enjoying you every single day is enough. THANK YOU. AMEN.
“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today…” Exodus 14:13
I’ve been mulling over a situation that has caused substantial grief in my world. Some of us have acted in ignorance; others have been wounded; there are those who have been misunderstood; and all of us are grieving. I’ve spent time and prayers trying to discern God’s way to healing and peace. I’ve walked around with a heavy heart and a determination not to make the issue a topic of public discussion.
For days I’ve carried this weight. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t roll it on the Lord, but I did. And then I tilted the prayer so that it rolled right back on me. How could I possibly resolve an issue I didn’t create but in which I was inadvertently caught up? And so I turned this about in my mind for too many days.
I’ve continued to pray and to ask our Father for a way forward. This morning, I read, “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged… For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chron. 20:15). For days I’ve been wrestling with this divisive issue and not finding any way to turn; then God speaks. “This is MY battle, not yours. Release the worry, the concern, your impotence, and trust me.”
How many battles did the Children of Israel face that seemed insurmountable? There was the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses; the capture of Jericho under Joshua; the defeat of the Midianites under Gideon; fighting the Philistine champion Goliath; and on and on. These were all God’s battles, and he would be victorious when he was trusted and obeyed.
Isn’t this a simple and happy way to move forward in confidence—eyes on Jesus and heart trusting him. We can let go and let God do the impossible. It’s his battle. Time to chill and watch him win.
Father, I forget sometimes that you’re in charge, and I’m not. It’s your battle, and you are Lord. Lead on. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.