Romans 8: 37-38 – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Today, I pray for those who are experiencing untold pain; whose feet hurt, back is stiff, and joints are burning.
Today, I pray for those who are nursing wounds sustained on the battlefield; sacrificing all for the freedom of all.
Today, I pray for those whose bodies are ravaged by cancer; who spend hours on machines, and days in the hospitals, facing a bleak future.
Today, I pray for those struggling with depression and mental health challenges; whose minds sink into the abyss, and wage unseen wars between the ears.
Today, I pray for our families who are emotionally wounded; whose hearts are bleeding from the spears of betrayal.
Today, I pray for those mourning the loss of a loved one; whose warm tears stream down their cheeks in silence. We stand with them. We feel for them.
Today, I pray for all who are struggling, and we hope for their recovery, for their healing, for their restoration.
I am grateful to those who have answered the call to serve tirelessly in our hospitals.
I am grateful to the first responders who are there at a moment’s notice, confronting unimaginable traumatic events.
I am grateful to those who answer the calls at 2:00 a.m. to attend to our loved ones.
I am grateful to those who have made it a life mission to eradicate the ills of our land.
I am grateful to those who invest time, resources and talents in pursuit of an elusive cure.
I am grateful to those who dip their hands in their pockets to fight against AIDS, cancer, Polio and other evils.
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24
I felt warm tears stream down my cheeks. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Phew! No one noticed. I stopped to let the words sink in, as all the other Salvation Army Pasadena Songsters sang along. I latched onto every word and phrase. It seemed like the author had read my thoughts. In the deepest crevices of my heart, I had processed similar thoughts to the words penned here. The song’s words speak to those whose faith is going under fire. These words speak to those whose unbelief is tipping them over the edge. These words relate to those who are in a crisis of faith. I invite you to read these words, prayerfully. May they minister to you, as they did to me.
Lord, there are times when I have to ask, ‘What?’ –
times when your love is not easy to spot.
What is life’s purpose and what of me here?’
Grant me some answers, Lord, make your will clear.
Lord, there are times when I have to ask, ‘How?’ –
times when what’s preached doesn’t square with life now.
Wrestling with doubt I ask, ‘How can this be?’
Grant me some answers, Lord, help me to see.
Lord, there are times when the questions run fast –
times when I fear that my faith may not last.
Help me, support me, Lord, help me get through.
Lead me through darkness till light shines anew.
© Words & Music: 2004 Kevin Mayhew Ltd
- How do these words relate to you?
- Do you ever ask God similar questions?
- How are you wrestling with your faith today?
- Do you need help with your unbelief?
Psalm 71:15, “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all.”
As a pastor in The Salvation Army, I meet new people on a regular basis. I meet new people every time I change appointments from one community to another. My wife and I have learned that everyone we meet has a story. We have discovered that the best way to know new people is to ask them to share their story. We often ask people to tell us how they met their spouse, how many children or grandchildren they have. We just listen and take it all in.
Everyone has a story. Not all stories are made the same. Each story is unique, yet important. Some stories are dynamic and mind blowing like an action-packed movie. Some stories are quaint and calm, routine and have nothing “exciting.” Some stories are stories of joy and happiness. Other stories tell of pain, suffering, and loss. Yet, each story has shaped the individual. Each story is important. Each story matters.
I too have a story. My story began in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1974. My story culminated to a dark time, when at the age of 16 years old, I contemplated ending my life. My father, an alcoholic subjected my mom, my siblings and I to untold physical, emotional and verbal abuse. At a weekend Scripture Union camp, I surrendered my life to Jesus. God gave me hope during my time of deep sadness. God’s love enveloped my young, hurting self. God’s grace ushered a second-chance I did not deserve. My life has never been the same since that weekend.
The Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters have been rehearsing a song entitled “My Story.” This song is a version of Fanny Crosby’s “Blessed Assurance.” The songwriter reminds us that my story is really His story. My story points to God’s unmerited favor, His grace. My story is a testimony of God’s unconditional love for me. My story is a story of hope.
Everyone has a story. You too have a story. It could be a happy story, a sad story, or a difficult story. If you look back at your life, you see the thread of God’s love, hope, and grace weaving through out your life. Even during the times of loss, hurt, hopelessness, helplessness, God’s prevenient grace has been chasing after you. Your story is a testimony of God’s love. Your story is His story.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
19 years ago, Rutendo and I bad farewell to our family in Zimbabwe. We thought we would be overseas for one year or so. Yet, here we are, raising a family, building a life, and serving God 10,000 miles away from home. It hurt to say, “Goodbye,” to our relatives. My mother-in-law was ill, none of our immediate family members had gone to live overseas. We were terrified to leave all that is familiar for a land we knew nothing about.
Although we moved from a developing country to a developed country, we missed our family, dearly. We missed our parents. We missed the communal gatherings. We missed the expressive, and often spontaneous, worship. We missed speaking in our mother tongue – Shona. We missed the food – sadza nenyama. We missed the familiar, comforting sounds and unique scents that fill the African air.
The transformation from our old lives to now, felt like a loss, yet we gained so much. The transition cost us the familiar yet gave us great relationships. We had to count our blessings to discover what we “lost” God repaid a hundred-fold. Following Jesus is costly, yet beneficial. There is peace and contentment in following the costly route on which Jesus leads us.
We do not have to necessarily bid farewell to our families to follow Jesus. Yet, following Jesus will cost us something. Our relationship with Jesus challenges us to forgo worldly pleasures, exclusive personal goals, and selfish desires. Disciples of Christ are those who are willing to give it all up to gain ALL Jesus provides. Are you ready to give up the familiar to gain the eternal? Count the cost.
The Christmas season evokes various emotions in people. Some people, and certainly retail stores, love this season. It’s the season of shopping – big business. To some people, the Christmas season has been high jacked by unbridled consumerism. To some the Christmas season is the time to remember the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Whatever your feelings are during this season, I want to remind you of the familiar cliché, “Jesus is the reason for the season!”
I have come up with a couple acronyms for the word Christmas to help you meditate on the meaning of Christmas.
CROSS. Jesus came to go to the cross. His death on the cross was not a surprise. He was born to die for our sins. Thank you, Jesus.
HOLINESS. Jesus is Holy. He came to prepare a way for us to experience holiness.
REDEMPTION. Christmas reminds us that Jesus bought us at an expensive price – the price of His precious blood which was spilled at Calvary.
INCARNATION. Christmas reminds us that God came to earth, put on human flesh, and spoke our language so we could be saved.
SALVATION. Christmas reminds us we were meant to die, but Jesus died for our sins. His birth and subsequent death brought us our salvation. Hallelujah!
TESTIMONY. Christmas reminds us that Jesus is God’s testimony of love His undying love for us. Jesus came to tell us of God’s Kingdom.
MIRACLES. Christmas reminds us that the conception and birth of Jesus were miraculous. Jesus performed many miracles which pointed at God. Jesus continues to perform miracles in the lives of His followers.
ATONEMENT. Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to repair our broken relationship with God. He came to reconcile us to God. He came to make us one with God.
SERVANTHOOD. Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to seek the lost. Jesus came to save the perishing. Jesus came to serve the least, the hopeless, the helpless, and the suffering.
So, what should we do this Christmas?
Cheer, compliment others. Everyone is fighting a battle. Call your grandparents
Help. Random acts of kindness. Do dishes, buy coffee, carry stuff,
Rise to the challenge. Don’t cower away or give up.
Inspire/influence someone. Our children, grandchildren, and others are watching us. Whether we realize it or not, people are watching us. Someone somewhere is wishing they could be like you. Inspire them for good.
Serve others. We are at our best when we give of our selves – when we serve others. Serve at home, serve at church, serve at work, serve everywhere.
Tell others about Jesus. Tell your story of salvation to the lost.
Minister to others. Be present. Listen. Be available. Visit the hospital, nursing homes.
Adopt-A-Family with your family. Sacrifice your Christmas gifts, for others.
Sponsor a child overseas, buy a goat, cow, etc for a family in developing countries.
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was brushing his mane-like white hair when his son Bramwell stepped into the room. “Bramwell!” he cried. “Did you know that men sleep out all night on the bridges?” “Well, yes,” the son replied. “A lot of poor fellows I suppose do that.” “Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself to have known it and to have done nothing for them!” his father retorted.
And when the son began to talk about the Poor Law program, General Booth waved a hand and said, “Go and do something! We must do something!” “What can we do?” “Get them a shelter!” “That will cost money,” replied Bramwell. “Well, that is your affair. Something must be done. Get hold of a warehouse and warm it, and find something to cover them. But mind, Bramwell, no coddling!” That was the beginning of Salvation Army shelters.
–W. Wiersbe, “The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers”
Do something. This is an interesting command from General William Booth to his son. It was almost as if Bramwell had not been doing something, but at its core was a challenge to never tire of doing something for others.
In James 2:14-26, we are challenged to show our faith through our works. James argued that stagnant, theoretical faith is not enough. Please note: James is not advocating that works lead to salvation. Works do not save us. Works prove we are saved. He wrote that real faith is supported by corresponding works. Good deeds are not the root of salvation, but they are the fruit of genuine salvation.
Saved humanity reciprocates by serving God and others. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17).
We could argue that faith without works is incomplete, empty and irrelevant. Such faith is incapable of challenging others to transformation. James challenged all Christians to get rid of their laurels, stop warming the pews and get busy for the Lord.
Actions speak louder than words. Actions reveal whose you are, and in whom you have believed. James noted, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (2:26). Actions give flight to the faith we proclaim. Serving others injects life into our religion. Doing something for others lends authenticity to our faith. Good works unlock closed doors and soften hardened hearts.
There is a time for prayer, Bible Study, fasting and worship. But there is also a time for action. People’s physical and material needs necessitate prayer and action. I fear that we sometimes say, “I will pray for you,” as an excuse to avoid meeting the physical needs of others. It is not enough to quote Scripture and throw prayers to people who are facing real physical problems. Talk is cheap. Faith remains purely academic and theoretical until it is put into action.
Faith is not just to be cherished and hidden in the deepest parts of the soul. Faith must ooze out of our pores, showing itself in vigorous and dynamic works. Faith is not to be buried under the soil. It must be allowed to break forth, germinate, sprouting out of the soil to reveal its actions.
Many people in the world and in our communities are hurting. Families are struggling. The hungry, the hurting, the hopeless and the helpless seek our assistance. How do we respond?
What can you do?
- Go through your kitchen cabinets and donate the food that sits uneaten. Buy two cans of food when you would usually buy one, and donate the second can.
- Purge and donate the clothes and shoes in your closets.
- Give money to our social services and food bank.
- Volunteer your time at the food bank.
- Tutor children in the after-school program.
- Create care packages for those experiencing homelessness and hand them out as you drive around town.
- Serve in the corps as a youth leader, Sunday School teacher, janitor or to fulfill any other need you see.
- Join Community Care Ministries and visit nursing homes. Read books and the Bible to people you meet there.
- Visit patients in hospitals. Read books to children in the children’s hospital.
- Be a foster parent or adopt a child.
- Go on a mission trip locally or overseas. Do ministry in urban areas.
- Invite a lonely person to your home for dinner.
As William Booth once said:
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight;
while children go hungry, as they do now I’ll fight;
while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight;
while there is a drunkard left,
while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight,
I’ll fight to the very end!”
What will you do?
Do something today.
Into the office, walked in this frail looking, frame of a man. He had two children on either side of him. His beautiful, yet weary looking wife walked behind. This is a young family of four – father, mother and two young children (7 and 2 years old). They had come to The Salvation Army to register for Christmas assistance.
The 32-year-old father, in between thoughtful pauses, proudly explained how he had been the family’s bread winner. He shared a few of his hopes and dreams. But now, his dreams and hopes were flickering away, like a dying flame. Sadly, the man was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. This is not how life should be. He should be able to work till retirement. He should be able to celebrate his children’s milestones – graduations, weddings, the birth of his grandchildren, and so forth. But this was not to be.
His wife listened intently. She then, shyly and softly, mentioned how she had struggled to find gainful employment. She desperately wanted to help ease her husband’s financial concerns. The little money she received for cleaning houses was not enough to sustain the family’s needs.
The Salvation Army employee, leaned forward and asked the husband, “What would you want for Christmas?” If I were the one asked that question, I would have said, “a Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks jersey, Coca-Cola collectibles, a Kobe Bryant jersey, or a Manchester United jersey.” But not this father. In his frail, broken voice he responds, “I do not need anything material. Nothing for me. Please just help my children.”
With a nod of affirmation, the worker turns to look at the wife. She asked the wife the same question. The wife’s eyes welled up; warm glittery tears flowed down her rosy cheeks. She reached for the Kleenex box and uttered, “I am praying that my husband doesn’t die.”
The husband looked at his wife, touched her cheek and said, “Please don’t cry, honey. It’s going to be OK.”
We do not know what the future holds for this father, but we know God holds the father’s future in His hands.
Here at The Salvation Army, we are working hard to ensure a blessed Christmas for this lovely family.
This Christmas, we are helping many other families such this beautiful family.
This Christmas, we are bringing sunshine to many a family’s cloudy condition.
This Christmas, we are bringing love to the unloved; and care to the lonely.
This Christmas, we are giving food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and jobs to the jobless.
This Christmas, we are loving the least, supporting the last, and serving the lost.
This Christmas, we are responding to God’s call, to give a cup of cool water in His name.
This Christmas, we are putting a priceless smile on many children’s faces.
This Christmas, we are grateful to God, who has made us a conduit of His grace to the helpless, hopeless, and the hurting.
Will you join us?
Will you pray for us?
Will you donate to us?
Isaiah 40:29-31, “God 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.” (NIV)
We are hopeful today.
There are times when we feel hopeless and helpless,
There are times when we feel weak and incapacitated.
There are times when we feel our efforts are in vain
There are times when we wonder if it’s all worth it.
Despite it all, we have every reason to be hopeful.
We are hopeful today.
We are hopeful for a better, brighter America.
We are hopeful for a meaningful, fruitful life.
We are hopeful for good health for us, our families and friends;
We are hopeful for success in our business ventures
We are hopeful today.
We are hopeful for love, joy and kindness among us.
We are hopeful for peace in our time, the end of all wars.
We are hopeful for the safety of mothers, children, & the defenseless
We are hopeful for the freedom of the sexually trafficked, & the enslaved
We are hopeful today.
We are hopeful for the eradication of polio and other ills.
We are hopeful for solid friendships among all people
We are hopeful for effectiveness in our delivery of services to the community.
We are hopeful for the transformation of lives through our efforts
We are hopeful today. Are you?!
A few years ago, Verizon Wireless had a commercial where a man on a cellphone would walk a few steps and ask, “Can You Hear Me Now?” The commercial claimed that with a Verizon Wireless cellphone, you could get reception anywhere the guy in the commercial stood. The commercial asserted that there were no obstacles that would interfere with your hearing the other person, if you had a Verizon Wireless phone. With Verizon Wireless, whether you were in a valley, on a mountaintop, on a freeway in the middle of nowhere, you could still hear the person on the other side. We all know that is not entirely true. Also, that gentleman in the Verizon Wireless commercial, is now working for Sprint Wireless, claiming Sprint is superior to Verizon! Cellphones have their limitations, there are places where the reception is low. There are people with whom we cannot communicate because they do not own a cellphone, or they live in areas where cellphones do not work. Any form of communication could fail if there are obstacles in the way.
Effective communication is a two-way channel. The sender dispenses the message, the receiver must receive the message. Sometimes miscommunication happens when the sender sends the wrong message, wrong words, uses the wrong channel, sends the message at the wrong time. The receiver could miss the message if the receiver does not engage with the message. In James 1:19, we read, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” This verse encourages people to take time to listen to a message. Most people are born with the ability to hear. Listening is an art. You have to teach yourself to listen.
Look at the construction of the Chinese character for listening. It is called, “Ting.”
Ear = What you use to listen (hear). Hear, don’t let it go through when ear and out the other.
Undivided Attention = Pay attention as if the other person were king (obey). Respect. Time, value of words. Let them finish.
Ten = Maximum effort, as if you have ten ears. Critical thinking. What are they saying? What do they mean? What do I think about it?
Eye = Be observant with your eyes (heed) (Look at me when I am talking with you). Minimizes distractions.
One = Listen with individual attention (attend to). Appointment. No other interruptions. Multi-tasking. Phones, TV, computer, other people.
Heart = Listen also with your heart (in addition to ear and eye) (hearken). Engage emotions. Read between the lines.