Praying in the power of the blood

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”

Hebrews 10:19-20 (RSV)

This scripture has so much to say about confidence in prayer. We are reminded that there is a constant need to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. It’s all too easy to waver, and our mind is the usual battleground for confidence.

Paul tells us that we are soldiers, in a constant spiritual battle, and to be armed with helmet of salvation, shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

(Ephesians 6:11-17)

Today’s scripture takes us into a deeper understanding of the confidence we can have in prayer. It starts by wearing our spiritual armor. While we are holding a shield of faith in one hand, we have the sword of the Spirit in our other hand. These are foundational elements of what gives us confidence to conquer doubt. 

In the battleground of our minds, there are defensive and offensive weapons to rely upon. The sword is an offensive weapon that demolishes all arguments against God’s truth. Our trust in Jesus is our defensive shield of faith. When we are overwhelmed with fear and worry, we use both defensive and offensive spiritual weapons. 

In this battleground of our mind, as soldiers for Christ, we are to offensively take every thought captive that is contrary to His truth. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

It sounds like common sense, and we may practice all these things, until our thoughts become captive to a totally new worry. A new worry can throw us off so that we lose confidence or simply forget to pray. I experienced something like this last weekend. 

As I was in church I started having a periodic stabbing pain in my right temple. It was very distracting because it kept recurring every few minutes. I found myself thinking about it so much, that I didn’t hear the sermon at all. I wondered if I was having a stroke or a brain aneurysm, and soon my thoughts were held completely captive to fear and worry. 

Suddenly I realized, here I am, sitting in church, which is the sanctuary of the blood of Jesus, while obsessing over whether I may collapse in my pew or in my car on my ride home. Crazy thoughts had taken over my mind. Worry held my mind hostage and was starting to rob me of faith and hope. 

Then I caught site of the cross at the front of the church. Jesus, who shed His blood on that cross for me, seemed to be looking at me in that moment, reminding me that His blood has given me confident access  to ask anything in His name.

I found it amazing that I was sitting in His sanctuary for all those minutes, forgetting to pray and ask for healing. I finally took the confident access He gave me through His blood, and started to pray for healing and the pain went away soon after I received communion. 

The pain returned the next morning, and I again prayed, taking all my thoughts captive to Christ and applying His blood to all that I ask.

Jesus gave us confident access to God through the curtain of His flesh. We were meant to gain our confidence in prayer by faith in His blood.

That pain has not returned since. Faith is a battle of confidence within our minds, which is won after we keep applying the blood of Jesus to everything we ask for, without wavering.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

(Hebrews 10:23)

Confidence in prayer comes from the all empowering blood of Jesus. 

Whatever we are experiencing, the blood of Jesus empowers us to reclaim our peace by taking every thought captive to the obedience of His truth. The book of Revelation tells us that on the very last day, it is the blood of Jesus that overcomes all in the end. 

Lord, we pray in confidence, knowing that your precious blood has made a new and living way for us to take every doubtful thought captive to your truth. Help us to live in the power of your blood and receive all that you have promised us. Amen 

IMG_2909.jpeg

The One who pleads for us

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27 (RSV)


It’s very frustrating to not be able to express in words whatever we are feeling. I imagine that’s how my son, Jon, and Andy, the other man in the Nursing Home, feel, since both of them are unable to fully express themselves in words, due to brain injuries. The Holy Spirit is still interceding for them whenever they pray in their mind or heart. 

The Spirit intercedes for all of us, not just brain injured people like Jon and Andy. This scripture says that none of us know how to pray as we ought, but it’s the Spirit who intercedes for us. He knows everything that’s in our hearts and He relates it to God with sighs and deep groaning, which is beyond any words we could say.

There is a deep place in all of us, where we file away our hopes, fears, disappointments and frustrations. The Holy Spirit can clearly read our deepest pain, insecurities, and our helplessness. He is God, so He can read the things that we are not even conscious of. The deepest groans within us, that may never rise to the surface, are brought to God by the Holy Spirit, when we pray. 

The New Testament term for the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete”, a word which translates to being our advocate, champion, supporter and promoter. It also means He is the one who pleads our cause. The Paraclete brings us so much positive power and hope, and His help is the most encouraging support we have.

The term advocate, reminds us of a defense attorney. When we don’t know how to plead for ourselves, the Holy Spirit stands beside us and becomes our attorney. He helps us in our weaknesses, since His nature is to be our supporter. He promotes us and pleads for us. In other words, He is our champion. 

He not only pleads for us, but He also prompts us to listen to His soft voice. He prompts us to confess our faults, and to say we are sorry when we do wrong. Most of all, He prompts us to forgive those who have done wrong to us. 

Two years ago my neighbor became so angry at me because my dog peed on her bushes. She called me up scolding and berating me in every way she could think of. We didn’t speak to each other for months, after that. 

I eventually prayed and forgave her, but couldn’t reconnect with her because whenever I walked by, she would look away. 

One day I prayed and asked God, if He would let me face her without her looking away, I would offer to invite her to go out to dinner so that we could reunite. After I prayed that prayer, that very night, she texted me and apologized. She asked if we could reconnect, and we did. Now we get together for dinner every few months. 

The Holy Spirit really did the prompting between us that day after months of not speaking. There is no other explanation except that the advocate pleaded for us both. 

He may prompt us in our weakness, to forgive or to call someone or speak to someone, at a needed moment. He also prompts us to give a gift or to say a kind word to someone, which may change their life.

As we approach Pentecost Sunday, we can meditate on and appreciate the great gift of the Holy Spirit, who pleads for us, supports us, and is our champion, doing what our own words fail to do. He was sent from the Father and the Son, to teach, guide and comfort all of us, who are His beloved children, the church. 

Lord, thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit, our helper who pleads and intercedes for us and champions every cause, in order to make us more like you. Amen

IMG_2883.jpeg

Dismissing the crowds

Then He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”

Matthew 14:22-23 (RSV)

Matthew, Mark and Luke all wrote that Jesus often went away by Himself to pray. Some gospels say He did it early in the morning, and some describe late in the evening. In the book of Matthew, it was after a long day, late in the evening, after Jesus just fed a crowd of five thousand. 

If the Son of God, required time alone to pray, it’s important for us as well. He dismissed the crowds in order to pray, spiritually refuel and just be alone with His Father. One of the most challenging boundaries to set are the boundaries of time; specifically, the time spent serving others, verses time spent with God. Both are important, but to balance it is the challenge.

Jesus told us that whatever we do for others we are doing for Him. That statement motivates us to want to do more for others. He spent long days, serving large crowds of people, but He also knew when to dismiss them all and walk away.  

Jesus left us His example of walking away and going up a mountain by Himself. When He dismissed the crowd, there were probably some people in that crowd who didn’t yet receive what they came for. They might have been disappointed when Jesus left for the evening. They would have to wait until the next day for all their needs to be met. When Jesus decided it was time to dismiss the crowd and say good night, He just did it. He didn’t do it to be rude, He did it out of love for His Father.

It sounds so simple to just dismiss the crowd and go be alone with God. It’s harder to do than it sounds. We get so caught up in serving others, surrounded by groups of people, fulfilling obligations to others, but sometimes all the constant activities can lead to burnt out. Responsibilities call us from all directions, yet Jesus calls us from only one direction. 

Jesus was called to dismiss the crowd out of love for His Father, and we do it for love of Jesus. Knowing He is waiting patiently for each of us, motivates us to set a boundary of time to spend just with Him.  

Lord, give us the wisdom today, to know where the boundaries should be for us to dismiss a crowd and spend time alone with you. Amen

IMG_2844.jpeg

Our Corinth

“One night in a vision the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”

Acts 18:9-10 (NAB)

The vision or dream that Paul had couldn’t come at a better time. All Jewish people were ordered to leave Rome in 49 A.D. Roman authorities grew tired of all the Jewish disputes over Jesus and His messiahship. Even though Jesus had long left the earth and ascended to heaven, He was still shaking up the world He left behind. 

Many Jewish believers who were forced out of Rome, moved to the cities in Greece, which also required a huge adjustment. We learn that Paul felt totally exasperated in Athens, which was a city full of idols. (Acts 17:16)

He preached the gospel but was confronted with pagan cults and lots of opposition. Leaving Athens, he went on to Corinth, another city full of strange religions, cultish customs, and the same opposition to Jesus. 

It was a difficult period of time for Jewish believers. Paul and the other Jewish Christians felt outnumbered by the pagan Corinthian natives. While reeling from the culture shock of Corinth, Paul had a dream one night, where Jesus appeared to him in a vision and reassured him that He has many other people who believe in Him, right there in the city of Corinth. Jesus also told Paul not to be afraid, and that no one would harm him there. 

The reality is that being in the place where God wants us is the safest place to be. Being expelled from Rome, appeared to be a negative event, but in God’s divine direction,  the news of salvation would be spread to gentiles who had never heard of Jesus. 

While in Corinth, Paul met a couple, Aquila and Priscilla, Italian Jews, who were also expelled from Rome. Aquila was a tent maker like Paul, so they had a lot in common, especially being mutual believers in Jesus. They helped Paul as missionaries in Corinth, and their home became the church for all the believers there.

(1 Corinthians 16:19)

The Jewish faith was going through birth pangs at the time, with some resisting belief in Jesus while others embracing Him as their Messiah.

Since the first century church was mostly made up of Jewish people, believing in Jesus as the Messiah wasn’t a different religion, but rather a sect of Judaism. Sending Jewish Christians to Corinth was all part of the providence of God.

We all have a Corinth in our lives.

It’s a place or a situation that makes us feel outnumbered or uneasy. It may be some new adjustment in our lives, that God is using for good. Our Corinth may be a workplace, a difficult group of people to deal with, or a new and unfamiliar environment. Corinth may even feel wrong at first, but it is the right place, and God is in it with us. 

Jesus appeared to Paul to assure him that he was in the right place, for a right purpose and that He would be with him all the way through it. 

He proved it by leading Aquila and Priscilla to help him in Corinth. He will do the same for us.

I’m dealing with a new era of having an adult son living in a Nursing Home. It’s the Corinth that I have been adjusting to, but I have also received many signs from God that He is with me. 

I already shared how a total stranger at the bank, months ago, overheard me talking about Jon’s accident, and asked my son’s name so she could pray for him. Then there was the ICU nurse, two weeks ago, who asked to pray for Jon as he was lying in his ICU bed. 

Last week, someone I don’t even know, messaged me, saying that he was an old friend of Jon’s from a youth group many years ago. He heard what happened to him and although he lives in another state, he wanted me to know that he and his wife and family were all praying for Jon. 

We may not have a dream or a night vision like Paul, where Jesus speaks directly to us, but He knows how to sustain, strengthen and encourage us through other people. 

Wherever or whatever represents our Corinth, Jesus is in it with us, sending others to help us. He keeps assuring us, as if to say,

“I am with you, I have people for you to meet, and people who are praying for you, so don’t be afraid, because you are not alone.”

Lord, thank you for reassuring us that you are always with us in whatever Corinth we are in. Help us to grow in confidence through your love and grace, knowing you are working all things together for good. Amen

IMG_2850.jpeg

Maydays sent up to heaven

“When you pass through the waters,

 I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”

Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

Mayday became the universal distress call because there was a need for a better radio transmission call for help, other than SOS. The letter S were often misheard as F over the radio. 

With increased air and water travel in the 1920’s, the Royal Air Force developed the word “Mayday,” which originates from a French phrase for help me, m’aider, and turned into the word Mayday. It was easy to hear over the radio and became the international call of distress, when it is called three times in a row.

Some may recall in 2009, a US Airways Flight 1549, collided with a flock of Canadian geese. They hit the plane shortly after take off from LaGuardia, disabling both engines. The seasoned pilot, was an Air Force fighter pilot before flying commercial, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who was known by his nickname, Sully. 

When Sully saw that both engines were disabled, his quick thinking decided the best chance of survival was to avoid the Manhattan skyline, and steer the engineless plane around and into the waters of the Hudson River. 

With a calm demeanor, Sully made the Mayday call only 22 seconds after the birds hit the plane. In less than four minutes from his Mayday call, he glided the plane into the Hudson River. The force of the plane spun around in the water, but rescue boats quickly arrived, saving all 155 people on board. 

The people on that plane landed in the Hudson River, but the waters did not sweep over them, just as the scripture verse says. 

It happened 15 years ago, but after hearing a survivor share his story on a Christian TV show, it renewed my interest. Fred Beretta, in the weeks prior to the accident, had been in a phase of renewing and deepening his personal relationship with Jesus. He decided to take a Christian book along with him on the flight that day.

He was reading his book after the flight took off, when he looked out the window and noticed both the engines in flames. Sully announced to the passengers to prepare for an emergency landing, after calling in a Mayday. Within those seconds, Fred wondered if his recent recommitment to his faith, was to prepare him for the end of his life.

The thought crossed his mind that the book on his lap was the last book he would read, and these could be  the last seconds of his life. Fred Beretta surrendered himself into God’s hands and braced for the end. By God’s grace and to his surprise, he survived, as did all the people on board that plane. 

I always thought it’s a good practice to live each day as if it’s our last day, yet no one can prepare for the moments before a plane crash or any similar disaster. An experienced, seasoned pilot can, however, be prepared for the technical skills required in steering and landing an engineless plane. 

News coverage and articles were written about this event, which rightfully credited Sully with his 20,000 hours of flight time, quick thinking, calming demeanor, four decades of flying experience, and his expert control in landing a plane in the Hudson River.

There were still many factors that Sully, or any other pilot, could not control that day. He couldn’t control the flock of geese from hitting the engines of his plane. He couldn’t control whether there would be ice on the water where the plane landed, and yet there was no ice on the river that cold January day. He couldn’t control whether other boats would be in the region when that plane hit the water, but there were no other boats around. 

As the plane hit the water, he also couldn’t control the violent spin, which could have caused fatalities, but there were no fatalities, and only five injuries. 

All the factors that couldn’t be controlled by the pilot’s expertise, were taken care of by God’s response to the Mayday calls sent up by those who were on that plane.

Sully used his skills and experience, to the best of his abilities, but God did the rest. It’s a basic spiritual lesson for all believers, that we are expected to use our faith experience and prayer skills, to the best of our ability, and trust God for whatever we cannot control. 

Living out our flight hours of faith, requires daily communication with Jesus, lots of endurance and perseverance to keep trusting in Him during adversity. It can certainly feel like we are flying an engineless plane at times, with so much out of our control, as the waters of life spin us around. Our Mayday prayers still ascend straight up to God and He is always with us.

The protocol for the distress signal, internationally, requires calling out “Mayday” three times.  While we journey through life, we are in a relationship with a Triune God. We are praying to the Father, through Jesus, the Son and are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Helper who Jesus sent us. 

Trusting in the three in one, is the Mayday call of our human soul and spirit, which leads us to a safe landing for all eternity.

Lord, we never know what life will bring, but we know if we stay close to you, sending up Mayday calls to heaven, we can pass through the waters and remain secure through anything that comes our way. Amen

IMG_2884.jpeg

Open our eyes, Lord

“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land.”

Job 1:10

This scripture is actually what the devil said to God about Job. All scripture is inspired by God and so even these words are meant for teaching, because God wants us to know how the enemy sees us. 

Paul reminds us that we are in constant spiritual warfare, and we must stay alert and put on the armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11)

By Satan’s own admission, in the book of Job, we know that God put a protective hedge around Job, which the devil was forbidden to trespass. According to all of David’s Psalms, God protects all those who trust in Him, and sends His warrior angels to drive the enemy away.

Our lives and our families are under that hedge of protection, and it is untouchable by the enemy. Satan cannot touch it, without permission from God. 

If God allows anything, it’s because He knows we will overcome by our faith. God loves us and is ultimately working all things together for our eternal good. 

We can see that God had confidence in Job saying, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil.” (Job 1:8)

God trusted in Job’s faithfulness, believing he would remain faithful, even if some hedges were removed. 

If God trusted in Job’s faithfulness, then He also trusts in ours today. We have an advantage over Job, since we know Jesus, who died for us. He loved us and invested Himself in us, with His blood, and from His perspective, we are cherished and worth protecting. 

If we are going through some really difficult trials, it’s because God believes in us, and He knows how that trial will build our perseverance, and refine our faith, and He promises to never test us beyond what we can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

While we are wise to the enemy’s schemes, we can also be confident that God surrounds us with more protection than we could ever think or imagine, and there are more angels protecting us than just one guardian angel. 

Joshua told the Israelites many times, that the angel of the Lord will go before them to guard them and wipe out their enemies, if they abide in His covenant. (Joshua 24:20-23)

If we could only see all the ways God surrounds us with invisible hedges of protection, we would probably collapse in awe.

In the story of Elisha and his servant, the two of them were being pursued by an enemy army who sought to kill all the prophets. When his servant saw the vast army closing in on them, he became frightened, and asked Elisha what they should do. Elisha just looked up to heaven and asked God to open his servant’s eyes. Immediately, his eyes were opened and he saw thousands of angels from heaven, surrounding them, in fiery chariots, and all were sent just to protect those two prophets.  (2 Kings 6:17-18)

God’s angelic army far outnumbers the earthly one. Even though we see the problems that are before us, there is an unseen realm, that we can be confident and assured of. 

We see it with our eyes of faith, because faith is the assurance of things not seen.

We are protected by the unseen hedges of God. Elisha knew it, and when he prayed, God opened the eyes of his servant to see it too. 

The story of Job, David’s psalms and Joshua’s words of encouragement, all confirm that we are abundantly protected, and God’s authority is always in control. 

Lord, open our eyes of faith to know that your hedges and angels are with us and they outnumber any enemy who is against us. Give us the wisdom to always live in the confidence of faith in you. Amen 

IMG_2874.jpeg

Shepherd to the rescue

“As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Ezekiel 34:12 (RSV)

I don’t know which has more impact, the dramatic picture or the promise in this scripture, which depicts the heroic rescue of the Shepherd of our souls. Each one of us is that sheep, held securely in the arm of our shepherd, who is Jesus. 

The picture shows blood flowing from the shepherd’s arms and legs, as he keeps the helpless sheep shielded with one arm, while the other arm holds back the wolves. There is a small wound on the sheep’s side, meaning the sheep was wounded, but safely snatched from the grip of wolves, just in time. We may have wounds, but we have been snatched, and can rest securely in our Shepherd’s arm. 

The verse describes the shepherd who seeks out and rescues his flock, through times of thick darkness. It’s what Jesus died for, and if he died for us, he will do whatever it takes to keep us. When His sheep wander, He searches for them in places that we would never think to look. 

There are various types of thick darkness that people wander into. He rescues those in the bondage of depression, or who are victims of human traffickers or living with domestic violence. He seeks and rescues those who are trapped by substance abuse, or in toxic relationships and involved in criminal affiliations. He wants to hold His sheep close, even those who never knew what it is to be genuinely loved. 

Looking at this image, reminds us that Jesus is not far off, sitting on a throne, looking down and watching us fight off the wolves in our life. His love always takes action, and as He rescued us before, He will rescue us in the future.

Even when we can’t see our way through the clouds and thick darkness, our shepherd is holding us safe and securely in His arms. 

It’s the nature of God to seek and gather all that is scattered and lost. Jesus explained His rescue mission, saying:

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39)

Lord, thank you that we are loved and rescued, which is done by your pure example of loving in deeds, not just words. Your light is bright enough to shine through the thickest darkness, as you actively hold us close and lead us out of all danger. Amen

IMG_2845.jpeg

Prayers and worship

“The twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”

Revelation 5:8 (NIV)

It’s good to have an occasional glimpse of heaven to meditate on. 

I have written about this image in Revelation before, but this meditation emphasizes offering our praise and worship with our prayers. 

The twenty four elders in heaven are each holding a golden bowl filled with our prayers. In the other hand, they are holding a harp, and then they all bow down before the Lamb, who is Jesus. 

The elders who stand before the throne are made up of the twelve apostles plus the twelve sons or tribes of Jacob. As they hold our petitions in golden bowls, they bow down before the High Priest of Heaven, who is Jesus. This glimpse of heaven shows us that if heaven offers praise and worship with prayer petitions, then we should as well.

This image of heaven describes a vivid combination of sights, scents and sounds. All of our senses are stimulated in heaven. There will be golden bowls to see, fragrant incense to smell and harp music to listen to. These elders, who represent authorities established by God, hold our prayers, and then present them to Jesus, who told us to pray, asking anything in His name.

When we face times of adversity in our lives, it can be a struggle to believe that God even hears our prayers. John’s vision of heaven revealed that God not only hears us, but He values our prayers enough to put them in golden bowls. They are then lit up to become a fragrant incense that permeates heaven.

There are no boundaries of time or space in heaven, so our prayers are ever present before Him. We may forget what we asked for a year or two ago, but Heaven never forgets the scent. Every prayer endures in His eternal presence through the smoke of fragrant incense. He answers us in due time, according to His plan and purpose. Whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name, carries His aroma all the way to God’s throne. 

(2 Corinthians 2:15)

Knowing this, we put our hope and faith in God, through Jesus, and offer Him praise along with every petition. He loves us for who we are, and not for what we do. When we realize this, we will love and praise Him for who He is, because worship focuses more on the Giver than on the gifts. 

David knew this truth and he wrote many Psalms about offering praise to God with every petition. 

There is something therapeutic in practicing the presence of God and offering Him praise every day. Praise is the secret to peace. 

Once I came to know how much l am Ioved by Jesus, it’s much easier to love and worship Him for who He is, which is the essence of praise and worship. Even if He never answered another prayer, He is worthy of our praise and adoration, just for the way He loves us, and that’s a truth worth wrapping our heads around. 

A situation may be really bad, but God is really good, and He wants to show us His goodness, which Jesus always makes possible. Practicing the presence of Jesus and praising Him, keeps us in perfect peace. 

I know my son, Jon, is receiving good medical care, but my hope is founded on more than the field of medicine. I believe in those golden bowls in heaven, filled with prayer requests, and that’s the vision I keep before me. I thank each one of you for the prayers you have added to those bowls. 

There is something supernatural and amazing that happens deep within us, when we choose to live in an attitude of praise, which we were created for. As I listen to Christian contemporary praise and worship music, it enables me to practice the presence of Jesus, as if He is right here with me. I talk to Him every day, even if it’s just to tell Him, I love Him.

God is good, and whatever His plan is, He considers every single prayer that is offered up to Him. He collects our prayers in golden bowls, which are then lit with fire, spreading the fragrant incense of our petitions, all throughout heaven. That image alone deems Him worthy of praise. As we add praise and worship to our prayers, that heavenly incense becomes even more potent. 

Lord, we praise you and thank you that all of our prayers come before you as fragrant incense in golden bowls. We believe that you hear and smell all our prayer requests, and we worship you, asking all things in the most powerful and holy name of Jesus. Amen

IMG_2064.jpeg

Neighborhood boys

“But Joseph replied to them: “Do not fear. Can I take the place of God?

Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people.”

Genesis 50:19-20 (NAB)

A church close to my home in Mount Prospect, Illinois, has been showing Season 3 of the Chosen, a superb drama series on the life and ministry of Christ. Each Wednesday morning, I go there and watch an episode, then join in on a group discussion afterward.

While I was at the third episode discussion, a lady told us that she knows the actor, Demetrius Troy, who plays Lazarus. She said “D”, as he was called growing up, was one of the neighborhood boys from Mount Prospect, and went to the same school as her own children. It’s not often that a local neighborhood kid becomes a successful actor.

We never know how a person we  know, may reappear years later. I started wondering if there are any other true stories about a “neighborhood boy” who reappeared in a surprising way later, and then I found myself meditating on some biblical examples of neighborhood boys.

David was the baby of his family with seven older brothers. He was a neighborhood shepherd boy from Bethlehem. He was also known for playing his harp and writing songs (Psalms) while caring for His father’s flock. He was too young to join the military, while his older brothers were at war with the Philistines, but he was sent to their camp on occasion to bring them a package of food to eat. 

One day,  David arrived with their lunch, and could hardly believe his eyes. He saw a nine foot tall giant Philistine taunting the armies of his people, Israel. As the army retreated, David asked to be allowed to confront the giant, but his older brothers became furious, calling him arrogant. (1 Samuel 17:28) 

After persisting, he was finally allowed to approach the giant with his trusted sling shot, and we all know how that story ends. God led an underage lunch boy to become the hero who killed a giant, and later established his reign as the king of Israel. 

Joseph was another neighborhood boy, Jacob’s second youngest of twelve sons. His envious brothers mistreated him, and threw him in a cistern one day. They went home and told their father that Joseph was killed by a wild beast, and Jacob mourned for years. Although his brothers kept their dark secret all that time, God had other plans, and led Joseph into a path of leadership, where he became a major political influence in the land of Egypt. 

His brothers and father met up with Joseph twenty years later, during a  famine. Joseph as the governor of Egypt, stockpiled a huge supply of grain for years. People from all over came to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob and his sons arrived in Egypt and were shocked to see Joseph alive. For Jacob, seeing Joseph alive, was like a resurrection from the dead. 

In spite of the mistreatment by his brothers, Joseph forgave them and took care of his whole family. 

When Joseph’s brothers feared that he might still kill them in vengeance, he said to them, 

“Can I take the place of God?” He acknowledged that it’s not our place to repay evil, and whatever injustice people suffer, if they trust in God, He will turn things around for the good, at a later date.

Both neighborhood boys, David and Joseph, had two common virtues that reaped many blessings in their lives. They had unusual humility to endure unfair treatment by their brothers, yet never took vengeance. They also had great faith in God to keep trusting in His goodness and mercy. Their stories are proof that God will bring good out of a bad situation through faith and humility. 

Now I can see Jesus as the third example of a neighborhood boy, who was also disrespected by those who were like His brothers in the faith, the Jewish authorities. Like David and Joseph, Jesus was also mistreated, accused of being arrogant, envied and plotted against. 

He was the neighborhood boy from Nazareth, who reappeared later as the Lamb of God, who with great humility, forgave all His enemies from the cross, and then made a surprise reappearance as our resurrected living Savior. 

Lord, thank you for your goodness and mercy toward us. Help us to grow in faith and humility, even when we are disrespected by others. We learn through your wisdom in all scripture that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Amen 

IMG_2848.jpeg

A watermelon seed lesson

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that devastates at noon.

Psalm 91:5-6 (NASB)

When I was about seven years old, I was eating watermelon one day, and accidentally swallowed a seed. For whatever reason, I was convinced that the seed was stuck in my throat. 

My mother kept telling me I was okay, since I was breathing fine and not choking. She gave me things to eat and drink to try and wash the seed down, but my panic steadily increased. 

It soon became a huge melodrama with my two older brothers, my father and my mother, all looking at me, concerned over how to solve my problem. My mother kept assuring me that I was breathing, and everything was okay, and she was probably correct, but I felt that seed was still in my throat, and worked myself into a full panic, to the point that facts no longer mattered. 

It’s just an example of how worry can take over our minds until things are totally blown out of proportion. That whole ordeal reminds me of the walk of faith that we all go through. Facts have the capacity to either calm us or trigger our fears, but sometimes fear turns to panic, even if the facts are good. Only faith can lift us out of the grip that fear has on us. 

The good thing about having faith, is that it’s not dependent on any facts. The scriptural definition of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1)

It doesn’t say that good news is required to have faith. I have since developed my own system to prevent fear from growing into panic. I recall my childhood watermelon seed ordeal, and say to Jesus, “This is not the end of the story, You are still here, and I am still breathing.” 

Our hope was never meant to be reliant on facts, hope relies on Jesus, that His presence is with us, and He will conquer all our fears. This is the truth to hold on to. 

Psalm 91 promises that we will not be afraid of the terror by night, the arrow that flies by day, or the destruction that comes at noon, and that covers it all. The Lord covers us at all times of the day and night with His protection and comfort. 

Whatever we are facing, there is deep consolation in pausing to remind ourselves that Jesus is always with us, everything is okay and we are still breathing. 

Lord, our every breath comes from you, and you promised to be with us always. Help us to take a pause, when we are in fear, and to be still and breathe in your comforting presence. Amen

IMG_2835.jpeg

Update:Jon is transferring out of Intensive care today and into a neuro unit. Everything is stable. Thank you.