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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Excitement in the boat: The big storm. Part 3


Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. (Luke 8:22-23 NASB)

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was both divine and human. He had human needs like food, water, and sleep. He didn't have much time for sleep, it seems, for he was indefatigable in ministry, but the boat ride across the Sea of Galilee seemed like a good time for a quick nap. Do not forget that he was in the company of experienced and professional fishermen who had spent most of the lives in boats on that very Sea. There was little on the water that they could not handle. 

It turned out that there was something they couldn't handle, however. A storm arose that was unlike anything to which they were accustomed. The wind was so fierce that their boat was tossed about, filling with water, and about to be swamped. Despite their numbers, the disciples couldn't get the water out and they soon realized they were in serious danger. 

You may wonder why they waited so long to ask Jesus for help.  They had seen quite a few miracles by this point, so surely someone in the group would have thought, "Jesus can help!" Perhaps it was compassion for His fatigue, but more likely it was pride that prevented them from asking Him for help. Jesus was, after all, "just a carpenter". They were professionals, and in their element. They had this. Until they realized they didn't. Like most of us, for a moment, they must have forgotten that the sleeping form stretched out in the back of the boat was God wrapped in skin. He was the one who really "had this" and could deal with the danger. 

Isn't that just like us?  We start out with Jesus on what seems like a routine task. He's seemingly quiet and out of sight, (thought not out of control), and suddenly, what seems like a disaster erupts. What do we do? Try to manage it. We try every remedy we can dream up until we are exhausted and defeated. The thing that is so foolish is that the only sensible solution is right there with us all the time! Jesus. If we simply took our problems to God at the very beginning, how much suffering we could be spared! 

Dear ones, are you overwhelmed with the enormity of your problems? Do you face a task that is too big for you? Is it seemly impossible to overcome? Call out to Jesus, and let Him do what only He can do. He can help you, and He will help you. You have only to ask. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones with relinquish pride and turn to Jesus instead of ourselves, for the help we so desperately need. Pray that we will see that Jesus is the help we need. 
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Our terrorist prayer focus this week is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boku Haram, a radical terrorist organization operating in northeastern Nigeria. He is particularly fond of kidnapping and murder, having kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls (many who are still in captivity). Earlier this week, his forces captured a civilian-controlled town, murdered at least 100 people, and made the town his new headquarters. More than 22,000 have been killed in battle between his forces and the Nigerian military in the last few years. Two bombs yesterday in Abuja killed dozen more. Boku Haram is suspected. Please pray for an end to his reign of terror and for salvation for him and his men.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Excitement in the Boat: Let's Go part 2


Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out.

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. (Luke 8:22, 26 NASB)

In today's focus verse, we see Jesus getting in the boat, His disciples climbing in right along with Him. If Jesus was going somewhere, they were going, too. He said, "Let's go," and they did. Only Jesus knew where they were headed and the plans He had. 

It turned out that they were heading toward the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, to the country of the Gerasenes. This area was predominantly Gentile, as indicated by the pigs they kept there. Gentiles were considered unclean, as were those pigs. Close contact with either would render the disciples ceremonially unclean, would limit their interaction in the body of faith, and would require ritual cleansing to restore them to their "clean" state. Who wanted all that trouble?  No one. No one but Jesus. 

Jesus was headed to the land of unclean people with unclean animals. He had an appointment with an unclean demoniac who needed to be set free. If Jesus had said, "Let's go to the Gentile area to see a naked, demon-possessed man who is ceremonially unclean," how many of His disciples would have embraced that plan? Who would have thought it was a good idea and jumped at the opportunity? None of them. 

Of course Jesus knew that. He also knew that, if they went, they would experience the life-changing power of God in a new and unique way and be changed themselves. He knew the news of the experience would be so amazing that it would be retold for centuries to come. He knew, so He kept quiet about the destination and allowed the disciples to travel with Him by faith. He knew that, after experiencing the coming storm, the naked demoniac would seem like child's play. 

It's an interesting thing about following Jesus. He knows the plan and we don't. If we knew the plan in advance, we would likely balk and refuse to go forward. If we walk by faith, however, He will use the storms we encounter along the way to prepare us for whatever lies ahead. 

How willing are we to get in the boat and go, regardless of the destination Jesus has planned?  Are there areas or people that would be off limits if we knew Jesus was sending us there

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would be willing to go anywhere, embrace anyone to whom Jesus leads us, fearlessly loving the unlovely and those in need
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Link to last night's post on supporting the persecuted church is here: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/07/sharing-in-their-suffering-helping-in.html
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Our terrorist prayer focus this week is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boku Haram, a radical terrorist organization operating in northeastern Nigeria. He is particularly fond of kidnapping and murder, having kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls (many who are still in captivity). Earlier this week, his forces captured a civilian-controlled town, murdered at least 100 people, and made the town his new headquarters. More than 22,000 have been killed in battle between his forces and the Nigerian military in the last few years. Please pray for an end to his reign of terror and for salvation for him and his men.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sharing in their Suffering, Helping in their Work, part 2

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3 NASB)

In my blog post of 6/28/14, I wrote of my increasing concern for the persecuted church and our God-given imperative to both remember them in prayer and support them as best we can. I had just seen the new Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, in which the opportunity to adopt a frontline worker was offered.  Voice of the Martyrs was asking for volunteers to agree to adopt a worker for a period of one year and give them what they most need and desire - prayer coverage. Money was nice but not essential. They had wisely discerned that money will be of limited help if prayer is not given first. 

Just as I urged you to do, I signed up online to adopt a worker. This week my letter finally came. I have a photo of my worker and his wife. They are a beautiful African couple, and they are my brother and sister in Christ.  He puts his life on the line every single day as he shares the gospel of Christ in his country.  It's hard to comprehend. My brother tells people about Jesus every day, and every day he faces the possibility of persecution and death when he does it.

It is my job to pray for this sweet man and his wife every day for a year. After only a few days, I have an amazing amount of love for them, although I will likely never meet them this side of heaven. I cannot imagine what it will be like a year from now. To be sure I remember to pray, I set an alarm for 8 AM. When I'm starting my work day, I'll be praying for his.  Frankly, it's a big responsibility, and it terrifies me. My sweet brother faces death, death on a daily basis, and it's my job to pray for his safety. How frightening is that?  I sure don't want to let him down. 

My front-line worker is not the only one who needs prayer. Many, many more front-line workers face persecution and possible death every day. They are taking the truth of Christ into difficult situations and to people who will also face dire consequences if they choose to follow Christ. The work is hard, and it would be easy to become discouraged. We are commanded in Scripture to both support and pray for these dear servants of our Lord.  We must not fail in this task! 

for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" (Romans 10:13-15 NASB)

It is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing what our Lord commanded. In fact, since Scripture instructs us to remember them and support them, we are disobedient when we do not. These men and women desperately need us to hit our knees, hold up their arms, and ever present their names before our God. We must stand in the gap for them. Dear ones, we cannot let them down!

A man and his wife are counting on me to stand in the gap for them. When my turn comes, I hope there will be someone to stand in the gap for me.
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The link to the blog mentioned above is here: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/sharing-in-their-suffering-helping-in.html?m=1
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To join the effort, go to www.vombooks.com/July 2014 and sign up for a front-line worker of your own. You will be glad you did! 


Excitement in the Boat: Let's Go (Luke 8:22)

Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. (Luke 8:22 NASB)

The introduction to this story is so simple that we can miss a lovely and profound truth if we do not linger a bit. At the beginning of Luke 8, we are told that Jesus was on a kind of evangelistic crusade, traveling from city to town, preaching and teaching. One day during that trip, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat. This was not a small dinghy but a fairly large boat, with room for everyone. It was a big, safe boat. 

It's interesting to note that the disciples climbed into the boat before they knew where they were heading. Jesus was getting in the boat to go somewhere, and they climbed in with Him. The destination was not nearly as important as being with Jesus, no matter where He was heading. He was, even then, training his disciples to follow one step at a time without demanding the entire route in advance. 

After they were in the boat, and likely looking expectantly toward Jesus for direction, He said, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." Now here is where an important lesson unfolds, and it can be summed up in two words. They did. Jesus said, "Let's go to the other side," and no one complained that there wasn't a good wind, that it was getting late, that they had something else they'd rather do, or that they didn't really care for the people on the other side of the lake. No one asked why they were going or what they would do when they got there. Jesus said, "Let's go there," and they headed out. 

That is how obedience in our faith walk with Jesus should look. He leads in a direction, and we go, with just those first few steps clear to us. When He clarifies the destination, we go with only the new clarity we have, knowing that the rest will be given when we need it. He leads, and we go. No arguments. No complaining. No whining. Only going. 

What we need to ask ourselves is whether or not this is how we obey?  Is the going a constant struggle for us because of the uncertainty? Do we obey quickly or lag a bit to see if He really means it? Those who followed Jesus into the boat that day had an unforgettable, life-changing experience with the Savior. Those who lagged behind and remained on the shore ended up missing the adventure of a lifetime. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will have "get in the boat" faith that goes whoever our Lord leads, whenever He said to go. 
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Link to last night's post: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/07/walking-with-dogs.html
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Our terrorist prayer focus this week is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boku Haram, a radical terrorist organization operating in northeastern Nigeria. He is particularly fond of kidnapping and murder, having kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls (many who are still in captivity). Just yesterday, his forces captured a civilian-controlled town, murdered at least 100 people, and made the town his new headquarters. More than 22,000 have been killed in battle between his forces and the Nigerian military in the last few years. Please pray for an end to his reign of terror and for salvation for him and his men.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Walking with the Dogs

A few weeks ago, I bought one of those new bracelet/bands that count your steps and monitor your sleep. My goal is 10,000 steps per day. It turns out that 10,000 steps per day is a little harder than I imagined. Most days, I easily get in just over 5000 steps per day. Getting 10,000 steps a day requires intention and perseverance.  

Almost every evening, I finish supper, check my step monitor for the day, realize how short I am, and hit the road up to the barn and back.  It takes quite a few roundtrips to finish up the 10,000 steps. Nearly every time I walk, the dogs go with me, but I've been surprised at the difference in their walking styles.  

Maggie the Wonder Dog quickly figured out that there was likely to be more than one trip to the barn. She makes every step with me the first time around, but the second time around she begins to slow. She will still walk with me, but she doesn't quite get to the end before she turns back. By that time, she's getting distracted. There's a bird in the sky to see, grass to sniff, cows at which to bark.  This walking back-and-forth bores Maggie, and she will only tolerate it for a limited time before she has to take a break. She always joins back up, but I can count on her to be intermittent at best.

Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy, however, is another story entirely.  Mamie tries hard to make every step, at least for the first few laps. I can't imagine how many steps those short little legs have to make to keep up with me, but she does it. Mamie doesn't take shortcuts, either. She walks all the way to the end before she turns around. Even more amazing, Mamie wants to run in circles, with me as the hub of her circle. She will run over Maggie, give her a quick lick and tumble, and start out with me again. She doesn't stop until she's panting so hard that she's got to cool down, unless I stop first.

The walk of faith with Jesus is sometimes like this isn't?  Most of us start out with enthusiasm and high hopes of finishing the trek. We do pretty well at the beginning, but some of us are a lot like Maggie, quickly distracted and easily turned back. We lose something, though, in not completing the whole path, and the most important thing we lose is time with the Master. 

Wouldn't it be much better to walk out our faith with Jesus the way Mamie does with me? She starts with enthusiasm, she continues with enthusiasm, and she ends with enthusiasm. Mamie has a grand time on our walks, and I have a grand time watching her. She has figured out that when she's tired, her master will pick her up and snuggle her close.  Mamie knows that, when she wears out, she can count on me to carry her all the way home, even if it means carrying her for a whole lap or two to do it.

Now that is the kind of Christian faith walk we should have: starting, continuing, and finishing with enthusiasm, even when it's hard, even when we're tired. There's a promise that goes with this kind of faith walking. You have probably heard it before.

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isaiah 40:11 NASB)

Keep following the Shepherd, dear ones, without distraction or delay, trusting in the promise that, when you most need it, He will scoop you up, hug you close, and carry you the rest of the way. What could possibly be better than that?


Distraction at the door, part 4: Obedient Relations

And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." (Luke 8:19-21 NASB)

This is a difficult passage, but it has truth we need to understand, whether we want to or not. In our culture, there is a tendency to identify oneself as being a "Christian" without really understanding what that means. In these verses, Jesus took a teachable moment and shed a bit of light on the question of relation to Him.

His mother and his brothers were outside the crowd, wishing to see Jesus, who was in the midst of the crowd. Rather than push through the crowd, they had sent word, hoping He would leave the crowd and come to them. The reason for this is not known, but the implication is that understanding and obedience were not on their agenda. 

He turned to the message-bearer and explained that His mother and His brothers (His immediate, closely related family) were those who hear the word of God and obey it. Did you get that? If we are part of the family of Christ, then we hear the word of God and obey it. Looking at this another way, if we hear the Word of God and do not obey it (or do not even bother to know what God's word says), then perhaps we are not part of the family of God. Relationship brings obedience. 

These are hard words, straight from Jesus, and in our culture we tend to ignore or gloss over them. Who wants this to be true? No one. Not wanting it to be true does not make it any less so. The fact is, according to Jesus, His disciples, His family are the ones who hear and obey, not those who just claim to be related. 

The word translated as "hear" is one we have seen before. It is akouĊ and means to hear with understanding. This is not the kind of "in one ear and out the other" hearing that does not bring change. This is the kind of hearing that is accompanied by both understanding and life and heart change. 

We do well to ask ourselves how we respond to the Word of God. Is it like a spotlight on the dark places in our heart? Do we embrace the light and allow it to banish our darkness or do we shrink from it, avoiding any clarity and change?

It is not our Lord's intent to leave us as we are, but to make us more like Him. Pray today that we and our loved ones will willingly embrace the cleansing and change He longs to bring through His Word. 
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Link to last night's post is here: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/07/radical-obedience-abubakar-shekau.html
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Our terrorist prayer focus this week is Abubakar Shekau. Meh is the leader of Boku Haram, a radical terrorist organization operating in northeastern Nigeria. He is particularly fond of kidnapping and murder, having kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls (many who are still in captivity). Just yesterday, his forces captured a civilian-controlled town, murdered at least 100 people, and made the town his new headquarters. More than 22,000 have been killed in battle between his forces and the Nigerian military in the last few years. Please pray for an end to his reign of terror and for salvation for him and his men.  





Sunday, July 20, 2014

Radical obedience: Abubakar Shekau

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45 NASB)

This is the fourth part of our praying for terrorist series, and to make this a little more understandable for those who are new to this series, I've repeated the opening of the third part from last week. Please bear with me.  
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In obedience to the command of Christ to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we are taking one terrorist a week and praying for them. I recognize it seems a shocking and outrageous thing to do. Frankly, I would prefer to write a cute Maggie story. Regardless, these people have sworn to destroy us and they are our enemies. 

Loving them begins with prayer, just as Jesus said. Loving the terrorists does not mean we trust them nor that we invite them in with their bombs. Loving them, in my opinion (which may or may not count for much) involves praying for them to come to Christ. Once they come to Christ, more will be involved, but for now, praying is a good start.  Think of it as radical obedience. 

The fourth of the terrorists for whom we need to pray is Abubakar Shekau, and he is the leader of the Boku Haram organization. The name means "Western education is forbidden". (Sometimes reported as "Western education is sin") This group has been in the news recently as the band of evil-minded thugs who kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian school girls. When a #bringbackourgirls campaign began, the Boku Haram released a video mocking the effort. They have terrorized northeastern Nigeria, and there are reports of 22,000 deaths in Nigeria due to the fighting. 

They have captured several towns and are expanding their impact throughout the area in an attempt to gain control of the region. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Boku Haram has captured the small town of Damboa, killing more than 100 people. Previously under civilian control, Boku Haram has made this town it's new headquarters. 

Dear ones, we need to pray that this man's reign of terror would come up an end, that the destruction would be limited, and that there would be no more loss of innocent life. Pray that all his terrorist activities would be thwarted and fail, that the schoolgirls would be released or escape, and (most importantly) that he would come to Christ with a Damascus road experience that leaves him more dedicated to Christ than he ever was to terror. 

Pray, too, for the people who live in this region to see God's hand of protection and to experience a miraculous intervention of The Almighty. 

Friends, the situation in Nigeria is dire and as an act of unity with our brothers and sisters there, we are compelled to pray. As an act of radical obedience we must pray.