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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

In my morning Newcomer Refugee class, I currently have a student from Burma, one of The Karen People, and some Yazidi students. They all came here as refugees seeking freedom and safety. Yesterday we talked about the 4th of July and what it means. They all understood the word Freedom.

For my Karen student, freedom means not worrying about the military dictatorship that took over Burma which caused her parents to flee to a refugee camp in Thailand. My student was born in the refugee camp and has never seen her native homeland.

For my Yazidi students, freedom means being safe from the murderous criminals who were committing genocide. It also means they are free to practice their religion without being oppressed or discriminated against.

Freedom is so precious and yet taken for granted by us Americans. We do not have to worry about government troops or police coming into our churches to arrest us, not yet anyway. We are free to practice our faith or to not practice any faith. We do not have people with weapons pointed at us telling us what we must be.

I appreciate my freedom here in America. There is another freedom I look forward to even more than the freedom I have here. It is the freedom from the effects of sin in this world. For now my citizenship is U.S. citizenship. The day will come that either I die or Jesus comes back for us that I will more fully realize what the bible says- “but our citizenship is in heaven.” Only by God’s grace, I have been granted citizenship in heaven. I do not deserve it.

As I help refugees and immigrants here in my hometown, I am constantly mindful that I have dual citizenship- U.S. and heavenly. My desire is to help my newcomer friends with their new lives here in America. My desire is to also show them the love of God, whether it be in ways such as joining them for a meal, listening to them, or teaching them English. I realize that each day I can help them in a much bigger way that is not seen. I can pray for them. I can pray for them because in God’s grace, I have been granted citizenship in heaven and with that comes the birth right to talk to God anytime.

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As Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, and even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us.

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture is from a flower clock that I saw when I visited Geneva Switzerland in June 2004. Clocks are reminders that time continues to tick away. When I was young, I felt like I had all kinds of time. Now that I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is.

I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which Go prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English. As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things. Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger. But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

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He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” A quote from Lord of The Rings that illustrates the thoughts I normally have as a new year approaches.

I often wonder if the Lord had shown me all that was about to transpire in my life when I stepped out to follow Him, if I might have backed off out of concern or from feeling overwhelmed. At times it may feel frustrating to not know the whole answer and be told to trust, but when I think about how in Psalm 119 it says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”, I realize it is for the best to not know all before we step out. His light for us on the path guides us step by step. A lesson I have learned, and yet still need to learn, is that it is WHO is guiding us that is more than the path itself. If I can remember that it is Jesus who loves us and died for us who is our guide, it makes the experience of the journey more worthwhile.

One example is my involvement with my Brasilian friends. My interest in Brasil was peaked by my friends Isis and Eduardo from Brasil who lived in my city while in graduate school. Through my friendship with them and others from Brasil, I had the recurring thought that someday I wanted to go to Brasil. My church sends a group there each June and after hearing there would be interest in having a teacher go, the wheels were set in motion for my first trip in June 2013. As a result of that trip, I studied Português for one year at the University of Nebraska. This led to me meeting more Brasilians at UNL, continuing to practice my Português, and best of all enjoying friendship with many Brasilians at UNL. Following the path that God has before us is a process of letting it unfold as we follow His voice. My current involvement with my Brasilian friends portrays that so well. I met some friends from there, stepped out to go on a trip there to serve, ended up studying the language, and now many friendships and opportunities are part of my life.

As I write this, I wonder, where will the path lead this year as I step out my door. Where will Jesus guide me to this year. As Bilbo said at the end of the Return of the King movie, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

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The picture above is from Ouro Preto in Brasil. It is a road with many curves. It reminds me of what a professor said once. God does not always lead in a straight line. He shared this in my Pentatuch class as he showed paths of Abraham’s journeys laid over a map of the bible lands. Abraham followed God all over the place in his journey to where he was called to go. Fitting that God first said to Abraham to go to the land that I will show you in Genesis 12. In other words, get going but you won’t know where to yet, just follow my call.

Each year when New Year’s is getting close, I wonder where God will lead me, more specifically, who will God bring into the path of my life. My Christmas Eve celebration portrays what I am trying to say very well. I enjoyed Christmas Eve at the home of friends from Brasil along with other friends from Brasil. Interesting for me is the fact that I did not know any of them last year at this time.

Last year at this time, I was preparing for guests to come from Brasil, had just finished my first semester of Português, and enjoyed spending time with some students from Brasil. Early last year, one student told me of Juliano a professor from her university that was coming here as a visiting professor and asked if I would be willing to help him. We skyped together a few times and messaged on facebook. Juliano arrived in Lincoln in August. I have enjoyed spending time with Juliano and his family.

I also had the opportunity to meet Rodrigo and his family in August. Rodrigo is also a visiting professor from Brasil. It has been a pleasure to spend time with Rodrigo and his family too. Rodrigo and I began meeting for lunch at the East Campus Student Union and through those lunches I met some undergraduate students from Brasil. That culminated in hosting a Thanksgiving lunch at my church with Brasilian food thanks to Juliano’s wife Wal and brigadeiro thanks to Rodrigo’s wife Flavia. It has been my privilege to get to know the students and to have lunch with them. The week of Thanksgiving, I was able to help one of the students with her mother’s visit. That made my Thanksgiving week a memorable one.

As I sat with my friends on Christmas Eve, I reflected on the the fact that I knew none of them one year ago, and yet, I consider them my good friends. Friends that I hope to visit in Brasil in the future. I also thought about all of the students I met through them. Then I wondered something. Who will God bring across the path of my life next year? What adventures lie ahead for me in 2015?

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Psalm 90:12 says- “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” But what does that mean? Are we to just live in morbid fear that we will one day die? The rest of the Psalm following verse 12 gives insight as it discusses living for God.

We are only given a short time here in this life. Our days are numbered. What is important is how we live those days. My desire this year is to be better at making each day count for the Lord by showing His love to others. The older I get, the more reflective I become. I realize there have been far too many days that I have wasted. There have been opportunities to show the love of God to others that I have not followed through on or have squandered due to my own selfishness.

The theme for me as I ponder the New Year is and my desire is to day by day be better at making each day count in my relationship with Jesus and showing His love to others. The number of days that I have left in this life grows shorter as I get older. Making each day count can be about small things, not only big dreams. Often it is in those moments we think of as small that can lead to significant things. A chance meeting with someone can lead to a friendship and opportunities to share Christ with them. I had such an opportunity last summer when I met a new friend from Brasil by “chance”. Actually God had arranged my chance to meet my friend from Brasil. It began with meeting for coffee after being connected by someone else. Our friendship grew and his wife came to visit for the holidays. Over the holidays both of them made the decision that they wanted Jesus in their lives.

However, there have been other opportunities I have missed out on over the years. That is why the theme for me this year is to day by day make each day count. Each day is a gift from God to be able to participate in His wonderful plan.

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Good Friday and Easter Sunday deservedly receive a lot of attention. They are the pivotal events in not only Christianity, but also in History. On Good Friday we remember His sacrificial death for us. On Easter Sunday we remember how He defeated death for us through His resurrection. But what about the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? The day when Jesus’ body laid in the tomb. His followers were in despair. They had lost hope. They thought it was all over and done with and their beloved leader was gone forever.

I have been to the funerals of loved ones and friends. Looking into a casket is perhaps the most solemn experience we face in this life. That and watching a loved one die. I was with my father when he died. He died while I was reading from the bible to him. When my father died, I did not despair. That was because over a year before he died, I was with him while he made peace with God by trusting in Jesus. I had so much peace about where my father went to that I taught my class that evening, but I had the benefit of knowing the rest of the story which is that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection.

There are other moments in life that might we feel all hope is lost. We look at our life obstacles and wonder if there is anyway that we can find that job, get out of debt, experience our loved ones finally getting their life turned around, recover from an illness or any other of life’s seemingly unending problems. We at times are like the followers of Jesus on that Saturday between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is as if we are on the outside of the tomb lost in despair.

I often wonder how His followers felt that Saturday. What it must have been like for those who washed His body and prepared His body for burial. They had forgotten about how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead only days before Jesus entered Jerusalem. They had forgotten how Jesus had told them that He would die and that He would be raised from dead. They had lost hope. We do the same thing. We lose hope even though we have the rest of the story. We know that Jesus defeated death. His resurrection proves that He has power even over our worst enemy. When we face life’s difficulties, it is too easy for us to lose hope and not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I would like to encourage you to think about your problems and then remember that He has all power. His resurrection is the proof that we too will one day enjoy the benefits of heaven, and also that He does have all power. He is more than able to help us to overcome our difficulties.

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The Lord’s prayer is well-known by many people from all denominations and even those who are not Christians. It has been put to song by some of the greatest singers in the world. Personally I enjoy the listening to it being sung. The prayer begins with Our Father which shows Jesus is teaching that prayer comes out of relationship with God. Prayer is not a chant to some impersonal it force out there somewhere. Prayer is communication between Father and child.

Jesus shared something with His disciples when they asked Him to teach them how to pray. Before teaching them the model of Our Father, Jesus shared with them a simple yet profound truth. He said “for your Father knows what you need before you ask.” Our Father in heaven is never surprised by our requests. He is prepared beforehand. He knows everything we go through, what we need, and our lives. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He even knows our failures and still wants us to come to Him in prayer. He invites us to come to Him in prayer.

So why should we pray when Our Father in Heaven knows what we have need of before we ask? Because we need Him 🙂 We need to spend time with Him. We need to grow in our relationship with Him. It reminds me of what many good parents will do. They know what their children will need for a activity like soccer for example. Their child will need a uniform, shoes, etc. Sometimes the parent even though they know what their child needs, will wait for their child to come to them to show them what they need. The parent has already planned in the budget to provide for the need, but the parent also knows allowing the child to come to them and talk will help the child to grow in their parent/child relationship. It gives them time together as parent and child. The relationship grows and the child is strengthened. The child needs this to grow and mature and to build their trust in their parent. The child needs this to be able to not just survive but thrive in the world.

Our Father in Heaven wants us to come to Him because we need do so to grow in our relationship with Him, so we can thrive here in this life. We need time with Him 🙂

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