The numbers worldwide continue to rise: 181,377 cases, 7119 deaths, 78,085 recoveries. Worldwide reactions are dramatic: airline flights cancelled, large numbers of quarantined populations, countries with closed borders, bans on gatherings over 250 people, schools closed, colleges reverting to online classes, sports leagues cancelled, plummeting stock markets etc. Behold a pandemic! The cause of this chaos is a virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
If you have never read through the Old Testament, I would highly recommend you read the book of Daniel. For one thing, the prophetic material found in the book of Revelation cannot be rightly interpreted without a general knowledge of Daniel’s writing. This small book of 12 chapters is highly organized and by its intricate arrangement reveals how incredibly wise Daniel was. Daniel’s ministry covered the length of the Babylonian exile with his last dated prophecy made around 536 B.C. when he was in his eighties.
Did you know that eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela have the most lightning in the world? Did you know that in the United States26 people died from lightning strikes in 2015 and that Florida by far is the state most often hit? Incredibly in July and August (the most active months), Colorado averages 5,350 and 4,811 flashes per day with most of them occurring in the Colorado Springs-Denver area. Why you wonder is this important?
Since 2014, what consistently is the third most terrorized country in the world? To find your answer you would want to look up the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). This is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). This data is collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) led by the University of Maryland. As late as 2017, because of persistent Boko Haram and Fulani militant attacks, Nigeria ranks as the third-most terrorized nation. Only Iraq and Afghanistan rank higher in carnage.
I’m convinced that prayerlessness is a major factor when I give into temptation. If I’m tempted and I run to the Lord in prayer immediately my will is altered and I’m fortified to do what I know I ought to do. When I neglect seeking His help every fiendish aspect of rationalization works to my detriment. But even in praying for God’s help to resist evil there is a responsibility on my part to be committed to God’s truth and will. Jerry Bridges notes in The Discipline of Grace, “There’s no point in praying for God’s help in the face of temptation if we haven’t made a commitment to obedience without exception.”
Jim Downing wrote in his book, The Other Side of Infamy, an amazing account of forgiveness. This 104 year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor shared how in 1953 he met Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and, who after the war, became a Christian. It was exceedingly hard for Jim to forgive Fuchida after losing so many shipmates. But he forgave him because it was the right thing to do.
Matthew 6:12—And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
I love how God blesses us in unexpected ways to reinforce His truth. Today, while writing this devotional, I went downstairs to eat breakfast in the Mobile, Alabama Marriott. I gave the hostess my room number so she could charge me. (Actually, my expenses were covered by the church that invited me to speak.) But she declined to do that. Instead she gave me an extra coupon and insisted that I eat at no cost. God gave me and the church blessing me a reminder that our daily bread was indeed a gift from Him.
Matthew 6:11—Give us today our daily bread.
My parents are living on a farm in Zolfo Springs with my brother Nate and his wife Melissa. Recently, their guard dog Shepherd went missing. Less than a week later, Nate’s longtime companion, Minnie, was hit and killed by a truck on the road outside their home. As my parents were out walking alongside a ditch looking for Minnie, a car stopped and the driver asked what they were looking for. A conversation ensued in which the driver asked about getting permission to fish in the farm. Dad explained that he was the owner and he would agree for Alex and his wife Elisa to fish as long as they were willing to let him share with them about Jesus. They decided that was a fair arrangement and after fishing a couple of times at the pond and catching nice Bass, Alex one afternoon sat down on the farm porch and conversed with Dad about John 3:16. He ended up placing his faith in Jesus.
Matthew 6:10—Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Let’s make a case for the ten greatest empires/kingdoms of all time.
#1. The Roman Empire: Considered preeminent for its sheer power and long-standing influence in military and political systems, art, literature, and religion.
#2. The Mongol Empire: Five times the size of Alexander the Great’s territory, Genghis Khan established a kingdom that stretched from Eastern Europe to China.
#3. The British Empire: Almost a quarter of the earth’s landmass was covered by an empire effective in warfare and trade.
Since 1958, the West Point Association of Graduates has presented the SYLVANUS THAYER AWARD to an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, “DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.”
As the shells rain down on hapless soldiers trembling in their foxholes, a man completely unknown as religious to his squad mates begins reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He remembers it from growing up attending Mass. Now in their time of desperation he delivers it up to God. Considered the most beloved prayer in Scripture and taught by Jesus to His followers, we would be wise to unpack it, study it and apply it rigorously to our lives. So let’s embark upon a prayer journey and take joy in 69 life-changing words.
Ross, gave me a book entitled, Why Pray? by John DeVries. It is a 40-day devotional packed with thoughts on prayer. I thought Day 4 titled, “Prayer is filling the gas tank” was particularly profound. John tells the story of a man pushing his car that ran out of gas right past the gas station. When asked why he didn’t pull in and fill his car with gas the man replied that he was too busy as he had just 10 minutes left to get to the church. Can you imagine the absurdity of his reasoning?! John’ s point is that when Christians say they are too busy to pray this logic is as convoluted as a man pushing his car past a gas station.
2 John 6—And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.
The first Biblical reference to love God is recorded in Exodus 20:6. Moses teaches the Israelites to keep God’s commands and thereby demonstrate their love for Him. So, when John defines love in his letter to his readers, he is not sharing with them a new concept. But, as we all know, it is hard to walk in love with God. How do we strengthen willpower to be better God-lovers and, in the process, improve loving others and ourselves?
Jesus in the final hours before getting arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane asked eight of the disciples to sit while he prayed. Then He took Peter, James and John with him further into the garden. Disclosing His anguish to His three closest friends, He asked them to stay awake with Him. Then He went a little further and fell face down on the ground to pray. When He returned to the three he found them sleeping. He confronted Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour?” (vs. 37)
Walking into my office downstairs I was immediately aware of a great aroma. That observation was quickly followed by one of relief. I had left my fragrance lamp on all night and that could have been a fire hazard. Fortunately, the melted eucalyptus/mint-laced wax cubes created a wonderful scent and nothing had overheated.
Psalm 141:2—May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
Often each week I focus time in prayer for my family. Specifically, I ask that every one of my children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews would faithfully walk with God and that they would have a deep love for Him. I am thankful that my parents pray the same thing for me! Living for God is never something we can take for granted. The reality, as you already know, is that we live in a temptation-laced world. Our wills constantly grapple with God’s will. So easily we can be enticed to embrace, chase, proclaim and invite into our lives earth’s delicacies that look appealing, yet leave us sick and empty. How many people wander away from God simply because no one is praying for them?
Peggy Joyce Ruth and Angela Ruth Schum wrote stimulating stories to complement their verse by verse analysis of Psalm 91 in their book Psalm 91 God’s Shield of Protection. They also compiled a stirring collection of stories from people who experienced, first-hand God’s protection as a result of claiming passages in Psalm 91—by faith.
Four Tuesday evenings of each month, several of my West Point classmates join together for prayer. On a normal session we span from Alaska to Virginia (4 time zones). We briefly give updates on what is happening in our lives and this is often a time of bottom-of-the-heart-sharing. Some have recently lost spouses or parents to death. Some have spouses or children with medical challenges or are personally recovering from surgery. Some are in the midst of uncommon adversity with lawsuits, work harassment and attacks from the enemy. All at some point have encouraging stories of victory and the blessing of divine favor.
It would be interesting to take a poll in order to discover how many of God’s children suspect that He does not hear them when they pray. I would guess the percentage might be fairly high. Personally, I’m convinced that God does listen to us when we pray. He has acted in many instances in direct response to a plea from my heart. I’ve felt His hand on my life protecting me and giving me strength knowing full well that others were praying for me. I’ve seen Him answer my parent’s prayers or other family members with specificity that is thrilling. I’ve watched Him heal suffering people through prayer. I’ve seen Him bestow peace to those in the midst of horrible pain and turmoil. He hears!
Flattop (3,510 feet) is Alaska’s most frequently climbed mountain. Located just 13 miles from downtown Anchorage in Chugach State Park, the views from its summit are stunning. I was in Anchorage to meet with participants in an emergency exercise timed to coincide with the 50thyear anniversary of the 9.2 earthquake that hit Anchorage. After our meetings I left with the two officers who accompanied me to take pictures at a park site near the airport. While there we met Kendra, a local resident, who told us Flattop was the place to go to get the best views of the area. We assumed we were going to arrive at a place where we could take photos from our car so you can imagine our surprise when she led us from the parking lot to Glen Alps trailhead to walk 1.5 miles and climb 1280 feet! This would have been okay except that the trail was mostly mud and snow and near the top very icy and steep.