Praying is the Answer

“You got to keep on praying.”

The lyrics say, “Give it back,” and this song is a reminder for the power of prayer.

Back to God by Reba McEntire creatively reminds us to pray.

We may be facing many challenges. The world may be facing many challenges, and the answer can be found in the Lord.

2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Can we have confidence in unsettled times?

Psalm 27 reminds us of the Lord’s faithfulness.

Life was unsettled. He was fighting adversaries which seemed bigger than big. He could not stay in his own home because of his enemies. Trying to flee his enemies, David was forced to seek refuge in the wilderness. Yet, his confidence in the Lord remained.

Verses 1-3 say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.”

David’s adversaries were large. Their strength and size caused David to hide, yet when David’s opponents were compared to the greatness of the Lord, there was no need for him to fear. David found his well-being and strength in the Lord, so there was no room for fear.

Our enemies may not be forcing us into the wilderness, but they are lurking around us. Lost jobs, economic downturns, a bearish stock market, and an unsettled future are crouched in the shadows awaiting an opportune time to strike with fear and panic.

They may be large, but when compared to the greatness of the Lord, we can find confidence. Our well-being and strength are found in the Lord, so there is no room for fear.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

We may be facing down large opponents today. We may be nearing the end of our resources, yet we can echo the Words of David. The Lord is our light and our salvation, so why should we be afraid? The Lord is our fortress, so whom shall we fear?

How Does the Lord Respond to Doubt?

Jesus responds with grace and compassion.

Experiencing doubts in one’s faith journey can seem lonely. The one having doubts may feel he or she is the only one having questions. However, approximately 2/3 of Christians experience doubts at some point. And, this is not a new experience in the 21st Century. It has been occurring since the 1st Century; Jesus’ first followers had doubts.

The Bible records John the Baptist experiencing doubts. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, many of his disciples had doubts, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

He responded the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just cannot wrap his mind around it.

Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Thomas is like most Christians. He experienced a season of doubt, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.

The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.

If you are going through a season of doubt, you are not alone. Many Christians have asked questions and sought answers. Most respondents stated their faith was stronger after going through a season of doubt.

The Lord knows seasons of doubt come in life, and he responds with grace and compassion. Challenge your doubts by asking questions and seeking answers.

 

The Days After the Resurrection

Jesus gives a starting point for sharing hope.

The time from Jesus’ resurrection to his ascension was eventful for his disciples. He appeared to them numerous times, and they never knew when or where he would show up. They needed to be ready to learn from Jesus at any time.

John 21 records Jesus appearing to some of his disciples as they were fishing. It was the early morning hours, and the men had been fishing all night. They caught nothing though until Jesus guided them. While the disciples were about 100 yards from shore, Jesus appeared on the shore. He suggested throwing the net on the right side of the boat. They did, and it was filled with fish.

They came ashore, and Jesus was waiting with a hot breakfast. Jesus needed to have a conversation with the disciples concerning the future, but first, he wanted to make sure their needs were met. If they were struggling and hungry, they would not be focused on what Jesus had to say.

The Bible encourages Christians to share our hope, and I believe we find a starting point in this post-resurrection appearance.

We need to help a person meet his or her physical needs before we can have an open door to discuss spiritual matters.

If a person is struggling and hungry today, he or she is not concerned about tomorrow. A starting point for sharing hope is helping meet physical needs.

  • It may be helping the person look for work.
  • It may be helping the individual identify ways to advance his or her skills to improve financial stability.
  • It may be helping a person navigate resources to find help.
  • Mostly, it is investing in the person’s life to earn the right to share our hope.

People are more content to discuss tomorrow when today’s needs are met.

 

 

The Evening After the Resurrection

Jesus offers encouragement in two ways.

The doors were locked. The day had been eventful. The disciples learned of an empty tomb early in the morning, and two of them just returned from Emmaus saying the Lord had appeared to them. Though the sun was setting, the excitement continued.

As the two disciples from Emmaus were speaking, Jesus appeared in the room even though the doors were locked. At first, this startled Jesus’ followers, then they became overjoyed when they realized it was truly Jesus. Jesus spent some time with them, and he encouraged the disciples in two ways.

Encouragement to help with their doubts.

The Gospel writers recall the disciples still had doubts in their minds. Jesus understood their doubts, so he offered an opportunity to touch his hands and feet. He also ate in front of them. A ghost or figment of their imagination would not have hands, feet, or the ability to eat, so it really had to be Jesus. He encouraged the disciples through their doubts.

One of the ways Jesus encourages people with doubts today is giving them an opportunity to see his hands and feet, the church, in action. The church should help one another as well as the community. The church is a picture of Jesus and gives us an opportunity to see him in action.

I wish I could say this was a perfect picture; however, the picture is not always perfect. I can say I believe the world is a better place because of the lives of genuine Christ followers. Their love and work shined in the world around them.

Check here for more suggestions to overcome doubts.

Encouragement to share their hope.

Jesus helped the disciples with their doubts, then he sent them to share their hope.

John 20:21 says, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Jesus never intended for the disciples to keep his resurrection a secret. The Lord does not intend for Christians to keep our hope a secret. He desires for us to share it with those around us.

In many ways, these pieces of encouragement are connected. The person with doubts sees the Christian community sharing hope. Our sharing of hope allows the Lord’s love to shine brightly. What ways have you found to share your hope?

 

The Hours After the Resurrection

Seven miles of pondering.

The empty tomb was just the start of Easter day for the disciples. Several women, including Mary Magdalene, returned to the disciples with the exciting news, and the disciples started piecing the events together; however, there was still much doubt in their minds concerning the women’s news.

Two of the disciples decided to travel to Emmaus. They were joined on the 7-mile journey by Jesus, but they did not recognize him. As they walked, they talked.

The conversation turned to current events: Jesus’ crucifixion and the tomb being empty. Jesus used the Scripture to help the disciples overcome their doubt and see the truth. They were wondering if everything was true, but as they studied the Scriptures, they pieced everything together and understood.

Luke tells us after Jesus left the two disciples, they returned to Jerusalem. This means they walked 14 miles in one day, so they certainly got a workout. The account also gives us an idea to help overcome doubts.

Ponder the Bible.

If you are struggling with doubts, try studying the Scripture. For the disciples, it helped clear up confusion and settle some doubts. It may do the same for you.

C. S. Lewis, a well-known author, was an Atheist in his early 20s only to convert to Christianity after pondering the Bible. His intellect determined the claims of Scripture were sensible, and the explanation of life given in the Bible made sense. Lewis commented in Mere Christianity, Jesus had to be telling the truth. Otherwise, he would have been a lunatic, and there was no other evidence of Jesus not being sane. Lewis’ study of the Bible is what helped him conquer doubt and embrace Christianity.

God understands you and I may experience doubts, so he provides the Bible to ponder. Challenge your doubts with the claims of Scripture.

Check here for more suggestions to overcome doubts.

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The Moments after the Resurrection

Don’t keep hope a secret.

The tomb was empty, but the day was not over. There was still much for the disciples to experience as the hours of Easter unfolded. Jesus appeared to them at various times through the day. Each time Jesus helped the disciples understand something valuable. He started with Mary Magdalene.

Mary was weeping and standing outside the empty tomb. In her mind she had lost Jesus. She assumed someone had taken his body to a permanent burial spot. Already grieved by the crucifixion, the empty tomb only added to her heartbreak, because she didn’t understand Jesus had risen.

Then Jesus appeared and they had a conversation.

John 20:14 says, “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus standing there.”

How often do we miss Jesus? We are consumed by our own thoughts, so we miss the fact he is standing beside us. Our worries and anxieties keep us from realizing he is there. Mary’s grief kept her from realizing Jesus was there, but he still had her well-being in mind.

In John 20:15, “He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Jesus checks on Mary before he instructs her. Mary was important to Jesus, and he wanted to take care of her needs. We too are important to Jesus, and he wants to take care of our needs. This is the reason Jesus and Mary are standing outside an empty tomb.

Verse 15 goes on, “Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’ Which means ‘teacher.’

No doubt this would have been an exciting moment for Mary. Her hand on Jesus’ hand, and her hope was back. Jesus told her it was time to share her hope.

“Jesus said, ‘Do not hold onto me for I have not ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and she told them he had said these things to her,” says John 20:17-18.

Jesus told Mary it was time to share the hope she had found. She couldn’t force the other disciples to believe, but she could share hope with them.

We can share our hope with those around us. We can’t force them to believe, but we can illustrate our hope through our lives and actions. Our generosity, mindset, actions, and interactions speak volumes about the hope we have. Mary is told not to keep her hope a secret, but to go share it.

Share your hope today. Encourage someone in a Facebook post. Send a friend an encouraging text message. Call a neighbor to check on them before you go to the store the next time. Share your hope today.

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Are you lost, confused, scared, or anxious?

Psalm 107 offers hope and help.

Lost, scared, confused, and anxious are emotions described in Psalm 107. It may be easy for us to relate to these emotions.

We are not lost in the desert or being tossed on the open sea by a storm, but we may be lost in life being tossed by many circumstances. I believe we can easily relate to the Psalmists descriptions.

We may be lost in a crisis, not knowing which direction to turn. We may be scared about the future, not knowing what tomorrow holds. We may be anxious about an economic downturn and potential recession. Trade the desert winds and sea’s waves for the worries and struggles of today, and we are easily in Psalm 107.

Psalm 107 records the Lord provided deliverance each time he was called upon.

Verse 6 says, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”

As we find ourselves lost and tossed in life, we can cry out to the Lord, and he will deliver us from our distress. Psalm 107 reminds us scared and lost people have cried out in the past, and the Lord has been faithful to deliver them from their troubles. The same is true for us.

In turn, the Psalmist encourages us to give thanks to the Lord.

Verse 8 says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

  • Give him thanks for what he has done.
  • Give him thanks for his deliverance.
  • Go ahead and give him thanks for what he is going to do.

To those in distress today, Psalm 107 suggests crying out to the Lord. We should also be sure to give him thanks today.

What take-aways do you find in Psalm 107? Share in the comments below.

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Not Goodbye But See You Later

The pain is real, and so is the hope.

Lazarus was a good brother and great friend. He was close to his siblings and friends, but suddenly one day, he was not there. He had passed away.

His sisters were filled with grief. Their pain was real; their hearts hurt as their tears flowed. Lazarus’ friends, including Jesus, were saddened. Jesus wept. Their pain was real; their hearts also hurt as tears flowed.

As they were hurting, Jesus offered hope.

Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they die.”

The hope offered to Lazarus’ family and friends was as real as the pain. It was a hope in the fact they were not saying “goodbye,” rather “see you later.”

The pain of losing someone close to us is hard. Grief is real, and our hearts hurt as our tears flow. It may be losing a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend causing the pain. For Chris Young, it was losing his best friend Adam.

This loss was part of the inspiration for Young’s song Drowning. The lyrics remind us grief is real, and it comes in waves. The song also reminds us we have hope of seeing our loved ones again. You may be drowning today, but you can have hope in the reality it is not “goodbye,” but “see you later.”

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live even though he dies.” John 11 records Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave shortly after saying these words. Mary and Martha were able to see Lazarus again. Jesus himself went into the tomb but came back out. He reigns over death.

Though losing someone is hard, it does not have to be “goodbye” we say. We only have to say, “see you later.”

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Sunday…A Risen Hope

Don’t look for the living among the dead.

As the sun rose, the ladies were up and gathering spices. They planned to give Jesus as proper of a burial as they could. They didn’t find what they were expecting when they arrived at the tomb.

Luke 24 says, “They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance, so they went in, but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground, then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here. He has risen from the dead. Remember what he told you back in Galilee. That the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.’ Then they remembered that he had said this, so they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples, and everyone else, what had happened.”

This would have been quite a scene. The disciples were still processing events and trying to figure out what to do next. Suddenly the door flies open and Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James rushed in followed by several other women. Perhaps all talking at once as they gave the exciting news to the Apostles.

Put yourself in the room. What would have you thought? What did the disciples think?

Luke 24:11-12 says, “But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings. Then he went home again, wondering what had happened.”

The news seemed like nonsense to the disciples. They thought the ladies were so grief-stricken they were hallucinating. It certainly would have taken me a minute to grasp everything the ladies were saying, so I can understand the disciples struggle.

It took a minute, but the disciples started to grasp the fact Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had risen. The hope they thought they lost on Friday is found.

The same hope is still here today. We celebrate today because Jesus has struck a death blow to death. Enemies defeated; Jesus is preparing Heaven for our arrival. That is what we celebrate today.

Our celebrations may look different than previous years. No matter the look or size of the celebration, the hope is the same. We can celebrate an eternal hope in Christ Jesus, who has risen, and that is worth celebrating.

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