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Archive | Trials and difficulties

Dementia Took My Mom Years Ago

Caring for Aging Parents

My mother was witty, fun, and smart. She danced in the kitchen, talked her way out of every traffic ticket, and ran her own business. She read constantly, created intricate cross-stitched pieces, and could quote baseball statistics like a pro. She loved Jesus and adored my dad.

Mom may still be living, but years ago, dementia took the person she was. The disease slowly changed her personality and tore down her ability to effectively relate to other people. Although it happened over time, the reality hit me one day.

“Mom” was gone; just a shadow remained. And I’ve been feeling the loss ever since.

My mother and I were always close. Even after I married and we moved hundreds of miles away, Mom and I stayed connected with regular, long phone calls. I went to her with parenting questions and friendship issues. She always cared, always listened, and always had some words of wisdom.

I never realized how much I had depended on Mom until I couldn’t. But then I discovered that in some ways, our relationship had hindered my dependence on God. When something happened, instead of turning to Him, I called Mom. When she lost the ability to listen and understand, I began to learn how to take those things to the One who would always listen. Always understand.

Grieving Lost Relationships

The psalmist David knew about personal loss and painful relationships. Yet David learned to cultivate a deep, satisfying relationship with God that brought him comfort in the midst of grief, security in tumultuous circumstances, and joy that surpassed any loss.

In the sixty-third psalm, David emphasized God’s presence with His people. Whether through death, betrayal, or simply change, human relationships will always fail us. But God will never fail us. Our earthly relationships can never meet all our needs, but God can meet every need. He can quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. His love is better than life itself. (See Psalm 63:1-8.)

When you feel alone, when a sense of loss overwhelms you, turn to the Truth. You are not alone. God is with you. Remember the times He has made His presence known to you in the past. Reflect on those moments you’ve experienced His loving care. Whisper His name and turn to Him. Depend on His strength and sustenance.

Finding Joy in the Changes

Yes, our relationship with our parents is different than it once was. Now they depend on us. Now they need our help. Our guidance. In many ways, we are the parent and they are the child. We grieve the people they were and the relationship we had with them. But, in our grief, let’s not miss what we still have. Who they are now.

Today, my relationship with my mother is drastically different than it was. Yet I’m seeking new ways to find joy in the relationship we do have and to help her enjoy the life she still has. Mom can no longer read, stitch, or dance. But she does like watching planes take off and land. So recently, we drove out and parked next to the airport. And we sat and together we watched the planes.

How has the relationship with your parents changed in recent years? What are some practical ways you can enjoy the relationship you have with them now.

 

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging ParentsStruggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Read first 5 devotionals.

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Special Offers and a Freebie to Celebrate My New Book!

“30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” officially launches one week from today! We are so excited about this new devotional for caregivers we want to pass along the excitement with a couple of special offers and a free printable!

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents:

Are you struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Free Sample: Read the first 5 days of devotion!

Pre-order Specials

The book officially releases on May 21st, but you can preorder now. And there are benefits in pre-ordering!

Benefit #1: 30% the retail price!

New Hope Publishers is offering 30% off all preorders on their website through May 20th. Just click the “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” pre-order button and use “preorder18” for the coupon code.

Benefit #2: Free Prayer Card Printable!

Each devotional in the book ends with a prayer prompt. I’ve used some of these prayers to created a sheet of 10 prayer cards for caregivers. Offer applies to preorders from anywhere – New Hope Publishers, Amazon, CBD, Barnes&Noble, etc. Just email me at kathy@kathyhoward.org with your proof of purchase and I’ll email you the pdf!

Prayer cards

Bulk Order Offer

Are you connected with a caregivers or dementia support group? New Hope Publishers is also offering a 40% off retail discount and free shipping on bulk orders for ministry groups. (Bulk order is any order over a case of 36 books.) Email me if you are interested.

Spiritual Encouragement and Refreshment for Caregivers

My prayer is that God will use this new resource to give spiritual encouragement and refreshment to those who care for their aging or ill parents. What is your prayer for yourself or others you know that are caregivers?

 

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The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13

Promise, temptation

You’ve probably heard – or maybe you’ve even said – “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Sounds really good but there’s just one problem. The Bible doesn’t teach that.

Many people point to 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this “Christian teaching.” But is that what Paul meant when he wrote: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear?” Let’s pull back and look at this sentence in the context of the larger passage to find out what Paul was talking about. (See this post for more information on “biblical context.) The context, the topic of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is temptation and being prepared to resist it. Keep reading to discover the real promise found in verse 13.

At the end of chapter 9, Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to practice strict spiritual discipline like he did. Take note of the “for” in 1 Corinthians 10:1 (NIV). Paul wanted them to be self-disciplined. He did not want them to follow the bad example of Israel in the wilderness who gave into temptation and disobeyed God. Because of their disobedience that generation died in the desert and never entered the promised land. Their story was recorded as a warning for the Corinthians and for us (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13

Then in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul elaborates on what we should do instead of giving into temptation and falling into sin. Here are three truth points for us from this passage:

  1. Thinking we are too strong to fall into sin makes us vulnerable. We must keep up our guard.
  2. No temptation will come our way that hasn’t already been part of the human experience. We won’t be tempted with something “new” or “unusual.”
  3. God is faithful. He will not allow any temptation to come our way that is too great for us to resist. He will always provide a way for us to say no and the strength to bear up under the pull of sin.

Okay, did you see that? Number 3 is the real promise of verse 13. God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can resist. 

God Does Give Us More than We Can Handle

So what about this question: “Does God ever give us more hardship than we can handle?” The short answer is “yes.” But let’s turn to another one of Paul’s letters for a more in-depth explanation.

In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote about hardships he experienced in Asia:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV

The same biblical author that wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 also wrote 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul knew that God would allow him to experience more hardship than he could bear. He had lived it. He had pressure in

Asia that was far beyond his ability to endure.

Why? Why did God allow Paul – and why does God allow us – to experience trials and difficulties, grief and pain, more than we can bear? So that we will rely on God and not on our own strength and power.

Hear Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:10:

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:10, NIV

When we are unable to deliver ourselves, God is able. When we are unable to stand up under the pressure, it will be God’s strength in us.

No, God does not promise that He will never give us more than we can handle. Instead, He holds out His hand and tells us to lean on Him.

Have you ever misunderstood the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13? What comfort can you take in the real promise?

 

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What’s the “Good” of Romans 8:28?

Romans 8:28

Disappointments, grief, difficulty, trials, and strife fill our lives. These things have touched each of us. It is the human experience. But in the midst of suffering, we cling to a promise found in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome:

“For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NIV

Christians find comfort, encouragement, and hope in these words. And rightly so. Unfortunately, many of us have misapplied this well-known verse. Our understanding is shortsighted. We slap God’s promise on the current and temporal, expecting our physical circumstances to soon look “good” – better even than when things went awry.

Isn’t that what Romans 8:28 means? After all, it says that God “works all things together for our good!” Doesn’t God divinely control all the events and circumstances of our lives to make things turn out great for us?

In order to understand “all things work together for good” accurately, we must not only consider the entire verse, but also the context of the larger passage.

In Romans 8:18-39, Paul is comparing present, earthly suffering of believers with the eternal glory to come. (See Romans 8:18.) On this earth, we “groan” or experience difficulties because of the effects of sin. But God has conquered sin. In His sovereignty, He is working out His plan to save, sanctify, and glorify those He has “called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-30).

The Who, What, and How of Romans 8:28

With the larger context in mind, let’s discover the “who,” “what,” and “how” of Romans 8:28:

  • Who is the promise for? – This promise is only for Christians, those who have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus. Not only did Paul write this letter to believers, but the verse itself defines the “who” – “those who love [God], who have been called according to His purpose.” We cannot apply this verse to all people.
  • What is our “good?” – This is probably the most often misunderstood and misapplied part of this verse. “Good” does not mean our happiness, physical comfort, or material abundance. The larger context of the passage refers to our spiritual condition and sure hope of one day sharing in Christ’s glory. God’s purpose for us is to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (verse 29). This is our calling, God’s goal – and “good” – for us. In His power and sovereignty, God is working through the circumstances of our lives to make us like Jesus and to bring us to our eternal glory.
  • How does God accomplish it? – God works in and through our trials, difficulties, and pain and suffering to move us toward His will (Romans 8:27) which is conformity to Jesus and future glory with Him (Romans 8:29-30). (See Romans 5:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and James 1:2-4.) In order to be like Jesus and share His glory, we must also share His sufferings (Philippians 3:10-11). God uses and works through our physical circumstances to bring about the spiritual condition He desires in us.

God’s “good” is eternal

God’s “good” for us is far greater than our temporary, physical circumstances. His plan is spiritual in nature and eternal in scope. God intimately knows our physical needs and cares greatly about each one (Matthew 6:25-33). But He cares even more about our spiritual condition. He wants us to be like His Son.

Is this understanding of God’s “good” for us different than you’ve understood it in the past? In what way?

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Ways to Respond to Hurtful Words

Hurtful Words

(This post is a giveaway!) A good story transcends time, culture, and history, grabbing our hearts in a way no other medium can. A good story even has power to give a voice to the voiceless, hope for the hopeless, and the power to overcome hurtful words.

But no story offers entrance into the world of relationships like the greatest story ever told—the Bible. Full of romance, conflict, betrayal, and more, these true stories reveal the power of real love transforming the lives of real people. People just like you and me.

I’ve held my Bible close through the years, but it seemed to come more alive for me during a particularly traumatic time in my life. Somewhere in the midst of grief and healing from a crushing relationship, I found a story in the Old Testament that literally changed my life.

The True Tale of Two Wives

This story centers on a man named Ephraim and his two wives. (See 1 Samuel 1:1-20.) Peninnah had many children. And although Hannah had none, she had the love of her husband. These facts alone make the story ripe for conflict.

This true story is filled with lessons on both healthy and unhealthy behaviors for relationships. If the cameras of reality TV had been rolling in 1083 BC, these two women would have been catapulted into stardom, starring in The Real Housewives of Ephraim or perhaps guest stars on an episode of Sister Wives.

Imagine how the juicy storyline would have filled today’s social media:

“Poor Hannah—Unable to Give Her Husband a Beloved Firstborn Son.”

Or maybe,

“Motherhood is hopeless for Hannah. Bring on the next woman!”

And if the shame of infertility wasn’t enough, Elkanah’s second wife, Penni—who was more than fertile—relentlessly flaunted her fertility. First Samuel 1:6 says, “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”

The Bible Speaks Wisdom for Today

In order to irritate her. I really tried to give Penni the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t have it easy. But I finally realized I couldn’t sugarcoat Penni’s unhealthy, negative, hurtful presence in Hannah’s life. Penni was Hannah’s rival. Plain and simple, she was not a nice person.

Sadly, the world hasn’t changed. Mean-spirited people still exist. And they still purposeful work to hurt others with their words and behavior.

But Hannah’s story spoke wisdom to my story. Her response to her situation and to Penni, helped me know how God would have me respond to my own relationship trauma.

Hannah purposefully chose to respond in three ways: Hannah chose to pray, cling, and love.

 The more Penni spoke hurtful words, the more Hannah opened her heart to God in prayer. The harder Penni pushed, the harder Hannah clung to God, with the same relentless pursuit. And the hardest thing Hannah did that has the potential to change everything? When Penni chose hate, Hannah chose not to retaliate.

When those in our lives choose to act in hurtful ways towards us, we too have a choice. We can choose to act in kind or we can choose love. Is it easy? Oh no. But it is empowering.

How do you respond the last time someone spoke words that hurt you? (Comment to enter the giveaway!)

Overcoming Hurtful WordsToday’s post is by Janell Rardon, author of the new book Overcoming Hurtful Words: Rewrite Your Own Story. Hurtful words can steal joy, distort truth, and create long-term struggles with understanding your worth and purpose. In this powerful new book, counselor and life coach Janell Rardon, MA, equips you to address and reframe negative words and labels that have hurt you in order to achieve healing and lasting freedom.

Download Chapter One of “Overcoming Hurtful Words.

Free small group study guide for “Overcoming Hurtful Words”

Janell Rardon

Janell Rardon is an event speaker and board certified life coach (AACC) who specializes in marriage and family relationships, She loves nothing more than helping others speak healing words that help them live a rich, meaningful life. She loves traveling to Kenya with Tree of Lives, a non-profit serving the African family, with a particular interest in serving the Mamas of “The Joy Village,” a family-modeled orphanage to care for abandoned, abused and neglected children of Kenya.

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This Certain Hope

The daffodil bulbs I planted in the fall have raised their fresh green blades above the ground. This morning’s discovery was a touch bittersweet.

Late last spring, I dug up those same bulbs from the back yard of my childhood home – right after all my parents’ belongings rode off down the street in a moving van.

Because of their health, Mom and Dad needed to be close to either me or my brother. They now live a mile from my brother, in a comfortable duplex, with round-the-clock help.

Honestly, I had not been optimistic that the bulbs would live. First, it wasn’t the best time of year to dig them up. But I didn’t have a choice, the house was going to be sold. Second, we soon moved ourselves and the bulbs weren’t constantly stored in a “cool, dry place.”

But I did hope they’d grow.

I dug them up with hope. And I planted them with hope.

When I saw those green stems this morning I also thought about my dad and the future hope God says is his. Really, it’s the hope that belongs to all of us who belong to Jesus.

Since that first sin in the Garden, sin has been taking its toll. This world, our souls, and our bodies have been held in bondage to sin, broken by corruption, and groaning under sin’s burden.

Jesus paid the price of our redemption. And while we are no longer slaves to sin, all creation still waits for the full, future consummation of our redemption. That day when God will restore all things, including our bodies (Romans 8:18-25).

For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:24

Groaning while waiting with certain hope

Parkinson’s has taken a terrible toll on Dad’s body. Once athletic and strong, age and disease have robbed him without mercy. Now he struggles to rise from a chair and needs a walker to get across a room.

But one day… one day Dad will have a resurrection body that is whole and strong.

Like the daffodil bulb that went into the ground brown and dry has been raised green and supple, our weak bodies will one day be raised in glory and power. One day, all those who know Jesus will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Do you have this sure hope? The secure and certain hope that one day your weak, perishable body will be raised strong and imperishable? If you’ve never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus, don’t spend another hopeless day. Find out How to Know Jesus now.

What is your deepest “groaning?” Remember God will restore all things. Where do you need to apply this certain hope?

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The Leper, His Pride, and a Humble Healing

Today’s blog is a guest post from author Kathy Collard Miller. This post is also a GIVEAWAY! Keep reading to the end for how to enter.

Has your own pride ever gotten in the way of something good God wanted to do in your life? Or maybe your own version of self-protection blocked something good God wanted to give you?

It happens all the time. There’s a story in the Bible that shows how a prideful man with leprosy almost rejected God’s healing because of the way God chose to heal him. For the entire story, read 2 Kings 5:1-14.

Naaman was an important man of high regard in Aram. He was an army commander and a valiant soldier. But Naaman also had leprosy, a disease that, in his time, brought shame and isolation.

A Jewish servant girl told Naaman about God’s prophet Elisha who could heal. Naaman agreed to make the journey to see Elisha and took much gold and silver with him, expecting to pay a high price for his healing.

But God’s instruction to Naaman for healing, through the prophet Elisha, was simply to wash his body seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman stormed off in a fit of anger. Why didn’t God’s prophet wave his hand and cure me? Besides, we have better waters to be cleansed in than these here in Israel!

The Wisdom of a Servant

But Naaman’s servants who were with him were wiser than he. They gently asked him to consider his motives. Here’s a paraphrase:

“What does it matter which river you wash in? What are you trying to protect? You are the same person regardless of where you wash. See yourself the way Jehovah God sees you as important and valuable. Elisha has promised God will heal you. Why would you spoil that?”

Perhaps Naaman’s pride was an attempt to protect himself from the shame of leprosy. Elisha’s humble instructions for healing may have felt like disrespect to Naaman. And the situation was out of his control, threatening to tear down the prideful wall of protection he had built around himself.

Admittedly, I may be reading between the lines of this story. But, sometimes, God does allow us to experience difficulty so we will learn humble dependence on Him (2 Corinthians 1:9). “Even if obeying me puts you in a position of emotional danger, will you let me heal you as I walk with you through dirty waters?”

From Humility to Healing

Finally, Naaman willing humbled himself. He faced the rebellion of his pride, and subjected himself to what he feared—being viewed as someone only worthy of washing in a dirty river. And he was healed!

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:14).

Child of God, do you wish to be healed and delivered from the lies which create a lack of self-control, hurting both yourself and others? Be willing to be exposed to what you fear. Take hold of God’s power to obey. Use his power to reject your sinful inclinations and trust him enough to know He will define your value and wipe away your shame.

Kathy, today’s guest blogger, is giving away a copy of her new book, Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. For a chance to win, comment on this post. (US addresses only please.) Earn a second chance to win but sharing this post on Facebook. Leave a separate comment that you shared. The winner will be drawn on Friday, January 12th at 8am central time.

Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books that include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. She has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for 47 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you. (This guest blog is adapted from Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory) Kathy would love to connect with you on social media. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

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Less Than Perfect Christmas

Christmas often comes with high expectations. We think everything has to be just so. Perfect decorations. Perfect family. Perfect gifts. Perfect meal. Perfect Christmas.

Our culture perpetuates this fantasy. In the dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies, the girl always finds her soul mate, the estranged father is always reunited with his family, the boy always gets the puppy, and the table is always laden with beautiful food (which must have been made by Christmas elves because you don’t see anyone slaving away for hours in the kitchen).

Christmas

But here’s the problem with high expectations: many of us will be disappointed. Life will never be perfect – not even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. The arrival of December 25th does not magically heal broken relationships or ease the pain of loss or pay the bills.

In fact, Christmas tends to magnify any grief, anxiety, and sadness we feel because we compare our imperfect, messy lives to that unrealistic perfect image. When our lives don’t measure up, we lose hope. Without hope, Christmas becomes a time we have to get through instead of a joyful celebration.

Here’s the good news: Real hope for Christmas is not in a golden turkey or a new iPad or a happy family gathered around a gorgeous tree. Real hope is in a babe in a manger. God come to earth to be with us. Immanuel.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… In Him was life and that life was the light of men… We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.  John 1:4, 12, 14

This life is messy and will be messy until Jesus comes back for His children. While we wait, we will encounter trials, pain, death, sickness, divorce, heartache and more. However, in the middle of all our mess we can find strength, joy, and peace in the Savior. The birth of that one tiny baby long ago provides hope – for this life and eternity.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

Are you facing a less than perfect Christmas this year? Does your life feel especially messy? Lay it all at the manger. Find your Christmas joy and peace in the Child of Christmas. In your Savior.

Are you struggling with a messy life this Christmas season? Share a thought about the hope, joy, and peace you can find in Christ!

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3 Reasons to Thank God When You Don’t Feel Blessed

ThanksgivingIn 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” For over 150 years, Americans – and people around the world – thank God for His many blessings on Thanksgiving.

What if you don’t feel blessed? What if you’re in the midst of some trial or difficulty or heartache right now? Can you still join in the Thanksgiving celebration with joy or will you just be going through the motions?

The writer of Psalm 118 knew trouble. His life had not been easy. He had been betrayed and attacked. And he had felt caught in a hopeless and dangerous situation with no way out.

But in the middle of those trials, he also experienced God’s personal intervention on his behalf. In Psalm 118:8-14, the psalmist testifies to God’s deliverance and expresses his gratitude. In this passage, we find 3 reasons to thank God when we face times of trouble:

  1. God is our refuge – When storms are raging all around us, we can always find safety in God’s presence. He is our shelter from the storm. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Other people may not be fully trustworthy, but God can always be trusted. Other people may not always be dependable, but we can depend on God in any and every situation. Like the psalmist, when we’re in the midst of trouble, let’s thank God that He is our refuge. When we hide ourselves in Him, He will be our shelter!
  2. God is our protector – When people and circumstances fight against us, we do not have to wonder or worry about victory. God Himself goes with His people and fights for them (Deuteronomy 30:3-4). When the psalmist was surrounded and swarmed by his enemies, victory came through the name of the LORD. Do you ever feel “swarmed by enemies?” Call on the name of the LORD. Thank Him that He is your protector!
  3. God is our strength – “The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14). God saves! He will deliver us through trouble with the strength of His might. He is our reason to sing, so let us lift a song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who is our strength!

God is our refuge, our protector, and our strength! If you can name no other blessings in your life today, you can thank God for these. Let’s thank Him today, especially in the midst of trouble.

How else can you thank God today? Express your gratitude in the comment section.

 

 

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Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

One week ago today a gunman walked into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire during the Sunday morning worship service. Twenty-six worshippers were killed. The other 20 in attendance were injured. In this community of just 400 people, everyone lost someone – a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend.

Is Prayer Enough?

Some have gone to Sutherland Springs in the wake of this tragedy to help. To feed, to counsel, to hug. Most of us have watched from a distance. Wondering what, if anything we can do. We can pray. But is it enough?

An MSNBC journalist asked Pastor Paul Buford the same question. Buford is the pastor of River Oaks Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, just down the road from the First Baptist Church. Buford’s church immediately became the ministry center for the families and law enforcement after the shooting. Buford’s answer was unequivocal. “Absolutely. We know prayer works. It brings comfort to the one praying and the ones being prayed for.”

The Apostle Paul also knew prayer works. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul asked them to continue to help him by their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:10-11). We can help Sutherland Springs with our prayers. Let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace on their behalf in the days and weeks ahead.

Specific Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

Sometimes we want to pray but aren’t sure how or what to pray. We can always pray “generically,” but I wanted to pray specifically. So, I contacted Martha Buford, the wife of the pastor at River Oaks Church in Sutherland Springs. I’ve known Paul and Martha for years and have ministered with them a couple of times in the past. Martha graciously shared some specific needs that are immediate and pressing. The following requests come straight from Martha:

Pray for today’s worship service at River Oaks Baptist Church – The sister church of First Baptist Sutherland Springs is holding services this morning, Sunday, November 12th, at 9:30 am. Please pray for each soul in attendance. There may be many there who don’t know Jesus. Pray for their hearts to be inclined towards Him. Pray for God’s name to be glorified. Pray for peace and comfort but also joy to be experienced as the community worships together. Pray for Paul Buford, the pastor of River Oaks, as he leads the service. Pray that God will give him boldness and wisdom as he proclaims God’s Word, and strength as he ministers. Paul is also grieving the loss of friends.

Pray for God to strike down the spirit of fear that threatens the community – Martha shared that the children of River Oaks are afraid to come to church today. Last Sunday morning, during the gunfire, River Oaks church went into lockdown mode. Just imagine how that event alone impacted the children in the nursery. The photo below is from the grounds of River Oaks Church earlier this week. They have been purposefully working with the children to ease their fear.

Volunteers playing with Sutherland Springs children. Used with permission.

Pray for the mourners as they attend funerals – Funeral services will be held every day this week. Remember, everyone in the community was either related to or knew everyone. They will all be attending service after service. Every day. Please pray for their emotional and physical strength and stamina. Pray for God’s unique comfort to hold them up. Pray for the privacy they need to mourn. Pray for all the details of each service to fall into place.

Pray for the family that lost 8 members – Everyone is devastated, but this family has also been decimated. One man lost his wife, five children, and his parents. Please pray for his emotional and spiritual healing.

God is Working in Sutherland Springs

One specific thing I have been praying is that God will be gloried and the Gospel proclaimed. As I wrote in an earlier post, God did not cause this tragedy, but His is working in it and through it. He is glorifying His name through His people in Sutherland Springs. If you’d like to know more, watch this video interview with Paul and Martha Buford.

Let’s keep praying. Our prayers do help. They do make a difference. Let us be faithful.

Let me know in the comments how you are praying for the community of Sutherland Springs. 

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