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Prayer in suffering

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Lord, we despair under the dark clouds of suffering. We cannot see You or feel Your presence. Yet, we believe there is a light behind those clouds, because we have seen it before. Give us faith to hold on and trust You in the dark, until the day that the clouds part and Your light shines through again. In the name of Jesus, the light of the world, I pray. Amen.

A prayer in the pandemic

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Oh, Lord, how we need Your presence in this pandemic.

For those who are sick, we ask for Your mercy and healing.

For those who are caring for the sick, we ask for Your compassion and strength.

For those who are afraid of the sickness, we ask for Your peace and protection.

For those who make policies about the sickness, we ask for Your wisdom and courage to do the right thing.

Heavenly Father, unite all of us, as Your children, by the bonds of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Prayer for wisdom

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Father, how we need Your wisdom. One person says to do this, and another says to do that, and both seem to give good reasons. We don’t know what to do. You say in James 1:5-6 that if we ask for wisdom in faith, You will give it, so we ask with confidence that you will direct us. Show us what is good and right, according to Your Word.  Show us what will honor Your name and further Your kingdom. May we humbly make decisions that serve the interests of others more than our own interests, and please give us peace as we act on the wisdom that You give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A prayer for personal peace

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Oh Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), I ask You to calm my heart and still my soul. In the quietness of this moment,

I focus my thoughts upon You. You are the God of peace (Philippians 4:9), You are the living water (John 4:10, 14), so like a pond receiving water from a river, I look to You as my upstream source of restoration.

As I abide in You, and Your words abide in me, may Your presence overflow me and make me as calm as pond water.

Prayer of joyful celebration

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Hallelujah! Celebrate! Rejoice!

God, I am amazed at what You have done. I sit here stunned.

Just when I thought You had forgotten me, You arrive in time to rescue me.

All about me I see creation in celebration. The birds are singing and soaring, the flowers are bursting with red, yellow and white, the pine trees are standing up straight and pointing to the heavens.

I see smiles on every face and I am receiving hugs from every heart. With tears of joy, I trade in my weeping for rejoicing. Hallelujah!

Prayer to hear God’s voice

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Then the LORD came and stood, and called as at the other times: “Samuel! Samuel! And Samuel said, “Speak for Your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10, NASB

Lord, Your servant is listeniing. Speak to me.

Speak to me through Your scriptures. Uplift me when I feel downcast, correct me when I wander from Your way.

Speak to me when I am quiet, alone in prayer and speak to me when I loudly sing Your praises with Your people.

Speak to me in the gentle voice of wind blowing the grass, the majestic voice of a tall pine tree, the thundering voice of a rainstorm.

Speak to me through the advice of a friend, complaint of a co-worker, and rebuke of an enemy.

Attune my ear to hear quickly and lull my lips to speak slowly, that I may be more like You.

Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.

Putting our troubles into perspective- my story

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Sometimes it helps to put our troubles into perspective. Let me share a memory from many years ago. As a young pastor just beginning a family, I served several churches as pastor on a small salary. My wife Mary and I had some financial struggles, but we were happy, getting by living in a mobile home nicely furnished at one church, and later a larger pastorium, although we sometimes didn’t have the money to refill the butane heater. Our first child, Melissa, was born. Money was tight, but God provided. Eventually, I decided God was calling me to return to New Orleans Baptist Seminary and work on a doctoral degree.

Those days in seminary working on my doctorate were especially difficult times financially. I gave up my church position as pastor to dedicate myself to study, and I took a job on campus working for the grounds crew three days a week, so I could be in class and study the other days. I also worked as a grader for the professor, but that paid very little. My income was even less than when I worked for a church, even with Mary working. We stretched the money every way that we could.

One December day during this time, I got a call from the church there in New Orleans where we were members. They wanted me to pick up a Christmas gift for a needy seminary student family. I was so excited, because I thought that must be for my family. I arrived at the church, and they gave me the name and address of a student family in my apartment building. My heart dropped, but I dutifully took the gifts of food, gift cards and other presents, and went to the door of the family and knocked. When they opened the door, I was shocked– the family had an apartment full of kids, and had almost no possessions inside. They were so much worse off than me and Mary and Melissa. It put things in perspective, and I rarely felt sorry for myself again. I was thankful for what I had.

We all have a choice, to look down at our problems, or look up at our God, the Lord who provides (Genesis 22:14). As the apostle Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things” (Colossians 3:1). A poet put it this way: “Two men looked out prison bars/ One saw mud, one saw stars.” It all depends on your perpsective, so let’s look up and be thankful for what we have.

Saturday, Day of Waiting

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in the Gospels about what happened on Saturday. However, we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us that they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard.

We have all agonized waiting. Maybe you waited to get a job or get a promotion or get a date or get an important phone call or get a test result. Right now, the whole world is waiting—waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside. Many of you are sheltered in place, worried about your health, worried about your job, wondering when this will all end. This kind of waiting is very, very hard. This was how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. They wondered what was next, and they did not expect it to be good. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified.

The Hebrew word for “wait” in Isaiah and Psalms is a word for a chord, or rope. The idea of the word is that God has thrown us a rope, and asks us to hold on, because He has the other end. That’s why “wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is also translated “hope” or “trust.”

What’s more, you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine, because Christ arose!

That is why we who are followers of the Risen Christ can wait on this Saturday, because we are Easter Sunday people. We can wait on the Lord, for even when we don’t know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future—His name is Jesus, and He has already conquered sin and death and the grave and hell.  We can wait in the uncertainty of Saturday, because tomorrow is a certain Sunday!

An invitation to conversation with Almighty God

The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend… – Exodus 33:11

Years ago, I got to shake hands with the president of the United States. I was serving as a pastor near Savannah, Georgia, and President George W. Bush was coming to Savannah to speak. As part of the event, I was asked to say a prayer before the president arrived, and then I was allowed to sit on the front row when the president spoke. After his speech, he walked through the crowd quickly, shaking hands with people on the front row. He was headed in my direction! I watched as Secret Service agents went before and behind him. Cameras were flashing. The news media were everywhere. He was stopping briefly to shake hands and speak to each person. As he made his way closer, I thought about what I would say. I didn’t want to say anything stupid. I could imagine putting my foot in my mouth and getting it broadcast on the evening news: “Local pastor makes a fool of himself with the President.” I knew there was no time for a long conversation, either. Finally, President Bush got to me. As if in slow motion, I took the hand of “W,” and said, “I pray for you every day.” He replied, “Thanks; it’s working!” Two seconds later, he was moving down the line.

Now here is a thought that blows my mind: Moses talked to the Creator of the Universe face to face like God was his best buddy! It wasn’t a quick phrase, like my conversation with the president. No, Moses spent time with Yahweh, the personal God of Israel, in a long, leisurely conversation. They hung out together.

Here’s another thought that blows my mind: Jesus, my Savior, wants to talk to me like that! Jesus told His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15), shortly after encouraging them to “abide” or “remain” with him (John 15:4). The president of the United States did not have time to remain with me and talk to me like a friend, yet Jesus, my Savior, calls me “friend” and invites me to remain and spend time with him.

What would I have done if the president had said, “Bob, can I come over for dinner and talk with you a while?” I would have called my wife and said, “You got a few minutes to get the house ready for the president!” But I have One far greater inviting me to start my day in conversation with Him. How can I do otherwise?

Three thorns and roses in Romans 8:28

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28, CSB

Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved promises in the Bible. Most people focus on the words, “for the good.” Perhaps we should reflect more on the phrase, “work together,” because the verse is teaching that God can mix bad things in the life of a believer, and bring about good results, like roses on the end of a thorny stem. Let me suggest three kinds of thorns God brings from our lives that work together to grow roses: troubles, temptations and trespasses.

1) The thorn of troubles. God will allow troubles in our lives, to teach us to trust Him. When we have troubles, we are faced with our weakness. Yet, they work together for the good lesson of teaching us to depend on God’s sufficiency. As 2 Corinthians 1:9 says, this teaches us to “not trust in ourselvs but in God who raises the dead.”

2) The thorn of temptations. God will allow temptation in our lives, to teach us obedience. An athlete develops muscles and endurance by the pressure, weight and strain of exercise. Likewise, God allows us to be tempted, so that it works together for the good spiritual muscles that we develop as we grow stronger in obedience. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

3) The thorn of trespasses. By trespasses, I mean sin. God does not want us to sin, but when we sin, we must humble ourselves, repent, and ask Jesus for forgiveness. Scripture tells us to forgive, even as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Those who have truly experienced the grace of forgiveness tend to be better at forgiving others. So trespasses– whether they be our own or the sins of others– work together to grow beautiful flowers of forgiveness in our lives.

What have you learned about pain and suffering?

After seven weeks of teaching my Bible class about dealing with pain and suffering, today I asked them, “What is the biggest take away you have learned about suffering?” As they talked, I began to summarize their thoughts on the whiteboard. Here is a list of their comments:

*We grow in faith through suffering.

*Suffering can be used as a testimony to glorify God.

*A diamond is formed under pressure; likewise, suffering develops character.

*Suffering is a process, and you have to let the process work you into a diamond. If you quit on God too soon, you just become a lump of coal.

*In the Holy Land, olives were pressed and crushed in a vat, making olive oil. Likewise, God allows us to suffer pressure, and God produces good things in our lives from it.

*We experience God’s presence in suffering– it draws us closer to God.

*Suffering forces us to make choices– will we be better or bitter?

*We must learn to see suffering in perspective: it is temporary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory God has for us (2 Corinthians 4:17)

*We are able to relate to others with similar suffering, and comfort them. (2 Corinthians 1:4).

*Suffering requires us to be obedient to share the lessons we learned with others, even though we might prefer to talk about other subjects. But when we talk about it, it helps others.

The reassurance of Jacob’s ladder

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” repeats the beloved spiritual. “Every rung goes higher higher.” The last verses urge, “Keep on climbing, we will make it,” and finally asks, “Do you want your freedom?” I can just hear Southern slaves singing this as they pick cotton and dream of liberty from oppression. It must have seemed that God was not there, but they found hope in a vision of escaping one day.

Yet when we read the beloved story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28, we find a reassurance not just for the future, but for right now. Jacob had left his father Isaac and mother Rebekah in Canaan, and was on a journey to see his relatives in Mesopotamia, and to find a wife.

Ancient pagans thought that a god only dwelled in the land where he was worshiped. If you left that territory, you also left that god. So what a surprise, when Jacob got a vision in a foreign land, of a stairway from the earth to heaven, and angels going up and down it. Then the Lord himself spoke, “I am the LORD (Yahweh), the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). The God of Jacob’s father’s was not limited to a territory! The Lord continued “Look, I am with you…” (Genesis 28:15.

In amazement, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning house of God, and said, “Surely, the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

What a reassurance to us when we feel that we are in a god-forsaken place, that there is no god-forsaken place, for God is omnipresent, always present, always here. He is not limited by time, place, or circumstances. Look around and see what God is doing right here, right now. Surely, the Lord is in the place where you are, but do you know it?

Book review: “Not Forsaken” helps those who had a bad Dad

NotForsakenLouie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church, a megachurch in Atlanta, writes Not Forsaken to help people see God as a good Heavenly Father, especially those who have had a bad earthly father. The subtitle says it well: “Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father.”
Giglio begins by stating that every person has an innate need for a good father who is proud of him or her, yet the author readily recognizes that many people have had an abusive or absent earthly father, and this makes it difficult for them to affirm God as good. Giglio confronts this dilemma step-by-step, making frequent use of scripture. First, he explains that God is good, even if Dad was bad: “God is not the reflection of your earthly dad. He is the perfection of your earthly dad” (p.76). Then, Giglio encourages the reader to “reverse the curse” through forgiveness of a bad father, saying, “Bitterness continues to pave a path to your past, while forgiveness paves a way to your future” (p. 114). Next, Giglio guides the reader to an understanding of the good fatherly qualities of God. He acknowledges some people will ask, If God is so good, why doesn’t He stop evil? In a paragraph worth repeating, he responds to this question:

I think the answer is because the moment He steps in and removes all the collateral damage of this broken world from ever happening again, that will mark the instant life on earth is over. And in that moment the lost will be lost forever and many whom God wanted to become sons and daughters will be separated from His arms. So, He waits and extends grace another day. And for twenty-four more hours, we are caught in the crossfire of a sin-shattered world. (p. 178)

Finally, he challenges readers that just as we tend to pick up the qualities of our parents, so we should “grow up like Dad,” our heavenly Father.
Although the book is only 235 pages, divided into 10 chapters, Giglio tends to repeat statements he has already made, which is normal for a public speaker like himself, but seems redundant when reading a book. Perhaps with more editing, he could have communicated just as well with fewer than 200 pages. Nevertheless, Giglio writes in a personal, encouraging style, based on solid Biblical interpretation, with many insightful illustrations. This book can be quite helpful to readers who struggle with the idea that God is a good Father.
DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this book from B&H Bloggers, but I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Guest post: The Saints robbed of the Super Bowl and the unfairness of life

saintsramsinterference

Article copyright by Larry Robertson.

(Below is a guest column written by my friend Larry Robertson, senior pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee.)

Perhaps you’ve heard by now that the New Orleans Saints got robbed of a chance to go to the Super Bowl, during the closing moments of the NFC Championship Game on January 20, 2019. Even the NFL admits that pass interference should’ve been called on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and that the call would’ve most likely led to the win for the Saints…and a trip to the Super Bowl. But after the Rams player virtually assaulted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis at a critical point in the game, no yellow flag was thrown.

This is not opinion; it’s a verifiable fact. Robey-Coleman even admits that the refs missed the call. But, per league rules, judgment calls like pass interference are not subject to video review.

Life’s not fair.

That’s one of the most basic life lessons that parents should teach their children, because they’re going to experience it soon enough on their own. At least if you’re expecting it (as much as you can expect the unexpected), the reality of it all won’t knock the breath out of you when you get kicked in the gut.

Life’s not fair.

In Genesis 39, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault by his employer’s wife but only because he refused her relentless sexual advances. Joseph did the right thing. Yet he was thrown into prison by his employer, Potiphar, who understandably believed his wife’s false narrative.

Life’s not fair.

“…But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him…” (Genesis‬ ‭39:20-21‬). Life’s not fair; that’s true. But the LORD is faithful: He’s faithful in His presence…He’s faithful in His providence…He’s faithful in His promises.

I really believe that one reason some folk “lose faith” is that they mistakenly think that God’s will is always to manipulate circumstances for people of faith so that they get to eat cotton candy while riding unicorns through rainbows. And certainly no one will ever be able to push you down without a penalty! But that’s as false a narrative as Potiphar’s wife’s.

Read Romans 8:31-39. Read the list of hardships that Paul detailed. Take note, though, of verse 37. “…in all these things we are more than conquerors…” Not “in THE ABSENCE OF all these things,” but “IN all these things.”

Listen, life’s not fair. But the LORD is faithful. So, count on that…

USP NFL: NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME-LOS ANGELES RAMS AT S FBN NO LAR USA LA

Book review of children’s book: “Who sang the first song?”

Who Sang the First Song? is a large hardback children’s book, written in rhyme by songwriter Ellie Holcomb and beautifully illustrated by Kayla Harren. In 24 pages that flow through 12 large two-page colorful drawings, Holcomb repeatedly asks the question, “Who sang the first song?” and then suggests the answer with questions, as it the names parts of the creation. The questions come in an order similar to the days of creation, flowing through poetic references to wind, moon, stars, sun, sea creatures, animals, plants and birds. The book answers, “All these guesses we’ve made are quite good, but they’re wrong. It was God, our Maker, who sang the first song!” Then Holcomb explains that God “wrote His song into everything” and tells children they are good and wonderfully made, and that God wants children to “sing with your life and your voice.” Each page shows happy children, and includes musical notes in the sky. Harren’s contrasting colors and detail delighted my grandchildren, who enjoyed pointing out things like the frog on an umbrella or a girl holding a basket of rabbits. I read this book to my grandchildren, ages 2, 3, 4 and 6. (In the photo, my grandson is reading the page with his favorite illustration.) The youngest were fascinated by the illustrations and wanted to see it again and again, while the older ones also understood the message.
Ironically, although the book is published by B&H Kids of Nashville (publishing arm of Southern Baptists), it is printed in Shenzhen, China (next door to Hong Kong), in a communist country that suppresses Christians from sharing the faith with their own children.
(Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a positive review.)