Prayer in dark times
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Lord, these are dark times. At times, it is so bad that I feel like darkness is my only friend.1 Lord, why have you allowed Your light to be covered? How can I see You when I can’t even see myself in the darkness? Lord, light my lamp; God, dispel my darkness.2 Until dawn comes, remind me as I weep through the night, that joy is coming in the morning.3
Biblical references: 1 Psalm 88:18; 2 Psalm 18:28; 3 Psalm 30:5
Life lessons from hospital patients
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
In my hospital ministry, I often ask patients what lessons they have learned. Here are a few of the wise words that I have heard, with limited details about the patients to protect their identity:
Elderly man with COVID-19. “They almost lost me, but the Lord still has a plan for me.” He was discharged a few days later.
Middle-aged woman who survived a car wreck, hit by a drunk driver: “Don’t take life for granted. It could all change in a moment.”
Elderly man with terminal cancer diagnosis: “Be ready to meet God.”
Elderly woman, retired educator, with congestive heart failure: “Do the right thing, treat people right; let be and let God.”
Elderly woman with kidney failure: “Live one day at a time.”
Elderly man in therapy, unable to move legs: “I don’t need money; I just need friends, and people to pray for me.”
Elderly female with multiple medical problems: “Accept what you get.”
Recently retired female pt who may need heart by-pass. “When I was little and there was a storm, mama put us children in a room together and said, ‘When God is doing His work, we be quiet.’” The patient explained that this became a motto for coping with trials: “When God is doing His work, we be quiet.”
Middle-aged female pt who nearly died in the ICU, slowly recovered and went to a room. “Just because life is hard, don’t give up.”
Younger middle-aged female pt who had a seizure and wrecked her car, and went through months of surgeries for broken bones. “I choose joy.”
Recently retired female pt who was told two months ago that she has breast cancer. “Don’t feel sorry for me. God’s got this. I’m not taking God down off His pedestal. What God can’t do, there ain’t no doing.”
Teenage male pt who had surgery for torn ligaments from football practice. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Middle-aged female pt who had a blood clot in the brain. “You can get glad or mad in the same pair of breeches.”
Middle-aged female pt who was in the hospital for a long time, recovering from COVID-19. “Learn to lean on God.”
Younger middle-aged female pt who spent over a month in rehab after spine surgery. “Don’t sweat the petty stuff. Prayer gets you through.”
Senior adult female who had a stroke. “The same God who did miracles for people in the Bible is getting me through this.”
Elderly man with leukemia, going home on hospice. “Money doesn’t mean anything when you leave this earth, and I have some money. The only thing that matters is that you know Jesus.”
Two prayers for Thanksgiving
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Reflection on how to give thanks
Lord, how can I thank You enough for all You have done for me? Should I offer a thanksgiving offering like the ancient Israelites in their temple? Should I offer a song of thanks, or tell others of your wonderful works? Yes, Lord, I will do all of these things. Because of all that You have done for me, I will bring an offering of my time and money to You in church. I will offer You praise with my voice in song. I will give a testimony of Your goodness to me.
Prayer testifying to God’s goodness
O, give thanks to the Lord! He has saved me from sin and sickness. He has heard my prayers and answered me. He has given me peace in trials, and hope to overcome despair. He has filled my heart with joy through a loving family, and an encouraging church. I have seen Him change lives; I have seen Him rescue people who seemed beyond hope. He has opened my eyes to His truth through the Bible, His word. Let everybody join me in thanksgiving; let us give thanks to the Lord!
Guest blog: Prayer when life is not all sunshine and cotton candy
Copyright by Rodger Moore. (The following prayer is shared, with his permission, from the coordinator of the pastoral care department at the hospital where we both serve as chaplains.)
Lord, sunshine, cotton candy, joy and happiness are not always the paths of life. There are also those moments of shadows, sorrow, grief and indecision. Regardless of the path which my journey may be taking in these moments may I be reminded of your presence and words:
• Be still,
• Slow down,
• Peace Be Still,
• You are not alone,
• I am with you,
• Come to me,
• Joy comes in the morning
As the Shepherd, protect, look out over me and provide for me;
As the Light of the World illumine my path and bring guidance to my heart;
As the Comforter envelop me in your arms and warm my heart;
As the Physician reach out to touch my mind, body and spirit bringing wholeness and healing.
In all moments of life bring your peace, calmness, serenity and trust. Amen.
Prayer of joyful celebration
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!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3
“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?
We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.
Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”
In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.
Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.
But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.
His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.
What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.
Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”
That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”
But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.
The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.
What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!
How Christians can respond to rejection
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Everybody has to deal with rejection. Even Jesus Christ was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth. They didn’t like it when He declared His Messianic mission would include Gentiles, so they tried to throw him off the local cliff (see Luke 4:23-29).
In one of the greatest face-to-face confrontations in history, Jesus faced their rejection and “passed right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30). That’s how He handled it, how do we?
Let’s be clear about something. You and I are not Jesus, so we first need to examine our own actions and motives in the light of scripture, to make sure our rejection isn’t a deserved rebuke for ungodly behavior. Peter writes, that if we are ridiculed “for the name of Christ” we are blessed, yet cautions “let none of you sufer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15-16). Most of us would be okay if he hadn’t added “meddler.” So before anything else, let’s take an honest look at why we are rejected.
If, after taking an honest look at ourselves, we know that our rejection is because we have lived for Christ, and done so with integrity, then what? Scripture tells us three ways that Christians can face rejection: rejoice, remember and rely.
- Rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus concluded the “Beatitudes” by telling His followers that when we are rejected, we should rejoice: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you becaue of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We naturally want to get angry, defensive, or feel hurt, but Jesus tells us we should rejoice, because it shows we are on the right side! The early apostles did exactly that! When the Jewish Sanhedrin ordered them not to preach about Jesus, they left, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41).
- Remember (John 15:19-21). Jesus reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, because I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” So whenever we are rejected, we don’t need to be surprised; we should remember that we were told to expect that it comes with the territory.
- Rely (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). The Apostle Paul is a great role model for handling persecution. He explained how it taught him to rely on God: “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed– beyond our strength– so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again.”
Tony Evans says that whenever somebody rejects him because of the color of his skin, he remembers who he is in Christ. God says he is a child of the king. Thus, if they reject him, they are refusing royal blood in their presence. What a good example for us when people reject us because of our faith. Remembering that, we can rely on God, and rejoice!
Surprised by Joy
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously described his salvation experience as being “surprised by joy.” Joy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22– and it is surprising how joy comes. Notice these three examples from the Bible:
*Joyful surprise of forgiveness from sin. When we are convicted of sin, we usually feel shame and may even experience depression. Yet confession of sin and God’s forgiveness brings the surprising result of joy. After David’s confession of the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me.” God answered that prayer, for in Psalm 32 he exclaims, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven… How joyful is the man the LORD does not charge with sin…” (Psalm 32:1-2, HCSB).
*Joyful surprise during trials. When we suffer trials, we may experience stress, anxiety and worry. Yet James says that God uses trials to produce a godly endurance and maturity, which once again is a surprising reason for joy. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT).
*Joyful surprise of strength in the midst of grief. How can we experience joy in the midst of grief? Isn’t grief the opposite of joy? After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe gathered all the people in the public square and read the law of Moses to the people and explained it to them. The people began to weep, grieved over their ignorant disobedience of God’s word. But the priests urged them to celebrate instead of weep. Why? They said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB). It is natural to grieve when we experience loss in our lives, but when we take a look in faith at the big picture, we draw strength from the LORD, who is our Savior. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
So my brothers and sisters, has life got you down? Are you ashamed and grieving over your past, and anxious and hurting in the present? Then look in faith to the wonderful future you have in Christ. Surprise! The joy of the Lord is your strength.
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