Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/30/09

“But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses.”
Zechariah 14:7-10

There is just so much…

We live in a world where there is just so much pain and hurt, so much chaos and hardship, we look around and we see suffering and agony, those who live amidst torture and torment, knowing only the anguish of the soul and the longing cries of the spirit. Hostages and prisoners, captives and slaves to the dark forces of this world they yearn once more to know peace and comfort, to know that their cries are heard, and that their plight shall be contended with.

It’s hard, in a world capable of so much evil, where innocent lives are ruled over by bitter and brutal tyrants and wicked men of unrighteousness, amidst their dark, encompassing brutality, to believe that there will come a day when the Lord shall return in all of His glory to put to flight the evil ways of iniquity. We may want to believe it, we may crave it, feeling the desire to see His justice done as sin is put to flight and the light of His love shatters the darkness of this world, yet it seems so far distant, so far off, that we wonder if it will ever come.

For Zechariah it had to be a far distant feeling too…

Exiled from the home of their fathers, given unto them by the Lord, they had now found themselves in the distant lands of the Persian Empire. They had seen the fall of Jerusalem, their once proud capitol, and the destruction of the temple built by the great King Solomon.

Yet even his name, “God has remembered” testified to God’s great love and the tender mercy that He had for His children.

Even as they found themselves ruled by foreign masters, now dwelling in foreign lands the Lord God Almighty, the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Moses who would lead them from the hands if the Egyptians, would contend with their cause, hearing their cries and seeing their plight. He would not leave them to their anguish, lost amidst a world they little understood, and could not comprehend. He would not abandon them nor would He forsake them, and His promises would hold firm for them, a blessed assurance of His compassion for them.

Through His will and His desires He would lead them once more to the lands of their ancestors to once more reclaim their homes. But more than that, He would give unto them, through the words of His prophet, a promise that there would come a day when He come in glory to put captivity to flight, to push out unrighteousness and wickedness, that all may know that the Lord God of Israel reigns from Heaven, and that the affairs of man, no matter where they done or how much darkness encompasses them, could not hide from Him or the light that He shone upon the world.

As He was then, so He is now…

A God of Deliverance He would send His only Son to lead captivity captive and ransom those held hostage by the power of sin, death and the Devil. Through Christ the dark bondage of our slavery to iniquity was shattered and we are brought to the Lord, to stand before His judgment seat redeemed children of grace.

If this is possible then what is impossible for the Lord God Almighty? If such a great task is capable by His hand, then how much more capable is He of the smaller tasks that only seem so great amidst our worldly wisdom?

We have a blessed comfort in the Lord. He is a God of tender mercy and great compassion, a God who stands beside His children in all things and through all things. Ever faithful, ever vigilant His promises are trustworthy and true, and through them all things are made possible. There we know that there is no captivity so great, no slavery so dark that it cannot be shattered by the Lord. His judgment and His righteousness are at hand, standing with His children through all the agony and anguish, all the struggles and challenges of this world.

Trust therefore in the Lord, turning to the comfort and peace of His Holy Spirit, knowing that He shall be there beside His children, shining His grace and mercy, offering His love and compassion unto them. In righteousness He shall come and He shall set them free from even the darkest of turmoils that grip them.

Trust in Him as the prophets and the apostles, the saints and the disciples have, knowing that through Him all things are possible, and that righteousness shall come to break through even the heaviest chains that grip and bind. He is devoted and true to His word and there His love shall always shine through.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/29/09

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
Psalm 138:7 and 8

I remember times in my life where I thought, this is never going to end… I still, no matter how much time passes, no matter how much I may grown or as far from those previous troubles I may be, find myself thinking the same thing… when is this ever going to end?

Overwhelming, there are circumstances that hit our lives that seem to tear at us, that seems to just rip at us, robbing us of our peace and our comfort, taking from us every measure of solace that we have. It wears on us as there seems to be no end to the strife, no calm amidst the storm, as tranquility finds itself so far off and adversity crushes our spirits. Darkness swirls all around us and the reassurances that we may have once had, the security and the contentment that once guided our souls no longer seem to soothe us or even placate us as we search so desperately for a sense of relief.

If this is my life at times, as I search for answers amidst the divine plan of our Lord, I could not imagine the life of the hostage and the captive, the slave and the victim of human trafficking, so lost in a world they don’t understand, a world that doesn’t seem to make sense. One moment they lived their lives, and their troubles, no matter how small they might later seem to them, were the biggest troubles in the world. Now though, as they find themselves in held in the grips of unrighteousness, dwelling within the grasps of wicked men who work their wicked ways, those problems are so small, so insignificant compared to the agony and the anguish, the troubles and the adversity that now sinks its claws into them.

Peace is fleeting and hardship marks their way…

Yet there is the promise of the Lord…

Through all things, in all things there is blessed promise of a loving Heavenly Father who sees the challenges of the soul that lays waste to the spirit. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies.”

God does not forsake His children to the hands of evil, nor does He forget them when they are in the grips of wickedness. He does not turn His eyes from them when they are in desperate need of comfort and peace. Though they may ask “When will this end?” “Will this just never end?” He is there with those who struggle, He is their rod and their staff that they may be given the strength to stand even as they find themselves too weak to move. He is there to shine His mercy and His compassion, His love and His kindness, that it may light the souls of those who find themselves amidst darkness, feeling it overtake their souls.

Not wickedness or unrighteous, not evil or injustice, it is the mercy of God that endures forever.

God knows the plight of the captive and prisoner, He knows of the adversity that grips the hostage and the slave, He knows of the pain of the child grabbed from the street to be traded as cattle, and He works His will to ensure that they are guarded and protected, held close in His loving precepts. Though the Prince of this World, in his evil ways, seeks to destroy the hearts and the souls, the spirits of those whom he comes in contact with, a loving God of mercy, our Heavenly Father works, through all things, in all things, to contend with the His children.

Trust therefore not in the power or in the might of the unrighteous who hold humanity cheap and the dignity and integrity of life in such horrid estate, trust in the power of a righteous God, a God who sent His only son to rescue the captive souls of all people that they might be lead to redemption in the blood of the lamb. He is capable of all things, and His Spirit stands strong with His children, even in the darkest of days when trouble seems so close at bay. Even when we do not understand the struggles or we do not understand the afflictions of those who are held captive, He does and He works to give those hostages strength and courage throughout their ordeal.

Trust in the Lord and know that He does not fail or forsake His children, He does not abandon the nor does He let darkness overtake them. He concerns Himself with their struggle and, in that, we know that the darkness ends where God’s love begins, the struggles come to an end where the mercy of the Lord starts. His light and His grace, His compassion for His children, endures all things, and shines in the lives of all those in need or in trouble as His adoration shows itself as He lifts His hand to heal and to protect even against the darkest of forces in this world.

Morning Prayer 6/29/09

Psalm 126

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,*
then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,*
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,*
"The LORD has done great things for them."

4 The LORD has done great things for us,*
and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,*
like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears*
will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,*
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pompei Released by Pirates

Good news from Somalia: the Belgian ship the Pompei has been released along with its 10 crewmembers after more than 2 months of captivity. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- A Belgian ship and its crew captured by Somali pirates two months ago have been released, the Belgium government said Sunday.

The Pompei was hijacked north of the Seychelles on April 18. The crew of 10 was made up of two Belgians, one Dutch, four Croatians and three Filipinos.

No other information was available.

Thank God for this safe conclusion. Please continue praying for the other ships and crews held by pirates in this dangerous region, and for the safety of all the ships that must pass through these waters.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Morning Prayer 6/26/09

Psalm 102

A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.

2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.

4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.

5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.

6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.

7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.

9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears

10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.

13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.

14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.

15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.

16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.

17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :

19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death."

21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem

22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.

24 So I said:
"Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.

27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.

28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/25/09

“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 23:24

Are we so bold as to claim there are hidden places unknown, unseen by the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth?

A while back I was watching a show and I had to laugh. The one kid says “God sees everything” and the other one says to him “Well, what about what you do in your van?” Getting a shocked look of bewilderment, the first one quickly replies “Oh He can’t see that, the walls are made of lead or something.”

It seems ridiculous, a bit in the realm of the theater of the absurd. It’s just silly enough to make you, at the very least, snicker because of the prospect that someone could be quite that blatantly dumb. You’re not surprised, but somehow you’re just not quite expecting it.

Yet, as silly as we may find that idea or that thought, it’s not a new or an unknown thought. There are many who believe that the things that they do, they can remain dark and hidden, far from sight, as if somehow they aren’t going to be seen or as if they are going to remain secret. They believe that somehow they can evade justice or that their own unrighteousness will just fly right under the radar, and they will be left to work their wicked ways, unobstructed in the evils and the transgressions that they commit.

I’m not talking about the silly, stupid kids stuff, like was expressed in that show, but rather the truly evil works, the truly wicked acts, the transgressions that rip away the innocence of humanity and shatter the way we see the world.

It’s not hard to know that it’s there amidst our world. With every report of a pirate that takes a ship and its crew captive, with every story of a terrorist group grabbing hostages and murdering them, with every account of a lost girl stolen from the streets or from their home by human traffickers trading in human flesh, we know that there are those out there who abide in darkness woven in the complacency of this world. We hear with every excuse that is made, every time we see someone talk about these pirates as misunderstood heroes, a volunteer coast guard, just protecting their shores, or these terrorists as freedom fighters just trying to guard their land and their families, every time a human trafficker explains that they are nothing more than a business man.

But even as they dwell amidst the darkness of this world, even as they hide in the secret places, they cannot hide from God, nor can they find themselves outside of the bounds of His justice. Though they may believe that He is not there or that He is far off from them, He remains the constant and vigilant protector of His children throughout this life. There is no dark place that any can hide in that will remove them from the sight of the Lord. The Creator of Heaven and Earth, He knows all, He sees all, even the veiled places in our hearts and the buried places deep within our souls. Though His ways may be mysterious to us there are no mysterious to Him.

Amidst this we know that there is a sacred trust, an abiding hope that shines forth in the blessed assurances of the Lord, for He does not abandon His children to those concealed places, and that subjugation and oppression at the hands of wicked men. He is there to guide them, to protect them, to cast His Holy Spirit upon them, and just as Christ ransomed captive Israel, He is there to lead His children from the hand of captivity to the blessed air of freedom.

Trust therefore not in the things of this word, nor believe there is any place where evil can abide that cannot be seen by the Lord God Almighty. Trust not in the things of this world, nor think that they can shield you from the justice of the Lord and the power of His Spirit when you work unrighteousness against your fellow man, seeking to assert yourself over them, for the Lord, in His judgment is capable of seeing even when it is believed that you are nowhere to be seen. Know that, even in the harshest days of trouble and sorrow, trial and challenge, agony and anguish, that the Lord is there, and He will bring peace even to the most wounded places in the soul, even if it does seem as if you are left to the mercy of evil and chaos in this world. The compassion and the mercy of the Lord transcends and is there with you always.

This is not just the Word of the Lord, it is the promise, the assurance of the Lord given unto all of His children, whom He loves so dearly. Even when captivity seems to dwell so heavy in the hearts of men He is there, in love, to shine His light like a beacon to illuminate even the darkest of places.

Above all trust that as the Prophet had, as the generations of Prophets and Disciples, Saints and Apostles had before you, knowing the hand of God is ever present in all things, through all things, given in love, compassion, mercy and kindness to His children, working His justice in all places, even the far distant shores where it seems as if we will be engulfed in the shattering waves that threaten to break us apart.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Three Years of Captivity for Gilad Shalit

A sad anniversary today as it has been 3 years since Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on the Israel-Gaza border. Via BBC:
Israel is marking three years since Sgt Gilad Shalit, then aged 19, was seized by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid launched from Gaza.

Indirect talks on his release between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have so far been fruitless.

Hamas wants hundreds of Palestinian prisoners freed from Israeli jails, while Israel refuses to lift a blockade of Gaza until Sgt Shalit is released.

Human Rights Watch said his detention "may amount to torture".

The international rights group said his captivity was "cruel and inhumane" and called on Hamas to allow him to communicate with his family and receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Israeli rights group B'tselem said Sgt Shalit was legally a hostage, and hostage taking was a violation of international humanitarian law.

Since the 2006 abduction, Gilad's parents have been relentless in seeking assistance in winning his release, meeting with European and American political leaders and even the Pope. Please continue to pray that their love and perseverance will be rewarded when they are blessedly reunited with their long-lost son.

Gilad Shalit archive

Morning Prayer 6/25/09

The Second Song of Isaiah Quaerite Dominum

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;*
call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways*
and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,*
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,*
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,*
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens*
and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth,*
seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;*
it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed,*
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Evening Prayer 6/24/09

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12

Morning Prayer 6/24/09

The First Song of Isaiah Ecce, Deus

Surely, it is God who saves me;*
I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,*
and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing*
from the springs of salvation.

And on that day you shall say,*
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;

Make his deeds known among the peoples;*
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.

Sing praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,*
and this is known in all the world.

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy,*
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Evening Prayer 6/23/09

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mid-Day Devotion 6/23/09

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength --- what a blessed assurance! What a blessed comfort we find ourselves amidst as we look to the Lord, to the God of our strength, and as we seek Him, He is there always there beside His children, always beside those He always cares so much for, that He loves so much. We live in a world that often doesn't make sense, in a world that's prone to violence and chaos, a world where hardship and trial, where turmoil and agony seem so close at our heels. We hear about it every time we lift up those hostages in our prayers. We see it in the eyes of those who are set free, who come home, their lives irrevocably changed, irreversibly not the same as anything they had left behind before them. We know it from the stories that we read and we wonder, we wonder as the Psalmists wondered, Why O Lord are You so far off? Where are You and where Your tender mercies in this world? Why is that the enemy seems so close upon our heels? We wonder and we can't seem to find the answer.

Yet to every yearning of our soul, every longing of our spirit, we know that the Lord God Almighty, Our Heavenly Father is there, He is amidst us, to raise our strength, to mount them up His children on wings like eagles, that they may run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. He is there to grant His compassion, His kindness, His mercy, His grace, His strength in all things and through all things. We may not always understand it, but then as we are told, as we are taught, the wisdom of God is foolishness to man, we lack the knowledge and the discernment to see fully God's plan in all things and through all things. But even when He seems so distant, when trouble seems so close on the heels of His children, we know that He is there, we know that He is there to strengthen and preserve, to guide and comfort all those weary wanderers, all those weary souls who are captive and held prisoner.

Isaiah's faith, the faith of all the saints and prophets who came before us, they found that even in the deepest of captivity, they found their wings and they found their strength, amidst a bondage of the soul and a bondage of the spirit, that sought to drag them to the depths of despair, and yet in the midst of all of that, God restored unto their souls hope, hope and peace and comfort, joy in all things, through all things. And just as he restores unto them that hope, we must put our trust in the same, knowing that He will not fail or forsake, He will not abandon, that His justice, that His compassion, His mercy, it shall reign supreme in all places according to His will and according to His desires. And there, the comfort of His Holy Spirit shall come upon all those in any need.

Trust therefore in the Lord in all things, trust in Him and know that He shall be there beside you.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

MV Marathon Released, Crewmember Found Dead

The MV Marathon, a Dutch cargo ship hijacked in May, has been released by its Somali captors, but tragically, one of its crewmembers was found dead and another wounded. Via AFP:
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Somali pirates shot dead a Ukrainian sailor during the hijack of a Dutch ship, the Dutch defence ministry said, adding that rescuers discovered the body when the ship was released Tuesday.

The pirates released the MV Marathon, which had been held since May 7 when the crewman was killed. The Dutch navy found the body when a warship met the vessel after it cleared the Somali coast.

Another of the eight crew members was wounded, ministry spokesman Marcel Pullen told AFP.

Pullen said the man was killed when the pirates took the vessel on May 7 in the Gulf of Aden. "The crew are all Ukrainian. They are all exhausted," he said.

The MV Marathon was being escorted to a "safe port" by the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provincien, the spokesman said, refusing to reveal the location.

The Dutch news agency, ANP, said a ransom was dropped to the pirates by helicopter. The ship's owners, Amons and Company, declined to comment. The Dutch foreign ministry said that its principle was never to negotiate with pirates or pay ransoms.

The murdered sailor was identified as Serhiy Vartenkov, a welder on the ship.

May God console Mr. Vartenkov's family and bring healing and comfort to the freed crewmembers and their families.

Morning Prayer 6/23/09

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Evening Prayer 6/22/09

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, he will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God. I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him who is my friend and not a stranger.

Mid-Day Devotion 6/22/09

“The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
Psalm 121:7 and 8

Faith shouldn’t have to abide in trials and tribulation; it shouldn't have to find itself amidst the deepest of challenges and hardship. Yet living in a sinful world it is often times the irrevocable truth that it does.

I often find myself wondering about the Psalms and the Psalmists. In a few short sentences they tell a story through song and poetry. Some of these are so joyous and happy, so full of rejoicing as peace and comfort comes easily, while other times they are just so bittersweet. Bitter in the suffering that is endured, yet sweet in the grace and mercy shown by the Lord God unto his children.

I wonder because I can’t imagine the vast array of feelings and emotions that must have been there. I, like everyone else, have my ups and my downs amidst my life, my good days and my bad, but nothing quite compares to the depth shown by these men of faith in days of old. I can’t imagine the circumstances that they had to endure through their lives for such power and poignancy to come through in their words and their thoughts. I have had, in the course of my life, my share of trying times that have tested the limits of my faith, yet there is nothing there that can be compared to the trials they had to endure.

Yet through it they clung to their faith, they held tight to it, knowing that their God would hear the cries of their spirit and would console their souls, preserving them evermore through His tender love, His gracious mercy and His everlasting compassion..

In the words of the Psalmist we hear that testimony. Though evil may be all around him, though its darkness may encompass him, the Lord will preserve him, protecting him each and every step of the way.

Often times we’re not given the context of these great confessions of faith, we don’t know the circumstances or the events that would cause them such struggle, yet what we are told is more important. God is ever faithful and He transcends all the things of this world through the power of His might.

And just as He showed in the darkest of days in the lives of the Psalmists, in the lives of the Prophets and the Kings, in the days of the Apostles and the Disciples, so too does He reveal Himself today in the plight and the suffering of those who find themselves amidst the darkest days of their lives.

In this age it’s not hard to cry out to the Lord and wonder where He is amidst the anguish and the agony of the Prisoners and the Captives. They experience such torment that we can’t even imagine ripped from their homes and their loved ones, their humanity and lives held cheap and meaningless by wicked men of iniquity and sin. Some die in far off lands, distant from their families, and we wonder what purpose could God have in all of this? Why does He let this persist? Why isn’t He there to protect them?

As it shook the faith of the Psalmists so too does it shake ours.

Yet we must remember that God is ever vigilant and ever present, there beside His children through all the dark days of their lives. Though the hearts of evil men may not be moved to show compassion or love unto those they oppress and subjugate, God’s heart shows them mercy and kindness. He preserves these, His children, in faith, comforting them by the power of His Spirit, and though not all may return home, He calls them to His presence and a world of peace where there is no more suffering or captivity when the forces of wickedness are on the rise and there is little we can do to stop it.

It’s hard to trust Him when it seems like He is distant or when there is nothing we can do to push back against such evil. But He is not distant, He is there throughout the struggle and the ordeal that try so on the souls of men. He is there to preserve them in faith and to comfort them in hurt, never forsaking them in His love. We may not like what happens, we may not understand why it does happen, but what it reveals is that there is more to it than just the temporal, there is the inevitable triumph of His love, whether it is found in this world or the next.

Trust therefore in the Lord, and know that He is there with all prisoners and captives, all hostages and slaves, even when we have a hard time understanding it or nothing in our experience can give us the understanding that we need. Know that even the most evil of men, robbing dignity from the lives of people, cannot rob the love that God shows unto His children. It is there as it was for the Psalmist, as it has been there through all ages and as it shall remain throughout all generations.

Never let anyone so degrade your soul or your spirit that they may rob you from the belief you have in the hope of our Heavenly Father. Abide in that faith, in that trust even when the struggle is hard and the chaos seems overwhelming never letting the wickedness of this world shake your faith in a loving and caring Heavenly Father who abides with His Children, preserving them forever, even when the forces of this world seeks so to destroy them. Abide in that faith, knowing the blessed assurance of our Lord, and the trustworthy commitment of His faithfulness in all things, in all plights and struggles throughout the days of this life.

American Reporter Escapes from Taliban

New York Times reporter David Rohde, kidnapped in Afghanistan in November 2008, has managed to escape his captors along with an Afghan journalist. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- A New York Times reporter who was held by the Taliban for seven months has escaped, the newspaper reported Saturday.

David Rohde told his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, that he and a local reporter, Tahir Ludin, climbed over the wall of a compound late Friday where they were being held in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas told CNN that the Pakistani military was involved in freeing Rohde. Additional details were not immediately available.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement expressing her relief about Rohde's "return to freedom."

"I would like to thank the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan for their assistance in ensuring his safe return," Clinton said. "Journalists put themselves at risk every day to report the news in regions gripped by conflict. We rely on their vital role and I am grateful for their service." Video Watch CNN's Nic Robertson report on the escape »

Rohde, Ludin and their driver were kidnapped outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, on November 10, and Afghan and Western officials said recently that Rohde was being held in Pakistan.

After leaving the compound Friday night, the two men then found a Pakistani army scout who led them to a nearby army base. On Saturday, they were flown to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

This is wonderful news and we thank God for this successful escape. Back in November when we first reported on this abduction we were asked by the Times to delete any references to Mr. Rohde out of concern for his safety, and while we were happy to comply with their wishes, we had not stopped praying for him even though we did not mention his name. This should be an encouragement to us that when we pray for those known only to God, that He does indeed see them and hear our prayers.

Indian Ocean Explorer Freed

Good news from Somalia, where pirates have released the yacht Indian Ocean Explorer and its 7 crewmembers after 3 months of captivity. Via Reuters:
MOGADISHU, June 22 (Reuters) - Pirates in Somalia said on Monday they had freed the seven crew members of a captured Seychelles research yacht, the "Indian Ocean Explorer".

The Somali gangs, who have been marauding in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for several years, still hold 14 boats, with 203 crew members, according to the International Maritime Bureau's latest figures.

They have seized 31 boats so far this year in 143 attacks, compared to 42 in 111 raids throughout last year.

Pirates seized the oceanographic research cruiser at the end of March near the Seychelles' island of Assumption, the second vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation's flag hijacked this year.

"We have released the Seychelles crew, they flew this morning," pirate Hassan told Reuters from Haradheere port.

Another hijacking was prevented this morning when a Portuguese warship answered a distress call from the Maersk Phoenix, a container ship which was under attack by pirates armed with grenade launchers and explosives. Portuguese marines captured eight pirates but then released them after confiscating their weapons.

It is a joy to be able to thank God for the deliverance of the 7 crewmembers of the Indian Ocean Explorer, and it is also good to be able to thank Him for the rescue of the crew of the Phoenix, saving them from months of captivity. Please continue to pray for those still being held hostage, and for the safety of the ships passing through these dangerous waters.

Morning Prayer 6/22/09

Isaiah 25:6-9

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

Schedule Change for Weekday Show

For this week only, Pray for the Hostages on BlogTalk Radio will be on at 1:00-1:30 pm Eastern time instead of the usual 12:00-12:30, due to some unavoidable scheduling conflicts. We hope you will be able to join us at this new time, and we will be back to our regular schedule the week of June 29. Thanks!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bodies of Two British Hostages Identified

In a tragic turn of events from Baghdad, two bodies turned over to British authorities Saturday have been identified as men kidnapped in Iraq more than two years ago. Via Times Online:
The remains of two British men kidnapped in Iraq two years ago are "highly likely" to be those of the security guards Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst .

The fate of three other hostages seized at the same time – Peter Moore and two men known only as Alan and Alec – is still unknown.

“It is with deep regret that we have today informed the families of the hostages that, based on very strong indications, the two bodies recovered are highly likely to be those of Jason Creswell, originally from Glasgow, and Jason Swindlehurst, originally from Skelmersdale,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement.

“We continue to do everything we can towards the safe release of the other hostages.”

The kidnappers said last year that one of the Jasons had committed suicide – a claim that was never verified. The announcement that both Jasons were dead came as a surprise to officials and a devastating blow for the families.

It is unclear how the two men, security guards for GardaWorld, a Canadian company, died. Sources said that their bodies were decomposed, indicating that they could have been dead for several months.

This is a particularly cruel blow, as hopes were raised for the release of the group over the past two weeks when the US freed Laith al-Khazali, one of the Shiite insurgents who ambushed and murdered 5 American soldiers at Karbala in January 2007. His release, along with 4 other prisoners, was one of the demands of the Iranian-backed militia which carried out the May 2007 abduction of computer consultant Peter Moore and his four bodyguards.

Our deepest condolences to the families of Mr. Creswell and Mr. Swindlehurst, and our fervent prayers for the protection and rescue of the remaining hostages.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/19/09

“And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.”
The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 8, Verses 26 to 34

We don’t know much of the man Christ encountered as he entered Gadarenes, not even a name is truly given for him. We have no idea if he was a good or a bad man, if he was poor man or a rich man, if he was very weak or very strong. Nothing is told except that now… now he lived like a wild beast in the wilderness, tortured and tormented, his spirit and his soul in constant agony and pain. Evil had found a home in him and for him… for him there was no peace.

No home, no peace, no comfort, no rest…

We are told much, and so much we’re left to imagine…

His soul under constant barrage, in those fleeting instances of clarity he perhaps had, one has to think he wished that he could die, that the sorrow and the anguish was just too much for him to bear. Then the demons would once more awaken and any hope of escape would be chased from his mind, leaving him with nothing but the cruel fate that was inflicted on him that cased him so much suffering and distress.

Yet, despite all that he had known, despite the darkness that so afflicted his spirit, encompassing him in the evil that it brought, it was not the end of his story… it was the beginning of his journey…

As Christ came to the lands he knew, the man would come while he was still outside the city, appearing before him as he prepared to enter. Yet where the people had chained him, and drove him out of the city, the Savior did not fear him when he saw him, nor did He turn His eyes from him. One could only imagine the compassion that Jesus had for him, to see this man as an animal, with nothing, hated and reviled by those who feared him, lost to those who loved him, exiled for the remaining days of his life with no redemption in sight.

In love and mercy for the lost and the pained, the troubled and the afflicted Christ would look upon him, asking his name. The voice He heard perhaps was startling, deep and carrying an echoing weight behind it, as if to magnify the power of those demons that had so entrenched themselves in this man’s soul. They knew the face they looked upon now and the Spirit in which He came. Their only hope was to try and scare Him with their power and their numbers, that he might leave them to feast on this man.

Yet Christ would not be so swayed or so moved by them… in a moment He would cast them out to their death… in a lake they would drown with the swine they were thrown amidst, sent once more far from to the dark places, the dark reaches from whence they came, no longer to torture this man.


Captivity comes upon us in many forms, in many ways, and shapes. It’s not always in the way that we think or the way we perceive, but the constant is that it shatters the way we see the world, and the peace of those who it has in its grasp. The constant is that it is inflicted by darkness and evil, by those who view life as cheap and feed themselves off of the humanity of others.

Whether it is in the hostages, once free men, now taken from their homes and their loved ones, or the prisoners who are held in meager estate, unjustly held, their lives now given to the mercy of unmerciful men, whether it’s the slaves that are bought and sold, whipped and beaten, treated as animals or the girls ripped from the street to be purchased by the highest bidder, her innocence ripped from her, her dignity destroyed, it is because darkness so entrenches itself in the hearts and the souls of men.

Yet, God does not forget these children, nor does He turn His eyes from them, no longer to look upon their faces. He does not leave them, forsaking them to the wickedness of this world and the iniquity that can rule over the hearts of men. He does not fail them in their hour of need.

We may not know their stories, we may not know their names, but God looks deep in their souls and there He gives them the strength and the peace that they so long for, that they so desire.

There is no captivity, there no slavery that can separate us from the power of the Lord through the healing touch of Christ, there is no darkness that can so entrench itself in this world that cannot be illuminated by the light of the Spirit shining forth. Though it may seem like all we see is chaos and pain, suffering and torment, anguish and agony, unsure of how to deal with it or how we may fix it, God sees through it, His compassion and mercy, His love and His kindness casting away all the iniquity and wickedness that so inflicts itself on His children. Those we love may seem lost to us, but God, He restores them unto us by His Holy name through His Holy Spirit, in the love of His Son Christ Jesus.

Trust therefore in the Lord, even when days are long and the anguish seems too much, for He shall be there, coming to further shores of the distant lands to reveal His light and His love for His children. Just as He has been there in the days of old, so too shall He be with all the lost souls, all the captive spirits, all the tormented hearts today. There is no captivity that He cannot set His children free from, no bondage that He cannot shatter , there is no darkness he cannot chase from those hidden places, and according to His precepts He shall, in His time, do all things for the good of His children, according to His promises.

Though captivity may come in many forms, it cannot elude the Lord God Almighty and the power of His Might. Thanks be to His Holy Name for that.

Morning Prayer 6/19/09

Psalm 88 Domine, Deus

1 O LORD, my God, my Savior, *
by day and night I cry to you.

2 Let my prayer enter into your presence; *
incline your ear to my lamentation.

3 For I am full of trouble; *
my life is at the brink of the grave.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; *
I have become like one who has no strength;

5 Lost among the dead, *
like the slain who lie in the grave,

6 Whom you remember no more, *
for they are cut off from your hand.

7 You have laid me in the depths of the Pit, *
in dark places, and in the abyss.

8 Your anger weighs upon me heavily, *
and all your great waves overwhelm me.

9 You have put my friends far from me;
you have made me to be abhorred by them; *
I am in prison and cannot get free.

10 My sight has failed me because of trouble; *
LORD, I have called upon you daily;
I have stretched out my hands to you.

11 Do you work wonders for the dead? *
will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

12 Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave? *
your faithfulness in the land of destruction?

13 Will your wonders be known in the dark? *
or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?

14 But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; *
in the morning my prayer comes before you.

15 LORD, why have you rejected me? *
why have you hidden your face from me?

16 Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the point of death; *
I have borne your terrors with a troubled mind.

17 Your blazing anger has swept over me; *
your terrors have destroyed me;

18 They surround me all day long like a flood; *
they encompass me on every side.

19 My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, *
and darkness is my only companion.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/18/09

The Stoning of St. Stephen, Pietro de Cortona, 1660

“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
The Book of Acts, Chapter 7, Verses 57 through 60

When I picture St. Stephen, I picture a quiet, unassuming man of God, a man who would have otherwise lived a peaceful life of little not, perhaps of unexceptional note. Until the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, we had never heard of this man, and even there we knew little of his life before he was called to be a disciple. Nothing is really mentioned of him before or after the tragic events that we hear of in his appearance to us.

Yet one thing is certain about him, he knew the price, he knew the cost of going forth into the world, abiding in Christ’s Great Commission, to preach and teach the gospel message of salvation. He knew the price because he knew the price that the Savior himself paid.

And still, moved by the Spirit, he would risk all that he was and all that he had ever hoped to be, forsaking the things of this world for a heavenly reward. There, in his final moments he’d cry out to his Heavenly Father, his life fleeing from his body, his words undoubtedly weak and frail, coming from a trembling lip, that the Lord would forgive those who had done this unto him.

Even in the moment of his greatest of trials, even in the moment of his greatest challenge, his greatest of pains, an unshakeable faith in the divine love and the eternal plans of the Lord would guide his way.

As we read the story of St. Stephen we also see another thing. In an instant, unbeknownst to the first martyr, now feeling his life drain from his crumbled and broken body, his path crossed with another man who watched on with particular delight in his eyes and hatred in his heart.

Saul of Tarsus… one of the great persecutors of the early church…

Little did either man know that this would be the beginning of the journey for the young man who wreaked such havoc and caused such pain.

We live in a world of persecution, of pain and of challenge, a world of hurt and sorrow. Stephen’s suffering was not the first or the last suffering inflicted on men by other men. Throughout the history of humanity slavery has been prevalent, persecution widespread, kidnappings and ransoms demanded rampant. Today, we see it all too common in our own world. We see prisoners taken, we see captives ripped from their homes and their loved ones, young girls who are grabbed from the street to be drugged and used as prostitutes, we see slaves who are bought and sold, traded as cattle, their bodies whipped, their spirits broken.

Though it may not be the same persecution that was faced by Stephen, it is done in the same spirit, that spirit of hatred and iniquity, injustice and wickedness, sin and evil. It is done in the spirit of selfishness, a disgusting spirit of men who are guided by loathing, showing hate to their fellow man.

Yet, as hard as it is for us, the spirit in which we come from to lift the cause of the prisoners and the hostages in, it cannot be of hatred or of loathing, nor can we allow for them to degrade our spirits that we may view the world in hatred. Ours must be to be guided by an encompassing love for our fellow man, an encompassing compassion for the prisoners and the captives, the hostages and the slaves, in the fervent pray that justice will be done and that God, the Heavenly Father, will guide their hearts and their souls, preserving and strengthening them in His love.

Ours must be to understand that from ever evil there must come good, even if it takes a while to get here or to reveal itself unto us. It must be an understanding that tells to us that God, He will use all things, even when they seem overwhelming in their darkness and chaos, to reveal His light and His love unto this world.

Yes, to see the world, to understand the world this way, to comprehend the things of it in this light, it’s difficult for us, especially as we see the plight and the suffering, the anguish and the agony inflicted by evil men working their wicked ways. But God’s love and God’s grace, it must be sufficient for us to see the world in His way and pray that His will, it will be done, even if we do not understand it at the time.

Trust therefore in the Lord and the power of His righteousness, knowing He can and will move even in the most unrighteous of souls, even the spirit filled with the most hatred. Trust in the Lord and in the power of His might, knowing that He will strengthen and protect His children, preserving them evermore in His Holy Spirit. He has through all time, through all ages and generations and so shall He today, abiding in His children forevermore.

Trust in the Lord and know that, even as darkness fills this world, and the power of evil seems to be on the mark, the Lord God Almighty is there, as He has always been, to make His way known and His will shown unto a lost and sinful world.

Though we may see struggle and persecution, death and sorrow around us, this is not the end of the story of this world, but the beginning of journey, a journey that the Lord shall guide, making good come even from evil, and revealing it in His time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Intense Search for Missing Hostages in Yemen

Yemeni police and military forces continued an intense search for 6 medical aid workers kidnapped over the weekend in an attack that left 3 members of their group dead. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- Reward money has climbed to $275,000 for information in the kidnapping of nine foreigners in Yemen -- three of whom have been found dead -- as troops search for the remaining six hostages, Yemeni officials said.

The Ministry of Interior offered a $250,000 reward, in addition to the $25,000 reward offered by the governor of Saada City -- both aimed at information leading to the arrest of the kidnappers -- according to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.

Special forces and anti-terrorism teams with helicopters were sweeping the Saada area for the hostages, the embassy said Tuesday.

"Furthermore, Ministry of Interior have mobilized a massive police force, which in cooperation with the army, are working around the clock in the area until the perpetrators of this hideous crime are put to justice," a news release from the embassy said.

The bodies of a South Korean teacher and two German nurses, all in their 20s, arrived in Sana'a by helicopter, accompanied by Yemen's deputy minister of health, according to the release. News of their deaths did not surface until Monday. The nurses worked for a hospital in Saada run by the Dutch charity World Wide Services Foundation, according to Yemen's state-run SABA news agency.

Five Germans -- including three children -- and a Briton are still missing.

The group was part of a Baptist medical mission serving the Saada region of Yemen which has been embroiled in a civil war for several years. The government is blaming Houthi rebels for the abductions, but others believe that an Al Qaeda affiliated group is more likely to be responsible.

Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of the missing hostages, and for the comfort and consolation of the families of the deceased.

Update on Aid Worker Abduction in Yemen
Aid Workers Kidnapped, Murdered in Yemen

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 6/16/09

“I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.”
Psalm 77:1-10


Despair and anguish, sorrow amidst the pain and the suffering that is afflicted…

It isn’t hard in this world to find despair and anguish, it seems to be everywhere we look. Could we look upon those bought and sold as slaves, given to the sinful lusts and pleasures, could we see into their eyes, we would find our own eyes beholding that misery and hopelessness. Could we hear the voices of the captive prison taken, could ears take in the sounds of their cries, ripped from their lives, from their homes, from those whom they love, we would listen to the sounds of their desolation and despondency. Could we know the distress that is inflicted upon these souls, and upon all the hostages, all the persons unjustly held by the hands of men, we would know the agony and the torment of this world in all of its force, in all of its power, and it would be more than we could bear.

As we opened today we listened to the ancient hymn, Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted, a song that tells of the suffering of the Christ as he took upon himself all the sins of the world. There are none who can truly and fully understand the nature of this sinful world as He did amidst that great and encompassing sacrifice. Yet, the hostages and the prisoners, the captives and the slaves, subjected to the evil and the wickedness of this world, to the transgressions and the iniquity of men, they perhaps most closely mirror, amidst the human condition, the pain brought unto our Savior.

In the words of the David we read of this sinful world, of how it brings trouble and difficulty, burdens that seem almost too great to bear in their hardship and their misery. In it he cries out to the Lord seeking to find Him in it all as his peace is ripped from him and his comfort seems so far from his grasp, as he knows sorrow and anguish, trials and tribulations. He cries out to the Lord, that His face may look upon him with favor and kindness even with all that is around him that he may be delivered…

That he may be delivered…

There are no hidden places to the Lord, no dark places that He cannot illuminate, there are no places even in this world that can escape His justice. In the words of the Psalm it is a truth that is told unto us even now, even in our world today. None who cause such pain and sorrow, such affliction and anguish, such torment and despair in the hearts and souls, against the body and the spirit of their fellow man, can be removed from the judgment of the Lord. He shall not be far off, but rather He shall, as in ancients, as in the time of the great Egyptian slavery of the children of Israel, bring deliverance unto His children, setting sin to flight as He ransoms even the most captive of souls, even the most lost of prisoners.

Trust in the Lord and in the power of His might, uplift your prayers to Him, your cries to Him in all that you say and all that You do, knowing that he will be faithful and true to His children, that He will never fail them or abandon them, forsaking them to the mouth of the lions. He shall walk beside them, He shall stand beside them in all things and through all things, strengthening them and preserving them in His faith and His love, shining His compassion and mercy upon them to deliver them.

And there, in His time, according to His will He will free them, bringing them to the blessed air of liberty, to abide evermore in His freedom.

Therefore, as the Psalmist did, cry out to the Lord, holding Him faithful to His promises and assurances, knowing that He is truly a God of faithful trust, and know that He shall give His grace and mercy unto this world, shining His justice unto a lost world to redeem even the most lost, even the most afflicted, from the anguish and the despair now so afflicted upon them. Trust in Him and know that faith shall be restored by His Holy and Precious name, regardless of the trial that now we find setting our world ablaze, for He shall always be there throughout all troubles, to love and care for His precious children.

Update on Aid Worker Abduction in Yemen

Yesterday we reported that 7 of the 9 foreign aid workers kidnapped in Yemen had been murdered, probably by an Al Qaeda affiliated group. Today, however, British authorities are saying that 3 persons are confirmed dead and that the others are still considered missing. Via Times Online:
A reward of £15,000 has been offered for information leading to the capture of kidnappers who killed three foreign aid workers and are believed to be holding a British engineer and three children in the Yemen.

The bodies of three women, two Germans nurses and a South Korean aid worker, were discovered by shepherds in the mountainous region of the north of the country.

They were part of a group of nine people who had gone for a day out in the Saada province on Friday. Fears are now growing for the remaining six people, a German doctor, his wife and three children and the Briton, who are still missing.

A search has been launched to try to find the group, many of whom worked at a local hospital.

The Yemeni authorities offered a reward of five million rials (£15,000) for the kidnappers’ capture in a broadcast on the state news agency Saba.

A British Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said that it was “deeply concerned” about reports of bodies, said to have been mutilated, being found. Its staff in the area are trying to establish the details surrounding the missing Briton.

Jane Novak of Armies of Liberation has much more information on this abduction, including the identities of the members of the medical mission group:
Source: Yemen Post, I put an asterick next to the three poor souls whose bodies were found stabbed and shot.

The family:
Johannes H. (36)
Sabine H. (36)
their kids Lydia (4), Anna (3) and Simon (1)

The nurses:
Anita G. (24)*
Rita S. (26)*
Anthony S. (british)
Young-Sun Ium (korean)*

She also speculates that the hostages may have been moved to Saudi Arabia through a series of caves used by Al Qaeda for smuggling arms and other supplies.

Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of these hostages if they are indeed still alive, as we fervently hope they are. More updates as they become available.

Aid Workers Kidnapped, Murdered in Yemen

Morning Prayer 6/16/09

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Political Pistachio Radio Tonight at 10

I have been invited to discuss my new book, A Pastoral Letter to the Captives and Other Works, with host Douglas Gibbs tonight at 10 pm Eastern time on Political Pistachio Radio. I am looking forward to this and hope you will join us!

Mid-Day Devotion 6/15/09

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Ephesians 6:10 through 13

It’s hard…

In this world of sin and wickedness, transgression and iniquity, it is hard sometimes to see the presence of God around us or to see His justice abiding with us. We hear about hostages who are taken, ripped from their homes and their families, from those whom they love so dearly. We read about the young girl gone missing, carried off by those who would use her body, use her flesh for nothing more than their pleasure, then casting her aside, dead, hollow inside, her years now spent, as if nothing more than a piece of used garbage. We see the stories of the captives murdered, their lives drained from their bodies, their crumpled forms now crumbled to the ground, littering the spiritual landscape of our souls.

We hear the stories, men and women, children taken, their lives destroyed, their innocence ripped from them, and we are left with this sick feeling, this gnawing feeling at the bottom of our stomach, wondering how a God of righteousness can allow for this to happen, how a God of mercy can let this persist.

It’s hard… it’s so very hard to see Him in all of this and we’re just left to wonder why and what for?

Yet here we must realize we live in a world governed by evil, where those who abide in spiritual wickedness and rule over darkness dwell, ready to cast all into the chaos of their creating. The know not the Lord nor do they live according to his righteousness, justice is nothing more than a word that is but the butt of a joke that they tell and they seek for themselves their own way, their own ambition, their own sense of self righteousness in a world they set ablaze in their own iniquity.

They let evil surround them and guide them, turning their eyes from the Lord and from their fellow man.

It is not therefore not just a physical struggle but a moral and spiritual struggle of the soul that is cast upon this world. A struggle that has dwelt amidst us since the first moment man sought to make man his slave. It is a struggle that has abided with us as Israel travelled into Egypt and found themselves under the slave master's whip, as the exiled children of God found themselves in the land of Nebuchadnezzar and throughout all ages, in all places and times.

We are engaged in not just a physical battle against those who would work their wicked ways throughout this world, but a spiritual one that seeks goodness and love for our fellow man that they may abide in freedom and liberty, far from the oppression and the tyranny that would hold their lives cheap.

This is why we are told in the word of the Lord that we are to put on the whole armor of God that we may stand against those who would inflict themselves on weak and the pained, the suffering and the sorrowful, those that would take prisoners and captives to advance their own unrighteousness. We are told to that we may abide in hope and faith for the moment and time of God’s justice and judgment that we may work his will on this earth and uplift and edify, seeking to strengthen our fellow man in the peace and the comfort of the Lord. We are told to that we may wage a spiritual battle in the name of the Lord that goodness and mercy, compassion and grace may follow our steps and that we ma, in all things be used as vessels of hope in a sinful world.

Lose not trust in the Lord but look to Him, even as hardship seems to afflict itself upon your soul, knowing that amidst these challenges that only the Lord God, the Father Almighty, can triumph over such wickedness and that He shall according to His will and time. Know that His justice is not far off and it will move through this world, working in it in all things through all things.

Remember always we have the Lord God of Israel with us… the Lord God of Israel who delivered His children from the hand of Pharaoh and who kept them throughout the Babylonian Captivity. We have the Lord God Almighty who sent unto this world His only begotten Son to ransom us from the power of sin, death and the Devil, that we shall no longer be beholden to the grave. The same God who sent Christ Jesus to lead captivity captive and who has abided with us throughout every day, every age, every generation, regardless of the struggle that was before us.

He is the same God yesterday, today and forever…

Trust therefore in Him and put on His whole armor of God that you may be able to stand up against the wicked forces in this world in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, working the will of our God throughout all the evil days for the love of Your fellow man.

Trust in therefore in him and know that, through it all He shall be there, never failing or forsaking His children, regardless of the trial and the struggle, or the hurt and the pain that seems to come so easily. He will be there in all things, through all things for the love and the compassion of His children.

Aid Workers Kidnapped, Murdered in Yemen

Terrible news out of Yemen where a group of foreign aid workers was kidnapped over the weekend and have now been found murdered. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- Seven foreign workers seized by militants in Yemen reportedly have been killed, according to the Yemen Post newspaper.

The workers were among a group of nine abducted that included seven Germans, a Briton and a South Korean. Germany's Foreign Ministry said it is in close contact with the German Embassy in Yemen but couldn't confirm any details at this stage.

The German hostages included three children, two nurses, an engineer and his wife, according to Yemen's state-run SABA news agency. All nine hostages worked at a hospital in the volatile Yemeni province of Saada, where they were abducted Sunday.

Yemen's Ministry of Interior told the Yemen Post that the bodies of seven hostages were found Monday in the streets of Shukwan, a neighborhood in Saada, a day after Houthi rebels seized them, the newspaper's editor in chief, Hakim Al-Masmari, told CNN.

More details are available from AFP, including the fact that the group was part of a Baptist mission group working at a hospital in the town of Jebla.
SANAA (AFP) — A British engineer was feared to be among seven foreign hostages, one of them a child, who were found murdered in northern Yemen on Monday, security officials said.

"We have found the corpses of seven people who were kidnapped," a local security official said. "They were killed."

Two of the three children captured with the group were reportedly found alive.

The bodies were found by the son of a tribal leader in Noshour, east of the volatile Saada mountainous area of northern Yemen where the nine were abducted, the official said.

In London, the Foreign Office confirmed it was looking into reports a Briton was among the victims.

The Yemeni authorities had accused Shiite Zaidi rebels in Saada of seizing seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean woman teacher. The rebels denied the charge.

The nine -- among them three German children and two women nurses -- belong to an international relief group that has been working at a hospital in Saada province bordering Saudi Arabia for 35 years, a local official said on Sunday.

Yemeni authorities are blaming Houthi rebels for the kidnappings and murders, but Yemen expert Jane Novak says this is doubtful and that al Wahishi (Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula) is more likely to be responsible (via The Jawa Report):
The rebels say it occurred next the headquarters of the Political Security (the secret police) in central Sa'ada. However like every other group in Yemen, when news hits the western media, the rebels were unable to put out a statement in English. Ergo, yet more bad google translation:
Houthi deny that any of the sons of Saada relationship is responsible for the kidnapping of German. Power is the power (the government) bears full responsibility for their fate. The area where it was said that they had kidnapped them (Graz) is next to the Political Security in the heart of the city of Saada. We emphasize that the charge for us is null and false accusation and slander is a matter of political vindictiveness, which is evidence of the bankruptcy (of the regime).

Of course the Reuters report is by Mohammed Saddam, Yemeni President Saleh's personal translator, and the report that Shiite rebels kidnapped them came from the military. The Saada War has raged since 2004. The rebels have never kidnapped anyone or targeted civilians in that time (unlike the Yemeni government which bombed the hell out of quite a few cities and kidnapped hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians including children.)

Beside government kidnapping, tribal kidnapping is also common in Yemen, usually the demand is the release of relatives held as hostages by the government. And normally when tribesmen kidnap foreigners, they call it in, the hostages call home, everybody drinks tea and waits. No one gets hurt, and sooner or later, the tribal relatives are freed and so are the western hostages.

A terrible situation all around. Our deepest condolences to the families of the murdered aid workers who sacrificed not only their time and effort but their very lives out of love for their fellow man. Prayers that the guilty will be brought to justice and that this will not be used as an excuse to persecute the innocent.

Matthew Maguire Freed in Nigeria

Robin Hughes (left) and Matthew Maguire (right)

British oil worker Matthew Maguire, kidnapped in Nigeria more than nine months ago, was finally released by his captors Friday. The MEND rebels who abducted him along with 27 other oil workers in September 2008 had originally promised to free him on his birthday, June 1, later reneged on that agreement, claiming he chose to stay behind as "an advocate for change." Via The Guardian:
Gordon Brown yesterday officially confirmed the safe release of a British oil worker held hostage in Nigeria for over nine months.

Matthew Maguire, 35, from Birkenhead in Merseyside, was among 27 oil workers taken hostage by militants in the Niger Delta area in September 2008.

The group behind the kidnapping, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), had demanded the release of their leader, Henry Okah, in exchange for the hostages. Okah is currently being held by the Nigerian government on arms trafficking charges.

The group announced Maguire's release through an email, saying he had been handed over to Nigerian officials.

In a statement the prime minister said: "I am pleased to confirm the safe release of Matthew Maguire ... This news comes a great relief to all concerned, and I am glad that, for Mr Maguire and his family and friends, this ordeal is over. I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard on this case. We remain in close contact with the family and I urge the media to respect their privacy at this time."

Ironically, Mr. Maguire had indeed refused to be released earlier this year, but it was to save the life of fellow hostage Robin Hughes, who was dangerously ill and was not likely to survive further captivity. Via The Echo:
Despite missing his family and surviving on little food Mr Maguire begged his captors to free the boat’s ailing captain Robin Hughes, 60, from Dover in Kent.

Mr Hughes had a severe infection in his right foot and ongoing circulation problems.

Mr Maguire, from Birkenhead, feared he may die if he were not freed.

The ex-West Derby comprehensive pupil told press in Nigeria – where he is awaiting a flight home – how he begged the militants to free Mr Hughes who was released in April.

He said: “I was really worried about the captain. He wasn’t well. He wasn’t breathing right. I told the militants if they didn’t release him he would die.

“They didn’t want to release him but the villagers helped as well – they put pressure on the militants saying ‘he needs to go to hospital’ and we got them to release him.”

Mr Hughes’ brother Simon, 48, said his brother was now recovering with his family in Brazil.

He said: “It was such a relief to us Mr Maguire was there and could see how bad he was. The doctors managed to cut out the infection which made all his leg swell. But if it had been left things could have got very bad.

“We’re all just so pleased Mr Maguire is out now. Because it was awful to think Robin was safe and being treated and he was still there.

“We just want to thank him for everything he did.”

Thank God for this answer to prayer, and for this example of selfless sacrifice. May God continue to bless Mr. Maguire and Mr. Hughes and their families.