Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two More British Hostages Believed Dead

Tragic news from Iraq as the families of two more of the British hostages kidnapped in Baghdad in 2007 have been told that their loved ones are now believed to have killed by their captors. Via BBC:
The families of five Britons kidnapped in Iraq say they are "deeply upset" to hear two more of the men are likely to have died in captivity.

Government sources told the BBC that security guards Alan McMenemy, from Glasgow, and Alec Maclachlan, from south Wales, were believed dead.

They were kidnapped in 2007 with three others, two of whom have since been shot and their bodies released.

The condition of the fifth man, Peter Moore, from Lincoln, remains unknown.

The Foreign Office says it is still trying to secure the release of all the remaining men.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said British officials were doing their "absolute level best" through a variety of channels to bring the hostages to safety.

This is particularly upsetting as the US recently released 5 Iranian prisoners who were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of American soldiers in order to win the release of the British hostages, and once again shows the not surprising complete lack of good faith that the terrorists have been negotiating in.

Our deepest condolences to the families of Mr. Maclachlan and Mr. McMenemy. Please continue to pray for the safety of the remaining hostage, Peter Moore, and for justice to brought to the murderers of these men.

Bodies of Two British Hostages Identified
British Hostages May Be Free Soon
New Video of Kidnapped Britons Sent to Embassy
Hostage News Updates 11/19/08
Kidnappers Offer to Trade Body of Hostage for Iraqi Prisoners
British Hostages Moved, Separated
British Officials Claim They Were Close to Hostage Rescue
British Hostage Has Killed Himself
British Intelligence Blew Chance for Hostage Rescue
Iraqi Official: 5 British Hostages Are Alive
Time to End the Silence
Captors of British Hostages Respond to Families
Former Captive Speaks Out: Silence Won't Release the Hostages
One Year of Captivity for British Hostages
New Push to Rescue British Hostages
New Plea for British Hostages
Iran Denies Holding British Hostages
Five British Hostages Feared to Be in Hands of Revolutionary Guard
British Hostages Believed to be Moved From Iraq to Iran
CBS Journalists Kidnapped in Basra
Arabic TV Shows British Hostage Video
British, Iraqi Prime Ministers Discuss Hostages
We Will Never Forget You
Pray for the Hostages
Families of Kidnapped Britons Hope for Christmas Miracle
British PM Demands Release of Hostages
Families of British Hostages Send Message
Video Released of British Hostages (Updated with Video)
British Hostages to Be Free Soon?
Three Shiites Arrested for Kidnapping Brits
Family of British Hostage Pleads for His Release
Abducted Britons Believed to be Held by "Shiite Zarqawi"
Johnston: my prayers for forgotten hostages
Kidnapped Brits Held by "Iran-Backed" Killers
Britons kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad
British, German Hostages Seized in Iraq

Monday, July 27, 2009

Morning Prayer 7/27/09

Psalm 57

For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.

2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who fulfills {his purpose} for me.

3 He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me;
God sends his love and his faithfulness.

4 I am in the midst of lions;
I lie among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

6 They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves.

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.

10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Morning Prayer 7/23/09

God, the King eternal, who divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/21/09

I’d like to ask you to your attention, to draw your thought and minds to the book of Psalms. The world of the LORD found in the book of Psalms chapter 119 verse 30. “I have chosen the way of truth. Thy judgments have I laid before me.”

It seems so hopeless at times, seems so much so…beyond our grasp. We can’t seem to understand a lot of the things that go on in this world. We want to, we look around and our spirits, they yearn for answers. Our souls long for truth to shine in so that we can make some sort of sense about the chaos and the pain, and the suffering, and the affliction that goes on all around us. And yet cast admidst a sinful world of such bitter iniquity and such brutal transgressions, we can’t always seem to do it; As hard as we may try, we can’t justify it in our minds. We can’t find the answers. We can’t find the truths that we look for. We see the suffering of the captives, we see the pain of the slaves that are taken, who are used to build for the glory of men. We see the hostages that are ransomed off for the monetary gain of brutal men. We see sex slaves, they’re bodies trafficked, used, used until there’s nothing more left of it, until their innocence is completely gone, and then serving no more useful purpose they are put to death. We see it in the prisoners of the dark, dank cells. Those prisoners, who have done nothing, but chose to live their lives. Prisoners who did nothing but who were born, they find themselves now at the discretion of brutal tyrants and oppressive regimes. You see it everywhere. We see it all around us, and for all of our enlightenment and all of our wisdom, for all of our earthly knowledge, we can’t make any sense of it, and how can we? How can we, when it doesn’t make any sense. When it defies; when it defies reason, and it just appeals to the basic or vile, sinful nature of men.

Yet, hope is not lost. As much as we see the world around us for all that it offers, for all that it has in it; for as much as we see the world for all of the pain that dwells admits it, for all the iniquities, for all the sorrow, anguish, suffering, for all the agony that rips at our souls, we know that hope is not lost. In the words of the Psalmist today we here that cry to the LORD, “ I have chosen the way of truth, thy judgments have I laid before me. “ The way of truth, the judgment of the LORD, it is not far off; it is not far distant, and there we find the answers to those questions that, that pry at our very being.

We find the answers to the questions that otherwise we would be left in the dark of hope. In there we come to know that we live in a world that is held captive—a world that is held captive to the nature of men, to the sinful nature of men, to the iniquity that they can bare in their hearts and in their souls, and yet in faith we come before the LORD. We come before him and we kneel in humble submission to his will and we say, “LORD. LORD, your truth is encompassing. Your truth is transcending; and it surpasses all of the earthly wisdom that we see around us. Your judgments are great and they are not far off. They will look upon the iniquity of men; they will look upon the vile transgressions that they commit, and there, there your truth and your righteousness shall reign supreme in all places”.

We set the judgments of the LORD before us because in a world that doesn’t make sense, that is the only thing that does. We choose the way of truth because in a world that seems to defy so much logic and reason, here is the only place where we find truth—truth and righteousness. A truth and righteousness from a loving Father, from a Heavenly Father who cares for His children, and who does not want to see them held in captivity, who does not want to see them held in bitter estate. A loving and Heavenly Father that so contends the cause of His children, who so contends with their plight and their struggle, that He is willing to offer His only begotten Son—that perfect and blameless Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world to set us free. And there we know we that we have been ransomed by the blood, and that captivity has been set aflight.

It is the way of truth, and the judgment of the LORD that saves us, and we place our trust there because in a world where so little actually makes sense, we know that the LORD provides, that the LORD does not abandon His children, that He does not fail them or forsake them regardless of the trials that may be before them, regardless of the challenges that may now way so heavily on their souls. In compassion and in mercy, in kindness and in love, the LORD does provide. By His hand, all things are made possible. Choose the way of truth. Lay the judgment of the LORD before you, and find the answers to this world. Find the answers to those long and deep, yearning questions that fall before you, feel the power of the Holy Spirit then come upon you; so that even admits all of this, you may find comfort and peace in the ways of the LORD.

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/20/09

God Separating Light From Darkness, Raphael, Loggia di Raffaello

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7

There is so much darkness in this world, so much darkness that at times it seems like it’s just so hard to see…

Amidst all of the chaos, all the pain, all of the suffering and sin and iniquity, amidst all of the transgressions that surrounds us we are left to wonder where is the light? Where is it in this world as we look to the wicked deeds of wicked men who work their wicked ways throughout this world and in this world? Darkness, it seems so encompassing, so transcending, that it subjugates us in its bitter tyranny and bleak oppression, seeming to move through all that we see around us without check, without trouble or problems.

Here we are left to wonder as to the promises of the Lord, as to the words that He has handed down to us in the blessed assurances of His devotion to His children. Where is the love that shines through in the love and the compassion and the mercy of our Heavenly Father? Why does it seem as if it is so far off as peace is set to flight and solace seems so far off, as comfort appears to be so distant from the needs of those who find themselves in such bitter estate, such painful agony and harsh anguish? We know the love of Christ, a love that set captivity captive, ransoming us from the power of the grave that sin, death and the Devil would no longer have its hold over us, gripping us in the clutches of its evil and vile powers. And if God is capable of such a divine rescue then why? Why do so many suffer amidst the captivity of this world?

Why are there still slaves who are held at the end of a whip, beaten and abused by their masters as they are held in such contempt, used as nothing more than livestock and cattle to build the fortunes and the wealth of those who hold the dignity of humanity cheap?

Why are there still hostages taken, ransomed off, their bodies broken, as they are traded, bartered for as if they were nothing more than a commodity for the political or economic agendas of evil men who hold their lives with no worth but what it can be traded for?

Why are there still girls ripped from the streets to be used for their bodies, their innocence torn from them as they are drugged and beaten, kept far from their homes, never to see their families again, murdered when they have been used up, serving no more purpose?

Why are there still prisoners taken by brutal regimes that torture and kill, using oppression and tyranny, fear and hatred as the weapons at their disposal to assert their authority above the authority of God, robbing innocent men and women of their rights for no other reason than they can?

There is just so much darkness that is all around us, more than it can seem that we can bear at times, and the truth… the simple truth of it all is that we don’t even know the worst of it, because we watch from our homes, far distant from these evil places that try to hide themselves from the Lord and from His commands.

Yet, for all their evil, for all their vile ways, for all the wickedness that they seek to inflict on the hearts and the souls of men as they try to break their bodies and their spirits, we know that there is an ever present God, a God of righteousness and justice, a God of strength and mercy who is set above all the powers of this world, and though darkness may dwell in the hearts and minds of these men, there is no secret, hidden place that cannot be illuminated by the Lord. Through Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, He lit a fire unto this world to shine His truth and His righteousness in all places, through all things and there, to protect and to guide His children even in the darkest of days.

Yes, there are going to be wicked men of brutal iniquity until that day of Christ’s glorious return, when he comes again in judgment and power, majesty and glory, to put down the rebellion of the spirit and the soul that seems to guide our way in this world, yet we know that God does not contend with the cause of the unrighteous, He is far distant from the struggle of evil men, battling on, fighting on to work His ways with His children held in such a harsh realm. Through the power of His Spirit, He gives ease and comfort to their spirit, shining light and love, compassion and peace upon their souls, healing the wounded, broken parts of their heart through the mercy He has for them.

We may not always see the light of God, we may not always recognize it in this world, but by the love of the Savior we know that it is there and it contends with the cause of the captives, just as He did as He came upon this world to illuminate all of our souls in the divine reconciliation of his encompassing sacrifice on the cross.

Know therefore that the light of our Heavenly Father is present in this world, even when we see pain and sorrow all around us, and know that it does not dwell in the hearts of darkness that seek to live according to their own laws and their own wills believing that the judgment of the Lord is far off or that it will never come. Know that, by His truth and His love, by His compassion and mercy, all things will be made possible in the struggle for the captives and that He shall work His ways to ensure their freedom according to His devotion to His children. There we know that we have the blessing of a loving God, a loving Father who never abandons His children, regardless of how harsh the struggle may be or how bleak the days may seem. He is there, in all things, through all things to give strength unto the weak and to deliver the subjugated according to His faithful promises, those promises He has always kept, even from the earliest of days in our fall to sin.

What a wondrous comfort, what a gracious miracle that is for our lives and for the lives of all who seem so lost to the sin and iniquity of unrighteousness amidst this world.

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

Taliban Release Video of Kidnapped American Soldier

A video released by the Taliban show the American soldier kidnapped June 30 to be alive but emotionally distressed as his captors threatened to kill him if a rescue attempt is launched. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- A United States soldier captured by the Taliban says in a video posted on the Internet he is "scared I won't be able to go home."

The soldier was identified Sunday by the Pentagon as Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho. He was captured June 30 from Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban has threatened to kill Bergdahl if foreign troops continue targeting civilians in the name of search operations in Ghazni and Paktika province, Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen said by telephone Friday after being contacted by CNN at an undisclosed location.

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and the U.S. military have repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

In the 28-minute video, Bergdahl becomes emotional when he speaks of his family -- his parents, siblings, nieces and nephew -- and the girlfriend he hopes to marry.

"I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America, and I miss them every day that I'm gone," he says. "I miss them and I'm afraid I might never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them I love them again. I'll never be able to hug them."

He adds that he is "scared. I'm scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner." However, he says his captors are treating him "like a guest."

It was not clear whether some or all of Bergdahl's remarks were scripted by his captors.

Please continue to pray for the safety of Pfc. Bergdahl and of all our troops in Afghanistan, especially those who are searching for him and may be sent to rescue him.

American Soldier Captured by Afghan Insurgents

MV Victoria Released

Good news from Somalia, where the German cargo ship the MV Victoria, which was hijacked in May, has been released with all crewmembers safe. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- Somali pirates released a German cargo ship Saturday that they have held since May, the German Foreign Ministry said.

The MV Victoria was able to set sail on its own with all of its crew after being released, a ministry spokesman said.

It was not clear whether a ransom was paid.

Pirates hijacked the vessel May 5 as it was sailing to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with 10,000 tons of rice, Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Program told CNN affiliate network ITN.

All the crew members are Romanian, he said.

Thank God that these crewmembers are now free to resume their lives and return to their homes and loved ones. Please continue to pray for the many other ships and their crews still in the hands of pirates.

Morning Prayer 7/20/09

Psalm 41

1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.

2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.

3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.

4 I said, "O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you."

5 My enemies say of me in malice,
"When will he die and his name perish?"

6 Whenever one comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it abroad.

7 All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,

8 "A vile disease has beset him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies."

9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.

10 But you, O LORD, have mercy on me;
raise me up, that I may repay them.

11 I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.

12 In my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.

13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Morning Prayer 7/17/09

O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. Isaiah 26:3; 30:15

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Morning Prayer 7/15/09

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/14/09

The Conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus,
Caravaggio, 1600

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”Hebrews 11:1

What if they’re right?

There is so much chaos, so much pain, so much suffering and sorrow, that we don’t even know what to do with most of the time. There is so much agony and anguish, hurt and misery that it almost seems impossible for it not to torment our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our minds. So wicked men working their wicked ways throughout this world that we are left to wonder, we are left to question amidst all of the affliction and distress that we see.

How do we explain it? Most of the time we can’t and it leaves these lingering questions lurking in the shadow of our minds. There are no words to express it all or to explain it all away, and in the end all we are left with is that question… that one deep and abiding question that we can’t seem to shake off, that we can’t seem to get rid of or escape, no matter how hard it is that we may have tried.

What if they’re right?

What if the atheists and the unbelievers, the doubters and the detractors are right? What if there is no God up there? What if there is no righteous Judge, no great Deliverer? What if Jesus was in fact just a man… just a very good man who lived a very good life? What if the idea of a Christ was nothing more than a tale we tell ourselves to help us go to sleep at night, so that life has a greater, grander purpose to it or so that we just don’t feel so alone out here as we search for some sense of meaning in our lives?

How could we not question?

Looking to the plight of the captives, taken from their homes and ripped from their lives, held in misery and despair by evil men of bitter unrighteousness, we see life held cheap in the darkest of places, far from where we can get to them, how can we not ask ourselves, where is God in all of this?

As we hear the cry of the slaves, beaten and abused by their brutal oppressors, subjugated and treated as nothing more than livestock with less value as they live their lives, the integrity ripped from it, it’s almost impossible not to ask, where is God in all of this?

Where is God in all of this as we see the girls torn from their homes as they are grabbed from the street, all dignity robbed from them as they are drugged… as they are drugged and used for nothing more than their body, vile, despicable men spending their lives and their innocence for their own personal gain and profit?

Where, we have to ask ourselves, is God when we can’t help but see the prisoners held in dank, murky dungeons, in death camps, forced to march to the sound of the brutal tyrants and the men of such bitter iniquity who seek their own glorification and gratifications?

Where is God when we see this through every page, through every chapter of our history, as unrighteousness seems to stand while all that is good and pure seems to struggle or to crumble right there before our eyes amidst the deep, death cries of the torment and the agony that is inflicted upon it?

Where is God we wonder and we just can’t, at times figure it out. Maybe they are right. But if they are, then what’s next? Then what do we have to put our hope and our faith in? What do we have to put our trust in?

The world all around us can be a bleak, dark place, so given to evil and to hurt and to pain, yet without the Lord God Almighty, without our Heavenly Father it can be even the darker, even the bleaker, with nothing… nothing for us to abide in. No lasting sense of hope, no optimism, just the expectation of wickedness, unrighteousness and injustice that seems to dwell all around us.

Most of us, we see the suffering and the affliction of our fellow man, and we wonder why, why can’t God come with a flaming sword of justice to smite the wicked or to put to flight the brutal captivity that we see dwelling all around us? We grew up on the stories of Moses leading the children of Israel from the hands of the Pharaoh, delivering them from the atrocities of that slavery and we wonder to ourselves, why can’t He work like He did then, parting the seas and setting a pillar of light and fire in the sky to set the slaves free in our time? We read of Saul of Tarsus’ conversion on the road to Damascus. Here a man of bitter iniquity, a persecutor of the church, a destroyer of lives, and we wonder to ourselves, why doesn’t God work in that way anymore? Why doesn’t He strike the ground around the wicked and open the skies, His booming voice crying out from Heaven for their repentance?

But just because that’s not how God works amidst our world today, doesn’t mean that He isn’t there or that He doesn’t contend with the cause of His children in love and compassion, in mercy and in kindness, showing His devotion…. His faithful devotion, unwavering and ever vigilant, unto them.

The miracles of the Lord occur not just in the largest of ways, but in the smallest as well, in the ways we don’t even notice at the times that they happen. There we know that, though it may seem like evil is on the rise, and wickedness is on the march, God is there working His ways. He is preserving and strengthening the hearts and the souls of His children, He is giving them faith and courage even amidst these darkest of trials, He is doing battle for the cause of His people throughout all the ordeals and the challenges that they face.

Just because we can’t always see God there and just because we don’t always understand His ways or His gracious, tender and loving precepts, doesn’t mean that He’s not there. In His time, in His way, He will reveal the fullness of His plan, in love, for His children, even when it seems like little about it made sense at the time.

Here we have firm foundation and our refuge for the lost and wounded souls… it is a blessed assurance that comes from a gracious and loving Heavenly Father who cares for us and who struggles for us and for our cause throughout all of the days of our lives, a Heavenly Father who never fails or forsakes His children, who never abandons His children amidst the plights and the struggles of this world and who never leaves us like lambs unto the slaughter. Faithful to His word in all ways, in all places we know that through Him and by the love of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that all is possible in our lives.

We therefore may ask, what if they are right? But when we place our hope and our trust in the Lord, our Heavenly Father, and the salvation that is granted through His Son, who ransomed us all and set captivity captive, we shall know that we have the truth… that truth that shall forever set us free.

Place your trust not in the things of this world or the wisdom that it may claim to hold. Instead know there is a Heavenly Father who loves and cares for you in His compassion and His mercy. Look for His signs and trust in the transcending, encompassing miracles of the Lord, given unto you by His loving hand through the power of His Holy Spirit for your salvation and edification and know He shall be devoted to your cause and the cause of all who struggle in agony and anguish in this world around us.

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

Morning Prayer 7/14/09

Psalm 28

1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.

4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Evening Prayer 7/13/09

Psalm 47

1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.

2 How awesome is the LORD Most High,
the great King over all the earth!

3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.

4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Mid-Day Devotion 7/13/09

The Calling of Samuel, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1776

“And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.”
Samuel 3:10

Young, maybe thirteen years old, having spent his life in the sheltered walls of the home of the Priest Eli, Samuel had never heard the voice of the Lord before. He had no idea what it would sound like, what to listen for or even what to say when it called upon him.

Still a boy, there could be little doubt that there was still just so much more for Samuel to learn at the feet of his elderly mentor whom he had been sent to live with from the earliest of ages.

Yet, in the quiet of the night, the darkness all around him as he laid there asleep amidst the silence that encompassed the evening, there would come the whispering voice that would break through.

He had no idea what it was. At first he could have sworn it was his master in the other room calling to him. Yet as he awoke and hurried off to him he was given the assurances that he was not called, at least not by Eli, who had been asleep in his own bed. The long walk back to his room, he probably just had thought he was dreaming or that his ears were playing tricks on him. He probably went back to bed determined to just put it out of his mind as nothing more than the wind or some animal howling.

The voice would come again...

The voice would come again and once more he would go running to Eli. Again though the Priest would tell him, it was not I who called you. But then it would dawn on him. The calling whisper, it would be the Lord speaking to the boy. "Go back and when you hear the voice again say, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”

He would once more go back to his room, perhaps perplexed by the recent turn and the instructions by Eli. Still, as the voice once more broke through the night Samuel would heed his words and would call back “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”

The path laid out for Samuel wasn’t an easy road. In an age of Judges who governed over His people according to their own ways, according to their own precepts, there was considerable darkness and danger that lurked. He would charged with coronating a King and preaching to a people prone to idolatry despite the miracles they had seen at the hands of the Lord. They were governed by the Philistines in captivity for a generation as they even took the Ark of the Covenant.

There would be no easy task for the Prophet called by the voice of the Lord from the earliest of days of his youth. Yet the Lord would provide for him, He would protect Samuel, guiding him by the hand as He lead him to those places He intended for him.

We perhaps don’t hear the voice of the Lord, not like Samuel did as this whispering sound that breaks through the night to lead us by the hand, and to guide us according to His will. Yet each of us, as the redeemed children of the Heavenly Father, washed clean in the precious blood of the lamb, are called, just as Samuel was, to preach against unrighteousness and wickedness, to lift up the call of the captives and the oppressed, to speak out against injustice and tyranny wherever it may lurk. We are to proclaim, in all places, through all challenges, the love that the Lord God Almighty has for His children.

Perhaps we don’t know where this road will lead or the direction that it will take us in, yet the call of the Lord, it cannot be ignored.

Preach therefore to the lost and the fallen, pray for the slaves and the captives, teach of the love of Christ, and the mercy of the Lord, humble yourself to the will of God that you may be used as vessels of His divine love, trusting in His plan and His grand design. As Samuel once did, so too let your cry to Lord be, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” and give your life to the message of freedom and liberty, justice and righteousness of our Heavenly Father for the edification, nourishment and sanctification of His children.

Yes, the road may be filled with challenges, the darkness and chaos may be all around us, and the old Adversary may wage his war on our souls with the suffering and the affliction of the captives and the slaves, yet we know that through all things, in all things we have a loving and merciful God who provides and who contends with the cause of His children in utter devotion and faithfulness to them.

Listen to the call of the Lord, listen for His call, knowing that ours is to do the work of the Heavenly Father here on earth and that He uses us for the freedom of our fellow man that there may be no bondage, no captivity, that shall be able to hold them. Go forth and do the work of our God and shine His light from your life as a beacon of hope in an unrighteous world so prone to chaos and pain, agony and hardship, knowing that by His mercy, His grace and His compassion He shall lead you even when we know not where the road will lead us. He is vigilant and true and so too are His promises to us….

Be imitators of Christ therefore in all aspects of your life, with every step you take, just as Samuel sought to live as God had intended, used for the healing of your fellow man and for their liberty even as the injustice of this world seems to lurk all around us. It is then that you shall know that, in all things, through all things, you have heard the call of our Lord in your life and that you have become what He has intended for you to be.

Lord, in your mercy, grant this unto us all.

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

Morning Prayer 7/13/09

Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,
"I will never be shaken."

7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 "What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help."

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Possible Amnesty for American Reporters?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on North Korea to grant an amnesty to jailed reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were sentenced to 12 years hard labor last month after being accused of illegally crossing N. Korea's border with China. Via Bradenton Herald:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for "amnesty" for the two journalists on Friday, a departure from her previous demands the two journalists be released on humanitarian grounds. Rather than offer an apology from the United States, Clinton offered an apology on behalf of the families.

"The two journalists and their families have expressed great remorse for this incident, and I think everyone is sorry that it happened," Clinton said Friday during a meeting with State Department employees. "What he hope for now is that these two young women would be granted amnesty through the North Korean system and be allowed to return home to their families as soon as possible."

Ling and Lee were filming a story on the human trafficking of North Korean refugees escaping into China when they were arrested. Please continue to pray for their protection and swift release, and for the safety of those helpless refugees they risked their lives to report on.

Two American Journalists Sentenced to 12 Years Hard Labor
Trial Begins for 2 American Journalists
American Journalists Being Interrogated for Espionage
Kidnapped American Journalists Being Interrogated in N. Korea
American Journalists Held by North Korea

Red Cross Hostage Freed in Philippines

More good news, this time from the Philippines, where Eugenio Vagni, an Italian Red Cross worker kidnapped by Abu Sayaf rebels January 15, has been released. Via Bloomberg News:
July 12 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni was released by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu almost six months after he and two others were taken hostage.

Vagni was released around midnight to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla, who had gone to negotiate with Vagni’s captors yesterday, Philippine Red Cross spokeswoman Gwen Pang said in a phone interview. Sahidulla returned two wives of an Abu Sayyaf leader, who were detained by authorities last week, Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, citing the vice governor.

“With two dear women nagging, the subleader was persuaded to help work out the release of Vagni,” Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo said in a phone interview. While authorities said no ransom was paid, the Inquirer reported Sahidulla as saying she gave Vagni’s captors 50,000 pesos ($1,036) as “cigarette money.” She didn’t answer mobile phone calls or text messages seeking her comment.

Vagni was among three Red Cross workers kidnapped by the militant Abu Sayyaf group on Jan. 15. The other two, a Filipina and a Swiss national, were released in April. Abu Sayyaf is a splinter of the Muslim separatist movement in southern Philippines, home of most of the country’s Muslim minority.

The kidnappers in March threatened to behead at least one of the hostages unless the military withdrew from the area. The government refused, saying complying would amount to surrendering the island.

Thank God for this successful release. Please continue to pray for the protection and safety of all the many aid workers who struggle against harsh conditions and the threat of kidnapping and murder to bring hope to the needy in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

Long-Held Hostage Freed in Mali

Good news from Mali, where Werner Greiner, the last of a group of European tourists kidnapped in Niger in January of this year, and then moved to Mali by their Al Qaeda abductors, has been freed at last. Via BBC:
A Swiss man held hostage for six months by members of al-Qaeda in Mali has been freed, Swiss and Malian officials say.

Werner Greiner - seized in Niger - is the last of six Western hostages held by a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb.

In May, the group announced on a website that it had killed British hostage Edwin Dyer.

The group had been demanding the release of radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada from a UK prison.

"The Swiss Foreign Ministry learnt with joy that the efforts towards the liberation of the last Swiss hostage in Mali have been successful," the ministry said in a statement.

Mr. Greiner was abducted along with his wife Gabriella and fellow tourists Marianne Petzold and Edwin Dyer January 22 while visiting Niger. The two women were freed in April while Mr. Dyer was beheaded in May.

Thank God for the end of this ordeal. Please continue to pray for all the remaining hostages on our prayer list and those known only to God.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/10/09

“It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Jerusalem, the city of Kings, it laid there in ruins…

Once a powerful seat of the mighty, now it was fallen, the shattered shadow of its past glory, the days of its greatness faded before the eyes of children Israel, as they were left with nothing but the rubble that littered the landscape and the devastating loss of their wrecked Capital. The Temple of Solomon, once glorious, once so mighty, would lie in waste. Once a beacon of hope and faith, it would be destroyed, the siege of destruction leaving nothing untouched, holding nothing to be sacred.

The lamentations, the mournful cries of the people, now captive to the foreign masters of the foreign lands of Babylon, they knew that their lives… their lives would never be the same again.

Yet, despite the sins of Judah, despite the iniquity that governed the hearts and the souls of men, God, the Lord God Almighty, the God of their Fathers, Abraham and Isaac, would not abandon them. Though they were marked by transgressions, dwelling amidst a sinful world, the God of deliverance, who had set free the slave nation of Israel under the hand of the Prophet Moses, would not forsake them through the trials they were to face. Though the symbols of faith and glory, power and might may have now faded, still the Lord God Almighty remained, ever vigilant, ever faithful to His children. Though Jerusalem may have laid in waste, though the Temple was in ruins, the Lord would still stand according to the great love He had, that He has for His children.

Though all the world around them may have been consumed by fire and by siege as their lives were in shattered estate and tattered ruins, still the He, according to His great compassion and His tender mercy, would never let them be consumed.

How great is the faithfulness of the Lord…

Though the destruction of Jerusalem may remain a far distant memory, nothing more than the pages of history passed down from one generation to another we still live in an age of desolation and destruction, a world of sin and sorrow, where agony and pain, anguish and hurt seem to be all around us

Yet never does God abandon, never does He fail or forsake, never does he desert His children, leaving them to the wiles of this world and the wicked ways of wicked men working their unrighteousness. Though the trials and the tribulations seek to destroy us, to consume us, to swallow us whole and to spit us out the fallen remains of the people who we once were, our Heavenly Father never disowns us or turns His back on us. By our side, through all the days of our lives He is there in compassion and goodness, in love and in kindness to contend with our cause even as the struggles persist all around us.

To the slaves toiling in the field, under the sting of the task masters whip He shall bring that long awaited freedom.

To the captives held in darkness and ransomed by evil men seeking to subjugate other men for their own profit and gain, He shall bring the blessed air of liberty.

To the prisoners of brutal tyranny and bitter oppression, He shall, by His hand bring justice to reign over them.

To the sex slaves, those victims of human trafficking, used as nothing more than the objects of pleasure as so much pain is afflicted on them, He shall bring emancipation and liberation.

By His power and His authority all things shall be made possible as He battles for the cause of righteousness in this world, contending with the cause of His beloved children, never letting them be consumed by the evil that seeks to assert itself, to afflict itself on this world. Though the forces of sin and iniquity may be great, though it may seem like it is all around us, ready to destroy and to lay waste amidst the chaos it can inflict, the virtue of the Lord is the love tha He has and the supremacy of His righteousness given unto His children in the deep and abiding love He has for them.

Remember the power of the Lord, a might that can and does set captivity captive. If the cause of the Lord, through the love of Christ, can stand against the harsh, hard grip that Satan has over this world as it clutches us in the force of the grave, if the course of the Lord, through the precious blood of the lamb, through that encompassing sacrifice at the Cross, can conquer the power that the grave has over us, setting us on a road to redemption even as we are held to ransom to sin, how much more can it do against the forces of wicked men who would believe that they have authority in this world?

Trust therefore in the Lord and in the power of His might, knowing that through all things, in all things it shall be a power that shall forever set the captives free and liberate even the most lost of souls, even as the world around us may seem consumed by the fire. By His hand, through His love, we shall forever be made to stand, never being swallowed, never being destroyed, no matter what the evil powers of sin and iniquity, hatred and pain may throw at us, for the mercy of the Lord, it endures forever, and great is His faithfulness to us.

What a glorious and blessed assurance is that.

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

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/9/09

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever.”
Philippians 4:19-20

It’s hard…

In a world so prone to chaos and agony, so given to turmoil and anguish, it’s hard to believe that the Lord will provide for His children according to all of their needs…

We have a tendency to look around and see everything that’s going on and to wonder where God is in all of this. Why not? After all, He’s a God of goodness and mercy; He’s a God of grace and compassion who guides us by the tender precepts of His love. Yet, if this is true then where is He? Why does He seem so far off? Why does He seem so distant from us? We wonder to ourselves because we have heard the promise that He’s supposed to provide for us and yet it seems like all that is provided is pain and suffering, hurt and sorrow. Is He even there? Does He even exist if this is the world that we are given?

We cry out in a deep sense of yearning that grips our souls as our spirits seemed crushed under the burdens of this world and we wonder what else is left to us as the darkness of these wicked days seem to encompass us, engulfing us in the bleakness of the despair that they carry with them. We see evil men of seemingly unstoppable force on the march as they let iniquity guide their way. We can’t help but wonder what sort of God allows for these people to triumph while the innocent suffer by their hands. We can’t help but wonder what sort of God allows for injustice to reign while tyranny subjugates the spirits of those who are in so much need.

How can we not wonder?

When there are captives taken, held for ransom, used as nothing more than tools of a political agenda or for monetary gain, their lives held cheap, how can we not wonder? When prisoners are cast to dark places by brutal regimes governed by hatred and oppression, left to rot in these dark places, how can we not wonder? When human trafficking seems to be on the rise and children are tortured by this depravity of the iniquity of the souls of such evil men, then how can we not wonder?

How can we not wonder when slavery is still in this world or when governments still practice genocide and gendercide against their people? How can we not when such horrors occur and we are left with nothing more than to watch them happen as they rob the dignity from humanity and the integrity of life from not only their victims but from all of us, who then become clutched by the power of their evil as well.

With all of this around us, with all of this to be seen all around us, how can we not wonder? It just doesn’t seem possible to put those fears and doubts out of our minds as they grip our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our being.

Yet just because we can’t see the hand of God, our Heavenly Father, at work in the world around us, just because we cannot see His hand guiding the fate and the destiny of men, doesn’t mean that He isn’t there. A God of justice and of tender mercy He toils and He labors for the cause of His children even in the darkest of days, even in the bleakest of times, providing unto them comfort and peace, until that moment when, at last, He shall bring them to freedom, that blessed freedom that they so long for, that they so yearn for and that had seemed so elusive to them.

He has always been, He is, and He remains a provider God who cares for and loves His children, who contends with their cause and their plight, never leaving them like lambs unto the slaughter.

Perhaps we may not always be able to look upon the struggles and the ordeals of this world and figure out how the Lord is at work, after all His ways are not always our ways and though we may like to see Him come with a flaming sword of justice and a shining shield of righteousness, it doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s going to happen. Our Heavenly Father is a God of wondrous signs and miracles, but just because we cannot recognize those miracles at the time they happened or see them as a wondrous sign of His great love doesn’t mean they are not there. Remember, even when the eyes of Pharaoh beheld the great deeds of the Lord in Egypt for the cause of His people who had suffered as slaves under the task masters whip, the great and mighty king was quick to dismiss the hand of God as being present to offer unto His children deliverance from those cruel days.

Look therefore for the signs of the Lord and His miracles. Even in this sinful world of iniquity that leads to the dark hold that evil men have over the poor and the weak, the suffering and the pained, the anguished and the sorrowful, the Lord is there to work His will and His ways, forever contending against unrighteousness that would seek so to destroy the innocent and rule over the spirits and the souls of men with such spite and vile despondency. Know that the Lord God Almighty is there, that He is here, has He has always been, ever faithful to the promises and the assurances that He has given unto each of us in the precious love and the tender mercy that He has for us.

Though darkness and chaos may be all around us, God, in His justice, will provide His righteousness even when it seems as if He is far off or far distant from us. His miracles remain, His signs are shown and each and every one of them are offered unto us as a wondrous testimony to the compassion and the care that He has for His beloved children. He shall, in glory and might, in power and authority, set captivity captive and ransom even the most lost of souls, even the most downtrodden of spirits, for He is the Lord God Almighty, given to the plight of His people, regardless of where it may be, regardless of the strength that evil may have, regardless of the influence and the hold the old Adversary may have in this world.

There, as we look to all that the Lord provides for us and how He does it, even in those moments when He, in His righteousness, seems far off, we too can proclaim, as the Psalmist once had “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

What a rich and great blessing that is in the hearts and the souls of all of the people of the Lord, given in love to His will and desire, sheltered in the protection of His gracious and glorious wings, restored to strength and comfort and peace in the power of His Holy Spirit and granted salvation in the precious blood of the Lamb through the great sacrifice Christ has given unto us in wondrous mercy for us, given for our liberty and our freedom..

Lord, therefore grant this unto us all.

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

Morning Prayer 7/9/09

Psalm 18:1-20 Diligam te, Domine

1 I love you, O LORD my strength, *
O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, *
my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.

3 I will call upon the LORD, *
and so shall I be saved from my enemies.

4 The breakers of death rolled over me, *
and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid.

5 The cords of hell entangled me, *
and the snares of death were set for me.

6 I called upon the LORD in my distress *
and cried out to my God for help.

7 He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling; *
my cry of anguish came to his ears.

8 The earth reeled and rocked; *
the roots of the mountains shook;
they reeled because of his anger.

9 Smoke rose from his nostrils
and a consuming fire out of his mouth; *
hot burning coals blazed forth from him.

10 He parted the heavens and came down *
with a storm cloud under his feet.

11 He mounted on cherubim and flew; *
he swooped on the wings of the wind.

12 He wrapped darkness about him; *
he made dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion.

13 From the brightness of his presence, through the clouds, *
burst hailstones and coals of fire.

14 The LORD thundered out of heaven; *
the Most High uttered his voice.

15 He loosed his arrows and scattered them; *
he hurled thunderbolts and routed them.

16 The beds of the seas were uncovered,
and the foundations of the world laid bare, *
at your battle cry, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

17 He reached down from on high and grasped me; *
he drew me out of great waters.

18 He delivered me from my strong enemies
and from those who hated me; *
for they were too mighty for me.

19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster; *
but the LORD was my support.

20 He brought me out into an open place; *
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/8/09

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12:2

In the darkest days of misery and pain, the bleakest moments of sorrow and suffering, in the harshest times of agony and anguish there is a comfort that transcends this age and all that we find amidst it. Though it may seem like the forces of evil are on the rise and the march of wickedness and iniquity are to trample righteousness as the deep and abiding immorality of sin's dark power grips this world and all that is in it, there is a peace… an encompassing peace that shines it light in the lives of those so fallen to the transgressions of dreadful men working their dreadful ways through these awful days of challenge and adversity.

It is a sacred trust, and a faith that surpasses all human understanding, all worldly wisdom and knowledge and teaches unto us the true nature of where we must place our confidence and reliance, knowing the blessed assurances we are given through the devotion of our Heavenly Father’s compassion and mercy as He shows it unto us.

God… the Lord God Almighty, through all turmoil and trials, through all struggles and hardship, even as it seems like the world, in the chaos and the danger that it brings, will come crashing down upon us, contends with our cause through all the days of our life. Always vigilant, always faithful, trustworthy and dependable in all things, He is our strength and our comfort, He our hope and our solace, never failing or forsaking His children, never abandoning them to this world or the forces of it.

In Him, even as desperation seems to grip our souls, we know we have promise of His tender grace. Through Him, even as despondency seems to mark our way, we know we have the pledge of His great love. By Him we, even as misery seems to plague our spirit and peace seems so far off, we know we have assurances of His gracious mercy. He is our compassion, our light and joy as we find ourselves in a world so prone to hurt and hardship and we so desperately seek an end to the strife and trouble that so darken our days.

To all people in all places who seek deliverance, He is their salvation…

To the captive taken, ripped from their lives, ripped from their homes, and held in such contemptuous estate, He is their salvation. In His glory He shall come to stand beside them in even these, the most pained days of their lives, as tranquility seems so fleeting and misery comes so easily. He will not leave them to these moments of hurt and sorrow that now holds them in their clutches.

To the prisoners held by brutal regimes of terror and oppression, their days marked by the grim reminder of the subjugation they are to suffer, He is their salvation. In the justice He shall come to mark their way, to guide their path as they struggle so desperately to breathe the blessed air of freedom and liberty. He shall make that glorious stand for their rights just as He endowed them with them.

To the slave tortured and tormented, their lives held cheap as they are treated as nothing more than cattle bought and traded, left to suffer the atrocities of the wickedness of these evil days, He is their salvation. In love and in tender mercy He shall light their heart, their great emancipator, ever vigilant throughout their ordeal for the cause of their liberation that finally they may be set free in the cause of the just.

To the girls who are grabbed from the street to be sold into the sex trade, their innocence ripped from them in the vilest of ways as they are violated and abused through the depravity of iniquity and hatred, He is their salvation. He shall not leave them to this, this great wickedness that holds their lives to be so cheap and their bodies so contemptuous. He shall contend with their cause in the force of His might as He battles against the darkness that seeks so to crush them.

There is no challenge so great, there is no trial so large or pain so deep, there is no torment so burdensome that it cannot be met by the Lord and the power of His love for His children. Though the authority of the Old Adversary may seem like it is on the rise, pushing forward to assert its supremacy on this world, the influence of our Heavenly Father shall make its stand for the cause of righteousness in the great mercy and compassion that He has for His children. He shall never leave them to the dominance of darkness as it seeks so to rule over them.

Just as the Lord was there with Moses as He led the children of Israel from the hands of their Egyptian Masters who ruled over them with the task masters whip, just as He was there with Isaiah as he sang His song of praise and preached deliverance even during those days of trial and turmoil that led God’s chosen people astray, just as He sent His only Son, our Savior Christ Jesus, to set captivity captive and ransom a world lost to sin, death and the devil, gripped by the power that the grave has over them, so too shall He now be there with all the lost and the captive souls so burdened with that meager estate they are held in.

Trust in the Lord and the power of His might, knowing that through all things, in all things He shall be there with His children, ensuring their freedom and their liberty, as He contends with the cause of justice, His true justice that shall always reign supreme. In all that we know, in all that we see He shall forever and always be our salvation, given unto us in the cause of those blessed assurances that He has made, ever faithful to the promises of His great love for us.

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

Morning Prayer 7/8/09

Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion us into one united people. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 7/7/09

“For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.”
Psalm 18:28-32

The grace, the mercy and the compassion of the Lord, that transcending love, that encompassing charity that surpasses all human understanding, all our worldly wisdom and our earthly enlightenment…

There is nothing in this world that we can rightly view as being perfect or as being flawless. We may see great and wondrous sights, our eyes may behold fantastic mysteries that confuse us in this sense of magnificent awe, we may hear wisdom that astounds and amazes us as we finds ourselves marveling at it. Yet there is nothing in this world or of this world that can be considered perfect, and we know that perfection, it is just so far off and incomprehensible by our enlightenment and our knowledge.

Yet there is one place we can look where it is not far off, where it is not just a distant concept or some remote theory, a place where it seen as the guiding, transcending principle that guides the destiny of men. Through the hand of God we see perfection abounding in the flawlessness of His reasoning and the wondrous miracles of His enlightenment. There is no force, there is no strength in this world or of this world that can stand against that amazing perfection that comes by His will and might, there is no coercion, no vigor, no energy that can stand again the power that comes through His divine precepts as He contends with the cause of His children.

After all “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me.” (Psalm 118:6)

Still it’s not hard to look at this world and somehow believe that the cause of the Lord is far off, or that the perfection of His hand is not at work. It’s not hard to look at this temporal existence and wonder, where is the Lord? Where is our God? Why does He not contend with our cause or with our suffering and our struggle? We long for answers, we yearn for His mercy, and yet it seems so distant of a thing, it seems like we abide amidst exile from His grace as we see what looks like the victory of evil and iniquity as they inflict darkness on the souls of men

There’s just so much pain and turmoil, so much chaos and hurt, where is the Lord in all of this? Where is the Lord in the agony and the anguish of the captives taken, as they are made hostages, their lives held to be contemptuous by bitter men of wicked iniquity? Where is the Lord in hurt of the slaves as they cry out for mercy, their bodies bruised and broken by whip as they tortured, and wicked men guided by their own wicked ways? As the prisoners are ripped away, dragged away by brutal regimes of hatred and oppression, left to rot or die where is the Lord? As women are grabbed from the streets and turned to drugs so that their will and their determination, their resistance can be broken by evil men who commit unspeakable evils against them as they turn them into sex slaves, where is the Lord? As the sweatshops remain, as the secret prisons exist, as the tyranny and the oppression persists, where is the Lord our God and why does He not contend with the cause of these people?

It’s hard to imagine the suffering and the agony that grips these people's souls as they find themselves amidst such darkness and pain. Yet just because we cannot see the hand of the Lord at work, does not mean that it’s not present, moving throughout this world to battle for the cause of justice as He seeks the deliverance of His children.

Yes it may seem like dark forces are on the rise, it may seem like sin and iniquity is on the march and that they are unstoppable amidst the chaos of this world. But we must remember that the Prince of this World, he gives these evils the appearance of unparalleled strength and might as to grip our souls in terror and fear and to cause us to question our Lord. But still it is no match for our Heavenly Father and the power of His might. In love and mercy he battles for the cause of His children as His hand is at work throughout all the challenges of this age and throughout all ages.

Trust therefore in His love, and His compassion, knowing that His mercy is at work in this world and through the perfection of His grace there is no force that can stand against Him. He shall be at work in all ways, in all things, to battle for the cause of His children, giving them hope and courage even amidst the deepest of challenges and the harshest of struggles. His truth and righteousness shall illuminate even the darkest of places, revealing that there is nothing that shall remain hidden from Him.

His ways shall be revealed as perfect and His understanding shall shine the light of righteousness in all things, in all places, through a mercy that cannot be removed or put down, regardless of how powerful the forces of sin, death and the devil may be. Just as He, through the hand of Moses, delivered captive Israel from the hands of the Pharaoh, just as, through Christ Jesus, His only Son, offered us salvation, putting the captivity we were in to sin to flight, so too does he stand with the captives today. Put your faithful trust in that promise and know He shall always be true to His word.

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

Morning Prayer 7/7/09

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Evening Prayer 7/6/09

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Mid-Day Devotion 7/6/09

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Matthew 24:35

We place a great deal of trust, of hope and confidence in things of this world. We look to them for guidance and for encouragement when this world seems so hard and full of trials and challenges that would befall us. We see that wisdom of this world, we see the powers and the forces of this temporal existence and we come to regard them as the means by which the tools of justice and the instruments of righteousness can be wielded.

Yet the reality and the truth of this life is found in the simple words offered in by the Savior himself…

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away…”

The righteousness of the Lord and the power of His Holy hand, it does not rely on this world. All that we see, all that we know, it could pass away before our eyes, disappearing as we watch it fade away, or vanishing in a flash of light, until there was nothing left, until all we had ever known and ever looked upon, all we ever believed in or placed our trust in was gone, blown away as if caught in a mighty gale or a gust of wind. Yet the word of the Lord, the truth of His glory, the love of His hand that is guided by His tender mercy and gracious compassion, it remains… ever vigilant, ever faithful, it remains as a lasting testimony to His commitment and the promises He makes unto His children. “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5)

Come what may, come what must, the truth of the Lord, the righteousness of His hand, and the guiding presence of His Spirit, it contends with the cause of His children in the love that He has for them. It does not forsake them, even as the trials of this existence befall them and they are left with this deep yearning of the spirit, this deep longing of the soul that cries out for help amidst their troubles. For we know that as the Lord was there in the days of Israel, in the deliverance of Moses, through the challenges that would befall Isaiah, or the torment that would plague Jeremiah, so too shall He be there with us now, as He has been through each day, in every day, battling for our cause, throughout all our ordeals.

What an amazing comfort we have through those promises that He, our gracious and loving Father, offers unto us.

Still, throughout this world we see so much suffering, we see so much agony and anguish, so much pain and sorrow. We hear of the plight of the captives taken, the struggles of the hostages ripped from their homes and from their lives, their humanity held cheap. We see the pain of the slaves ruled over by the oppressive hands of the unrighteous, or we know of the torment of those girls taken from the streets and sold into bondage as sex slaves, their dignity robbed from them as they are held in such contempt.

We see, we hear and we know, wondering why the judgment of the Lord is so far off, wondering why it seems so distant from us as we see the chaos that is worked by wicked men of cruel iniquity and unrighteous ways. Those who hate and subjugate through brutality and anger, seeking to inflict themselves on the world.

Yet, in our trust we must know that the judgment of the Lord, it is not far off, nor will it allow for evil to reign in these places for all times. The Lord will work His will to light those dark places through the power of His spirit and He shall offer unto His children the encompassing mercy and compassion of His transcending love, given unto them through His gracious precepts as He contends mightily with their cause. He shall work His will to remove the powers of darkness that turn so readily from this world and from His love. He shall work His will according to His time and His way in that transcending power and that encompassing love that He has.

Know that the mercy of the Lord, the compassion of the Lord, it shall remain even if heaven and earth pass away, even if everything we ever saw before us, even if everything we ever placed our trust in of this world crumbles right before our eyes, there is nothing in this life that can compare to the majesty and the power, the glory of the Lord which shall come in all righteousness and that is revealed through His holy and divine word, as given unto us by the prophets and the apostles, the saints and the disciples, and taught us so readily by His Son, that Son that proved to us that the Word of the Lord is that deep and transcending Light of our lives. As He came to put to the greatest of captivities to flight, as He came to ransom us amidst even the darkest of trials that would seek to subjugate us, that would seek to dominate us. And through the power of the Cross He set us free according to His great love for us.

Trust in the Lord, in all things, through all things, and in the power of His might, for in all ages, through all ages, He is the one constant that remains.

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

Friday, July 3, 2009

Evening Prayer 7/3/09

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snare of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mid-Day Devotion 7/3/09

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”
Exodus 14:21-27

With strength in His hand the Lord God Almighty would part the waters of the Red Sea, making a wall on either side that His children might walk upon dry land and be delivered from the hands of the Egyptians…

For so long the children of Israel had been made slaves, ruled by cruelty and oppression, forced to make the cities of Pharaoh, so long that they knew no other life but the sting of the whip, and the subjugation of the spirit. Generations had come and gone, their fathers had lived and died, their mothers had passed from this life to the next and still, no deliverance had come.

It’s not hard to understand why they would lose hope, why they would find themselves gripped by despair and misery. When pain and sorrow would mark your days, making them as dark as night, the bleak despondency of those merciless times can crush the spirit and the soul of even the most faithful.

Now though they had found deliverance. Moses had come, the word of the Lord upon his lips, the mysteries of God in his staff, and with power and might he proclaimed liberty. He would call out to captive Israel, declaring that the day of the Lord had arrived and that deliverance was at hand with them. He put to shame the glory of Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, showing that there was, there always would be, only one God, the Lord God Almighty of Abraham and Isaac.

He would lead his people from their slavery, the promise of the Lord now upon his lips.

Yet now… now they seemed like they were trapped. The armies of Pharaoh behind them, the sea before them, it’s not hard to understand why they would despair. Looking at the situation that was now before them, all they could wonder is if they were led out into the desert to die. It would be yet another sign of the hopelessness of their cause, a hopelessness that they abided in for generations.

But God, God was not a God of hopelessness, and He does not lead His Children to death and despair. He would command His prophet Moses to stretch out his arms as he stood before the sea. Then He would send a strong East wind, and while the Armies of Pharaoh were still far off He would part the waters, making way a dry path for the once captive Israel to pass on. As they then found themselves on the dry land of the other side he would send the sea pouring back, putting a quick end to the cruel hold that the Egyptian King had over them.

We look to the stories from the Bible like that of the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea, seeing the deliverance of the Lord in all its might and its glory, and, in looking to the plight and struggles, the anguish and the agony of the prisoners and the captives, the hostages and the slaves, it’s not hard for us to wish that God would lift His hand in a miracle as He did in those days of old to rescue His children, offering them release from their cruel oppression at the hands of wicked men.

Yet the miracles of God’s liberation are not just in the obvious signs or the great encompassing miracles that part the seas or light the sky ablaze with a pillar of fire. His hand is not just in the great and the wondrous that we see. It’s in every release, every relief that we see of those who are made prisoners and slaves, those who are held in meager estate, ransomed as if sold like cattle. Ours must be to watch for those signs and wonders, knowing that they, in and of themselves, are miracles performed by the Lord in His great love for His children. Perhaps we don’t understand them, perhaps we don’t quite get it, yet it’s not important whether we do or do not, what’s important is that God brought freedom through His precepts and that we give praise to His name for it.

Just as He parted the seas, He now works through governments and authorities, just as He made the land dry, He now gives opportunities for escape in the most basic of ways, just as He once drowned the armies of Pharaoh, He now moves to work against unrighteousness and wickedness by bringing the evil men to justice or working repentance in their hearts. He is there, as He has been, to work His miracles through this age, as He has through all ages.

Just because we don’t see the great and wondrous signs of freedom the Children of Israel once saw so many years before does not mean God is not there. He is… He is there, working His loving kindness, and His tender mercies in the lives of the captive prisoners and the pained slaves to bring them once more to the blessed air of freedom that they may find themselves far from the darkness that once encompassed them. He is there in power and might, in glory, through all things, in all things, to work His will, a will of justice, freedom, liberty and abiding hope.

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