Monday, August 31, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/31/09

The Lion of Babylon, Ishtar Gate

“When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Psalm 126


Long gone were the illusions of their freedom, it could no longer be suggested that they were their own people, living their own lives, amidst their own independence. All dreams of liberty had been long since gone after the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem and the forced exile of the people from the land of promise that had once been given unto their fathers. Once more, as they had in Egypt so many generations before, they now found themselves as “strangers in a strange land”, living amongst foreign people who worshipped foreign gods, as they called foreign rulers and kings their master. A conquered people without a hope, a captive nation that no longer had a nation, the faithful longed for the day when the Lord would deliver and they would once more return, leaving Babylon to again find themselves in Israel’s borders.

As far off, as far distant as that day would seem to be, it would come.

God… a God of grace and of mercy, a Heavenly Father who cares for and loves His children, He would not forsake his faithful to forever dwell in distant lands, to be ruled over and governed over by wicked men of bitter iniquity who knew not his ways but pursued the path of idols and sought to force His people to bow before false gods in submission to the sins of man rather than the glory of Heaven. He would call His children back home, and in a way that could not be ignored by the kings and the princes of this world. He would once more let laughter fill the mouths of His people, and their voices to rise with joyful songs of praise.

It’s the love and the compassion, the infinite mercy of our Lord that guides Him and that, in looking to the plight and the struggle of His children, moves him to contend with their cause . There, despite the struggles of this world, despite the bitter captivities, and the pained hardships that it may cause, He moves, an ever present force for righteousness in this world, setting His people free.

Though captivity may have changed since those days when the children of Israel were exiled to lands of Nebuchadnezzar, though it may have changed since those days when God moved through the Babylonian kings to let His faithful children once more return home, the love of our Heavenly Father has not. It is the same today as it was yesterday and forever shall be.

The world is full of bitter iniquity and wickedness, it is full of sin and evil, and those who would use it to subjugate their fellow man as they contend not with the cause of the Lord but their own ambition or greed or selfishness, using their position or power, using all of the weapons they have to take captive the hearts and souls, the bodies and minds of those around them.

We see it in the political persecution of tyranny and those who would use their authority over governments to take political prisoners. Those who would lock away their own citizens and the citizens of other nations, keeping them far from their homes and their families, leaving them to die in their prisons and dungeons. We see it in the human traffickers who lurk in the dark shadows of our society, just out of sight, as they take children from their parents. Those who deal in human flesh and human life, buy and selling it on the open market as if they were trading and selling, buying and bartering for a piece of meat, ripping the innocence away from the grasps of those whom they effect. We see it in the forces of slavery that still exist in this world as they keep their fellow man held at the end of the whip, chained in dark bondage as they force them into servitude. Those who would oppress and hate, those who would use pain and agony as the means of keeping their power and making their fortune as they use the body until it is no longer good and then cast it aside to die as if there was no value to it. We see it in the pirates and the terrorists who take and ransom their fellow man, using fear as their weapon, seeking to force us on to our knees. Those who hide in the dark, dank corners outside of our sight as they move, causing pain and suffering as their means of reaching their objective, never caring about those whom they hurt.

Yet God… God, our Heavenly Father, is ever vigilant, ever present throughout all of the struggles of this world, and as He contended with the struggles of His children in ages gone by, so too shall He now contend with their cause today, even amidst the hardship and pain, the hurt and the sorrow, the agony and the darkness of our present age. He shall look upon the plight of His people and He shall, in His time, in His way, set them free according to His great love and compassion for them. He shall let laughter one more escape their lips and songs of praise one more come from their voices as they find themselves in the presence of those whom they love and care so dearly for.

That is the promise that He has for His children, that is the blessed assurance that He has always offered, from the earliest of times to the present, for all of His people, in ages and in all times. There is no exile, no captivity, no dark force in this world that God will not put to flight for the faithful. There is no force in this world that is greater than God’s power, and there, in God’s way, in God’s will, He shall let justice prevail and freedom to reign. And there, joyful voices shall raise from the lips of all of those who were held, all of those who were subjugated, all of those who were oppressed, as freedom finds a way into their lives, and liberty once more comes to guide their paths and guide their ways. This is God’s love for His children in all ages and in all places, and we can take comfort, we can take joy in it even in these darkest of days of chaos.

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

Morning Prayer 8/31/09

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 the 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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/24/09

Crown of Thorns Nebula

6 O LORD, I say to you, "You are my God."
Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy.
7 O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer,
who shields my head in the day of battle-
8 do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD;
do not let their plans succeed,
or they will become proud.
Psalm 140:6-8

Our ever-present help, our ever-present help in our hour of need, the Lord is there beside us. He is our strength and our salvation, He is the mighty shield that covers us in battle, and there He protects us, He protects us from the devices of the wicked so that they may not elevate themselves, exalt themselves at the expense of the good, at the expense of the righteous. He is there to show each and every one of us that there is a present God, an ever-vigilant God who contends with the cause of His children, who struggles there beside them, who works throughout their lives, and in their lives according to that great love He has for each and every one of us. A God of compassion and a God of mercy, a God of righteousness, a God of tender precepts, He walks beside us, guiding us like sheep to green pastures, to the place of peace and comfort where our souls do dwell in His love forever.

So there, there we are told to raise up our voices, to call out to the Lord in humble supplication, to pray to Him, to kneel down, to worship and to glorify His holy and righteous Name, knowing that our voices when they are lifted to the Lord shall reach His ear. And there, there is nothing that He will not do, nothing that He cannot do for the cause of His children and the great love that He has for them.

Throughout the world we see the desires of the wicked, we see the wicked devices, we see chaos and struggle and anguish and pain and suffering in this world. We see it with the political prisoners who are taken, who are taken in the middle of the night, who are ripped from their homes, from their families, from their loved ones, those they care so deeply for, and cast into prisons or sent off to work camps. We see it in the sorrow of the slaves who are held at the end of a taskmaster’s whip, those who are viewed as less than human, those who are viewed with contemptuous eyes, who would seek to subjugate them, who would seek to hold them at their mercy, and would force them to break their will. We see it in the sex slaves who are ripped from their homes, from their families, their loved ones, whose bodies are used and worn, their innocence ripped from them, their naiveté cast to the winds. We see it in their eyes, the hurt and the anguish, knowing their plight and their sorrow. We see it in the prisoners and the hostages, ransomed off to the highest bidder, bartered away as if they were nothing but cattle or livestock sent away to be slaughtered.

And yet we know, we know that even as the world seems to stack up against them, even as wicked and evil men work their vile, vile ways throughout the events of human passing, do all they have done and all that they can, the Lord is still there, the Lord is still present, He is still the strength of our salvation, He is still there to cover our heads in the day of battle. So much so is He the strength of our salvation, so much so does He protect and guide us that He sent His only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, the great propitiation for our sins, to ransom us, to set the Devil to flight, to rescue us from that dark power that sin, death and the Devil have over us, that we are no longer in bondage, no longer in slavery to the power of the dark, evil Adversary. And if God can conquer the power of sin, death and the Devil, these great transcending forces in the universe that we cannot even begin to explain, that we cannot even begin to understand, that have such a dark hold over us, then how much more can He do for us and for our struggle? For the plight and the struggles of the captives and the hostages, the prisoners and the slaves who are there held in such dark bondage? How much more can the Lord God Almighty do for them against the forces of this world and the desires of wicked, evil men? For He is a God of strength, He is a God of might, and He is a God of power who shines His love and His truth and His light upon this world, and who protects and guides His children each and every step of the way, He is a God who never fails them or forsakes them, who never abandons them but is there with them, always drawing them nearer to the power of His Holy Spirit, to His loving bosom.

So raise your voice, raise your voice in humble supplication that the will of the Lord be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, have faith, knowing that the hope of the Lord is the hope of all mankind and that He shall rescue, that He shall free according to His mercy and His precepts, according to His grand design, come what may, come what must, throughout the forces of this world. Have faith and hope in the Lord, knowing that He is the strength of our salvation and that He is a shield in battle. Hear our prayers, dear Lord, hear the cries of your children, for we know that You are the force of good that is in this world.

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morning Prayer 8/21/09

Come let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Evening Prayer 8/20/09

Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

Mid-Day Devotion 8/20/09

David with the Head of Goliath, Jan Van Oost the Elder, 1648

4 Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from men of violence
who plan to trip my feet.
5 Proud men have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path.
Psalm 140:4-5

When we are in trouble, when nothing in the world seems to make a lot of sense to us, when hardship and trial, when pain and sorrow seem so near, when wicked and evil men, vile men who seek to work their disdainful ways, their contemptuous ways against us seems so near, where do we place our hope and our trust?

To read the words of the Psalmist, to read the words that were written by the hand of David, you come to know that he overcame trials, here was a man who knew about hardship and troubles, here was a man who knew about the wicked ways and the wicked things that men could inflict upon other men. Here was a man whose life was in jeopardy on more than one occasion, as he stood against Goliath, that giant of the Philistines, who openly mocked the armies of the living God, or whose life was in jeopardy at the hands of Saul, who looked to him and saw a threat to his leadership, a threat to his line, and there sought his death. David knew something about hardship and trial, he knew something about evil in this world, and about that wickedness that could be inflicted upon man. Yet each and every step of the way, as he looked at the world around him, he knew he could place his faith, he could place his trust, he could place his courage and his hope on the Lord. And there he would draw strength through all the challenges he would face. He would be given courage, he would be given hope, and there he knew his faith would never be misplaced, for the Lord would walk beside him each and every step of the way, He would be his shield and his armor, He would be that mighty sword of his right hand, seeking all good things for him. Unlike the armies of Israel that watched him as he marched down into the valley to face Goliath, the Lord wouldn’t see any challenge being too great for Him, He would not stand back and watch, but rather He would walk beside David and He would help him. He would help him in the challenges so that he may survive, a victorious champion of his people. As Saul amassed his armies against him and marched against him, while David lay in caves, probably not having enough to eat or to strengthen his arm, the Lord did not abandon him or forsake him, the Lord did not just give him up to those who would seek to work evil against him, rather He would protect him each and every step of the way, He would preserve him against violence and wickedness, against those who would set snares and cords before him and to set a net before him, those who would seek his life.

And why? What was one life, what was the life of one small, insignificant man to God? The world is full of countless numbers of them, where one would fall, another would rise up in his place. But God, God our Heavenly Father does not view life as cheaply as we sometimes do, nor does He view it with contemptuous eyes, rather as with an integrity and a dignity to it. And each and every life, each and every life that God breathes His breath into, each and every life that He has formed with His own hand, He has a plan for, He has a plan for it even while that life is still in the womb, as in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah. And there He guides and protects it, each and every step of the way, seeking to keep it from harm, from evil, from wickedness. It is a sacred trust that David knew all too well, it is a sacred trust that carries through with us even today, even in our age.

All around us we see the hands of the wicked, we see the violent men, those whose only purpose is to overthrow the goings of the innocent, to manipulate the weak, to cause pain and sorrow, and for nothing more than their own gain, for their own selfish, shallow, petty victories. The wicked governments, the wicked regimes that would take political prisoners, who would take men and women as hostages, who would commit genocide and gendericide against their brothers and sisters in humanity, for no other reason than to expand their power. We see it in those who would take sex slaves, those who would rip the innocence and naivite from young girls, often no older than our own daughters, for no other reason than their own monetary gain, because its just business, because they are entitled, because they somehow view themselves as superior and they hold humanity to be cheap. In the pirates who take captives and prisoners and ransom them off to the highest bidder as if they were nothing more than cattle, as if they were nothing more than livestock to be taken and slaughtered at their own will and their own whim, for their own greed, their own ambition, their own political gain. They hold life to be cheap, humanity to be cheap, as if it had no intrinsic value or integrity to it. We see it in those who take slaves, those who rule with the whip and with terror and with hatred and contempt, those who build their own humanity by denying it to others, who see them as so inferior that they are not even human, that their life has no dignity in it, as they subject them to hatred and to scorn.

Yet every life has value to the Lord, whether it is the life of those prisoners and captives, those political captives or the sex slaves or the slaves who are taken and are ripped away from any life that they know. These lives have value, and where man may view them with contempt, the Lord views them with love and compassion, with mercy and grace each and every step of the way. So much so does He love each and every one of us, so much so does He loves these prisoners and captives, so much so does He love all prisoners and captives that He gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that whosoever believes on Him and in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And there He ransomed even the most lost, the most confused souls, He ransomed them and gave them strength through the life and the death and the precious blood of His Son, that sin, death, and the Devil may no longer have their dark hold over us.

When there is trouble, when there is need, when the world seems inflamed in chaos, and suffering and pain and sorrow, look to the Lord. Look to the Lord and the power of His might, for He is there, He is there to preserve His children each and every step of the way, no matter what may happen, no matter what may come. There is no challenge too great, there is no struggle too small, for problems large and small the Lord shall take care of by the power of His hand, and He will grant healing to each and every one of His children, according to His love and according to what He has intended for us. Show love and show courage and pray for your fellow man, and do all that you can for those who are held in the grasp of wickedness, seeking to do the Lord’s will here on Earth. And each and every step of the way pray, pray that God’ will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, that all who may find themselves in the hands of the wicked may find themselves now set free, preserved from the violent man whose purpose is to overthrow them. Trust in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and know that He shall never fail or forsake you or abandon you, that He will never abandon any of His children, but rather He shall work His will, His divine, loving will, in all things and through all things, for us in our lives.

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

Morning Prayer 8/20/09

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, August 18, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/18/09

Saul Attacking David, Guercino, 1646

1 Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men;
protect me from men of violence,
2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent's;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Psalm 140:1-3

As David sat and wrote this psalm, he had probably seen evil transgressions all around him, wicked men who worked their wicked ways, doing their evil against their fellow man, against the children of God, the children of Israel. They worked with scorn and hatred in their hearts, they moved through this world without seemingly any obstacle, without any barriers, their wickedness just seemed to expand, their power just seemed to grow. They were able to do what they wanted when they wanted, according to their will, according to their greed or ambition, according to their hatred and their loathing of their fellow man. He saw this all around him, and what else was there to do but to cry out to the Lord, who when evil was on the march, when evil was on the rise, when it seemed to have no obstacle in its way, nothing that could divert its attention or divert its focus, there was no power in this world that could withstand it, it is only through the love and mercy and grace and the compassion of the Lord that redemption can be found and righteousness will triumph, guiding the hearts and the souls of men to a better tomorrow, to a better life. So he cries out, he cries out for the Lord to rescue him from those were wicked and violent because he knows that the Lord God Almighty is ever faithful, ever vigilant to the cause of His children, that the Lord’s love, given in grace, to all of those of those who put their hope and their trust, their faith in Him. Amidst that, come what may, come what must, wickedness will not be able to withstand the power of His might.

And if this has been the love of the Lord for David, if this has been the love of the Lord for the prophets and the kings, the apostles and the saints, those mighty disciples and martyrs that have come before us, then what is the love of the Lord for us now but the same ever-present, ever-vigilant love? For He is the shield of our righteousness and the sword of our redemption, and He moves throughout this world to work His will, to work His presence, to guide our way like a beacon of hope. The evil things that seek to work us harm, He is there to rescue His people, to rescue them from evil plots and from vile doings, and there is no power, no might that can withstand the power of the Lord God Almighty, that ever-constant presence in this world. It doesn’t matter what the forces of evil are, it could be pirates, or terrorists, or bitter, tyrannical regimes, or sex-traders who seek to work their evil, to inflict themselves on their fellow man, to persecute them, to use them as nothing more than cattle, to make them into slaves, to ransom them off to the highest bidder. It doesn’t matter who they are, God Almighty is present throughout this world to work His justice, to work His cause, to fight and contend for the struggle for liberty for all His people. And there He shall rescue, He shall free, and we may not always understand when He rescues, we may not always understand the full magnitude of His plan, but what we can always put our hope and our reliance on, is the understanding that His plan is there, and that it is moving, it is transcending all understanding to ensure that the cause of His people is upheld.

This is a faithful trust, this is a faithful reliance that we can have in our lives, God Almighty will always be there for us, that our Heavenly Father will protect His children, who guides them, who girds them with strength and might, with power and love. Truly then we shall know that we are guarded, come whatever happens in this world, come whatever might happen in this world, for our Lord is right there beside us, each and every step of the way, regardless of where we may go, regardless of where we may be taken. And in His time He shall set His people free. Place your hope therefore in that reliance, in that trust, and know that the Lord shall rescue, just as He has rescued His children each and every time, each and every chapter of our history, just as He rescued them from the power of sin, death and the Devil through the bright light of our Messiah coming, of Jesus’ great and encompassing love for us.

Trust in Him, and know that you shall never be failed, that you shall never be left out, that His love shall transcend all understanding.

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/17/09

The Fall of Jericho, Loggia di Raffaello

1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
Joshua 6:1-5

It’s a remarkable thing, the power, the might and the majesty of the Lord. For Joshua, to even imagine that a great city, a powerful city, so guarded, so forted, that right in front of his eyes, it would be delivered right into his hands, he probably couldn’t have even imagined it. But then, by his own power and his own might, by his own strength, his own will, he didn’t have the power to do those things that were necessary. And if it were left to his own devices, the Promised Land, that land that was offered unto them by the Lord after the captivity of the children of Israel, it would have never come into their possession. For he was but one man, and his army, they were nothing more than a band of nomads, a band of former slaves who had wandered through the desert with no military training, with no real strength, no real might. They probably didn’t even have real weapons. Yet God delivered, God gave into their hands that mighty victory of that day. And He did so in the most remarkable of ways.

For who would have thought that just marching around a city wall, blowing on a trumpet, not even sending men in, not sending military devices or ramrods, just marching around a wall, step by step by step, blowing on the horn, blowing on the trumpet, would have seen the collapse of those mighty city walls. Who would have imagined that it was possible?

We see a lot of Jericho’s in front of us in our world today. A lot of powerful places that seem to stand in the way of finding peace, finding comfort, finding rest. Cities that are held by the enemy, places that are held by those who stand in the way of the will of the Lord. We see cities of Jericho held by pirates, by pirates who would take hostages, by sex-traders who would steal women and young girls from their homes, and there kill their innocence and naivite. We see Jericho’s in the cities of brutal regimes ruled by tyrants who would oppress their people, suppress them, persecute them , for no other reason than that they can. We see Jericho behind those walls, we see prisoners and hostages who have been taken and imprisoned, captives who have been ripped away from their homes, and we wonder, because it looks so powerful, it looks so mighty, it looks so strong. We wonder how we can tear down these walls, to get to these people, that once more we will find ourselves helping them on the road to the land of promise, to the land of hope, to the land of the Lord. That land where love, peace, comfort and kindness, where mercy dwells.

And it’s here that we come to realize that it’s not by our own strength, not by our own vigilance, not by our own devices that it shall come, that we shall gain victory, or that freedom shall be secured. But rather it is by the wisdom and the will, the love and the comfort of the Lord God Almighty, it is by His hand, it is by His power and His might that all good things come, and that liberty shall be secured for all people. He brings about this liberty, He brings about this freedom, this lasting sense of justice in the most peculiar of ways, in the strangest of ways that we can’t even begin to understand. And He does so for no other reason than that He loves His children, and that He cares for them, and He offers Himself unto them even when the world doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, even when things all around us seem to dissipate and to disappear and comfort seems so fleeting.

So like Joshua, like those children of the Lord of those days of yore, trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord God Almighty and in all of His might, and that through Him, by Him, according to His love and His power, according to His great and transcending power all things are possible. He is a God who has led His children from the hands of slavery and captivity, to the blessed air of freedom, throughout all ages and in all ages. He is the God who for the sake of us poor sinners, for the sake of our lives, sent His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to set captivity captive, to rescue us, to ransom us from the power of sin, death and the Devil. And if He is the Lord God Almighty who is capable of all this, imagine what He is capable of in our lives, each and every step of the way, throughout all the days of our journey, throughout all the days of our lives.

Trust in His power, and that know that you shall never be failed or forsaken, you shall never be abandoned, you shall be given in love liberty and freedom according to the mercy and love of His promises.

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

Missing Russian Ship Found

The Arctic Sea, a Russian cargo ship which disappeared two weeks ago in the English Channel, has been found off the Cape Verde Islands with all crewmembers safe. Via Fox News:
MOSCOW — DEVELOPING: Russian news agencies quote the defense minister as saying a freighter that went missing nearly three weeks ago has been found near Cape Verde, and its crew is alive.

The reports say Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday that the Arctic Sea was about 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the island nation off West Africa.

Serdyukov reportedly says the ship's 15-man Russian crew was taken aboard a Russian naval vessel.

The reports do not give details on what might have happened to the ship, which was last heard from on July 28. The ship's crew earlier had reported the freighter was raided by masked men, but that the attackers departed before the ship left the Baltic Sea en route to Algeria.

Thank God for the safe return of the sailors onboard. There are no details yet on what actually happened to the ship during the time it was missing, whether it was hijacked by pirates or carrying a covert cargo, so I will update when more is available.

Morning Prayer 8/17/09

Psalm 106:1-5

1 Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?

3 Blessed are they who maintain justice,
who constantly do what is right.

4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,

5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crews of Two Egyptian Ships Escape After Fighting Pirates

Great news from Somalia where the crews of two Egyptian fishing boats hijacked more than 4 months ago are free after overpowering their captors. Via VOA:
Somali pirate says the kidnapped crews of two Egyptian fishing vessels have won their freedom after attacking their pirate captors.

One of the pirates on board, who called himself Miraa, says the hostages overpowered them with machetes Thursday. He said the Egyptian crews then seized guns from the pirates, killing two of his colleagues.

Shipping officials say the Egyptians are now in control of their ships and are heading home.

The pirates had held the Egyptian crews hostage since mid-April.

The case marks a rare instance of crewmen fighting back against Somali pirates who usually hold their hostages for months seeking large ransom payments.

The ships, the Momtaz-1 and the Samara Ahmed (Shugaa al Mahdi)were hijacked in the Gulf of Aden back in April. Eleven pirates were captured during the escape, and are now under guard onboard the freed ships. It is not yet known into whose custody they will be given.

Thank God for this successful escape! Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of the other ships still in the hands of the pirates.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Aid Workers Freed After Long Captivity in Somalia

Good news from Somalia, where aid worker Danka Panchova and her 5 colleagues from Action Against Hunger have been released after nine months of captivity. Via China News:
NAIROBI, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Top UN envoy for Somalia on Wednesday welcomed the release of the four aid workers and their two pilots from captivity in Somalia.

In a statement issued in Nairobi, UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah appealed to Somalis to seek the release of other remaining hostages.

"It is with great satisfaction that I received the news concerning the release of the six hostages who had been held for so long, and taken into captivity while working in Somalia for Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)," he said.

"I salute their courage in the face of such physically and emotionally difficult circumstances and I am pleased that an end has come to the concerns and worries endured by their loved ones."

Four European aid workers and two Kenyan pilots kidnapped nine months ago in Somalia were released on Tuesday. The group was taken captive from an airstrip in the central town of Dhusa-Mareb last November.

The UN envoy said the international community should, however, not forget the number of Somalis and foreign nationals that are still being held hostage in unacceptable conditions, an action that should be vehemently condemned by the Somalis and the international community.

Thank God for protecting and sustaining these hostages during their long ordeal, one which negotiators said seemed "even hopeless sometimes." Please continue to pray for the safety of the other hostages still held in Somalia, and for the aid workers who continue to try to bring some relief to that distressed country.

UN Aid Workers Freed in Somalia

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/11/09

Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Kramskoy, 1873

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:7-10

I have a cousin who likes to say that life isn't fair, because if life was fair, he would have no idea what he done to deserve the afflictions, the specific afflictions that have hit him. He was born with specific ailments that would leave him in a wheelchair his entire life. His mother would die in a very brutal way when he was very young, and things have been difficult for him ever since, and yet, throughout each and every day, throughout each and every challenge that he faces, he has persevered, he has persevered against the odds. He went off to college to become the first member of my family to do so, graduated with a degree in mathematics, went back and got another degree in computer sciences, and though life has not been fair for him or to him, he still finds the ability to persevere, to survive, and to triumph.

Life isn't fair. Life is hardly ever going to be what we expect it to be or what we want it to be. And how can we really expect for it to be? We live in a sinful world, an unclean world, a world where evil marks the way, where the Prince of this world has a grip, has a hold on it, where the temptations for each and every one of us, lay as snares and traps to drag us down, to hurt us, to cause us pain. We look at our fellow man with a certain amount of evil, with a certain amount of hurt.

Yet that's not what God intended. Though God knows that the world is unfair and although God allows to a certain degree that unfairness to happen, because He doesn't come with His flaming sword to slay the Devil or to slay evil men, as much as He knows that it is unfair, still His hand is at work. His hand is at work creating a better life for each and every one of His children, each and every step of the way as He guides their life, as He guides their path, and offers them something more and something better, so yes, God allows for certain things to happen and He does so so that we can be strengthened and we can be preserved, so that we can be edified by His hand.

And yet, as much as it does happen, it is not God's will for it to happen. He is at work to put evil to flight, He is there to rescue the most captive and the most pained of human souls. He is there to set free the innocent and the lost, the captives, and to bring His justice to bear in this world, through all things and in all things. We read in the words of the Apostle today to "raw nigh to the Lord and He will draw nigh to you." We are told to cleanse our hands and to purify our hearts, to be afflicted and mourn, to let our laughter turn to mourning, our joy into heaviness. Why is that, if God wants us to be happy? If God wants only for good things for us?

We have to understand that the Devil is all around us and that these are serious struggles, that these are serious plights and serious fights that we have to take up. And there, we cannot just be totally oblivious to the world around us or to the things around us, we have to understand that there are challenges each and every step of the way, challenges that will bear upon our soul, that cause us pain and suffering, hurt and hardship, and yet there God will be with us each and every step of the way.

Look around, look around and see all the glory of God's creation and understand that there is no captivity, no captivity whether of the body or the captivity of the mind, whether it is a captivity of our physical being or of our spiritual being, no captivity that God our Heavenly Father through the love of Christ His only begotten Son cannot rescue us from.

Trust in the Lord whether it is a pain of a sickness, or the pain of a ransoming, whether it is an affliction that bears against the spirit and that causes weakness, or an affliction that rips the innocence and naivete right from our eyes. Trust in the Lord, trust in Christ Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and know that through it all we have a Deliverer, that we have deliverance, that although God knows all that is going to happen and though He knows that wickedness will work in this world, His hand is there to work good in your life, and in the lives of all those who are held captive and hostage. Trust in the Lord and in the power of His might and know that you shall never be forsaken, you shall never be abandoned, that He will work His love and His will through all things, in all things in your lives.

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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 8/10/09

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46

To have that kind of faith, to have that kind of hope, that sense of trust, it almost seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? The vivid imagery that the Psalmist uses, the world melting, the heathen raging, the nations being moved, everything, everything that we know, everything that we could possibly know, everything that they know, changing, in the blink of an eye, and yet one constant, God, the Lord God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, our refuge, our strength, our very present help in trouble, a God who does not forsake His children, who does not forget them, a God who does not abandon them, even when their sins seem to blemish their souls, even when it seems to taint our being in the most and the most vivid of ways, a God who loves and cares for us, a God who protects and guides us, each and every step of the way; that even where we are weak, He is strong, even where it seems like we are breaking, He shall bring together those broken and wounded parts of us, to heal us. This is the promise that He has made, this is the promise that He has given unto His children, even since those earliest of days.

And why? Do we somehow merit it? Do we somehow deserve it? Each and every step of the way we prove that we are sinful, that we are unclean, that we are unworthy of anything righteous. By our own hands redemption and reconciliation to our Heavenly Father are so far off, and why? Why, because our souls are like scarlet, and yet even there, where they are like scarlet, the precious Blood of the Lamb, our precious Savior, Christ Jesus who came to redeem captive sinners, He washes us as clean as snow.

What a promise! What a comfort in this world. We look around and we see the sins of man, we see the sins of the flesh, the lusts of it, we see it in the eyes of those who are hurt and pained, those who struggle amidst captivity. We see it in those who are taken from their homes, ripped away from all whom they love, all those whom they care for, so that they can be slaves, so that they can be sold, so that they can be treated as if they were nothing but cattle. Political prisoners, hostages, sex trade slaves, its all around us, in a world that is so prone to following the old Adversary, a world that is so prone to follow the ways of the Prince of this world.

And yet we know the assurances of God, those assurances He gave to Moses, those assurances He gave to Joshua, the assurances that He handed down to the Psalmists, the blessed promises that He gave unto the saints and the prophets and the disciples from age to age, from generation to generation, as they have sought their way in this world and through this world. They are the same promises that our Heavenly Father gives unto us today, and there is no power, be it dark or be it bleak, be it harsh or hard, may it be the bringer of death, there is no power in this world that can withstand the strength of God. And there is none, none who can take the souls of men or the spirits of men and hide them in a place where the eyes of God cannot see or hear them, for He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in our troubles.

Therefore, do not fear dear brothers and sisters, do not be afraid, do not be frightened regardless of what the world may throw at us. For the justice of the Lord, the justice of our Heavenly Father, shall be there for each and every one of us. It will be there for those who find themselves in the worst situations, in the darkest of places. It will be there in all things and through all things according to the promises of our Heavenly Father handed down to us. We are His beloved children, those beloved children He has promised never to fail or forsake, come what may, come what must, come powers and principalities, come sin, death and the Devil, come the power of the grave, there is no captivity that God the Father cannot conquer. There is no captivity that He has not conquered. And through His Son, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, He shall set all captivity free, and He shall ransom His children through all things.

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

Buccaneer Released

Good news from Somalia: The Italian tugboat Buccaneer has been released after 4 months of captivity. Via CNN:
ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pirates released an Italian ship four months after they seized it, Italy's foreign minister announced Sunday.

Franco Frattini expressed his "joy at the positive outcome ... relating to the kidnapping of the merchant vessel Buccaneer and for the release" of the crew.

Somali pirates freed the vessel after months of negotiations, the ministry said.

The ministry strongly denied a ransom had been paid, but released no other details about the talks with the pirates.

The Buccaneer has a crew of 16: 10 Italians, 5 Romanians and a Croat, the ministry said. They are expected home in about two days.

The tug was seized in the Gulf of Aden on April 11, Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau told CNN.

Thank God for this long-awaited deliverance! Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of the other ships and their crews still awaiting freedom from their captors.

Second American Ship Attacked, Escapes Capture

British, French Embassy Workers Go on Trial in Iran

Staff members from the British and French embassies in Iran, as well as a French scholar, were among the more than 100 persons on trial in Tehran in the aftermath of the violent election protests in June. Via CNN:
The French and British embassy employees and a French scholar were among 100 defendants who appeared in Tehran's Revolutionary Court as a mass trial of Iranians and others resumed Saturday.

The EU presidency, currently held by Sweden, said Iran will be held responsible.

"The presidency reiterates that actions against one EU country -- citizen or embassy staff -- is considered an action against all of EU, and will be treated accordingly," the European Union said in a statement. "The EU will closely follow the trial and demand that the persons will be released promptly."

Britain's Foreign Office also denounced the proceedings, calling them an "outrage."

Among those named in court Saturday were Clotilde Reiss, a French academic working in Iran, and Nazak Afshar, an employee of the French embassy in Tehran.

France called for the release of both women, saying the charges against them are unfounded.

"France also stands against the conditions of that [court] appearance," the French foreign ministry said. "The embassy was not informed in advance nor permitted to attend the hearing, in accordance with international rules of consular protection. We regret that Ms. Clotilde Reiss and Ms. Afshar are not being assisted by a lawyer."

The semiofficial Fars News Agency said Reiss admitted to her crimes in court Saturday and asked for clemency.

"I shouldn't have participated in the illegal demonstration and shouldn't have sent the pictures, I am regretful," Fars quoted her as saying. "I apologize to the Iranian people and court and I hope the people and the court forgive me."

Human rights groups and Iran's opposition leaders have accused the government of coercing such confessions.

Please continue to pray for these defendants and for the others on trial for peacefully protesting against an oppressive tyranny, and for true justice to triumph.

Iran to Put British Embassy Staff on Trial

Morning Prayer 8-10-09

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 the 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.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Iraqi Boy Kidnapped, Tortured for Two Years Before Rescue

An incredible story of both cruelty and courage from Iraq: the 8-year-old child of an Iraqi policeman describes his two years of captivity at the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists who tried to pressure his father into freeing captured insurgents. Via CNN:
FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) -- Like many young boys, Khidir loves playing with toy cars and wants to be a policeman like his father when he grows up. But it was his father's very job that caused the tiny child to suffer the unimaginable.

Khidir was just 6 years old when he was savagely ripped away from his family, kidnapped by al Qaeda operatives in Iraq.

"They beat me with a shovel, they pulled my teeth out with pliers, they would go like this and pull it," said Khidir, now 8, demonstrating with his hands. "And they would make me work on the farm gathering carrots."

What followed was even more horrific, an ordeal that would last for two years in captivity. Khidir and his father spoke to CNN recently, more than half a year after his rescue by Iraqi police.

"This is where they hammered a nail into my leg and then they pulled it out," he says, lifting up his pant leg to show a tiny wound.

He says his captors also pulled out each of his tiny fingernails, broke both his arms, and beat him repeatedly on the side of the head with a shovel. He still suffers chronic headaches. He remembers them laughing as they inflicted the pain.

"I would think about my mommy and daddy," he replies, when asked how he managed to get through the agony.

Khadir's father, Abdul, was contacted by the kidnappers, who threatened to slit Khadir's throat if he did not release captured Al Qaeda prisoners in police custody. He refused, and assumed the worst, thinking his son had been murdered.

But a tip earlier this year led to the rescue of Khadir and other children held hostage by Al Qaeda. Thank God for this miraculous intervention that freed Khadir and the other children from their suffering and restored them to the families who had believed they were dead.

Please continue to pray for all the hostages in Iraq and the other war-torn parts of the world, especially those hostages known only to God.

Three Pastors Kidnapped, Beheaded in Nigeria

Unspeakable brutality that reminds us that the hostages we pray for are not only the victims of pirates but of political and religious terrorists with no regard for human life. Via Jihad Watch:
Nigerian Christian pastors beheaded by Boko Haram -- "Education Is Sin" -- Islamic jihad group for refusing to convert to Islam.

No Compulsion In Religion and Education Is Sin Updates: "Boko Haram: How 3 pastors were beheaded eyewitness," by Timothy Ola in the Daily Sun of Lagos, Nigeria (thanks to Skydeexie):
One of the victims of last week’s attack by the Yusufiya sect in Borno State has given a shocking account of how the Islamic extremists killed three pastors who were captured along with other victims on the second day of the insurgence. The victim was among those held hostage in Yusuf’s enclave.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun in Maiduguri, the eye witness who preferred anonymity disclosed that the three pastors were beheaded on the instruction of the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf shortly after bringing them out of his inner chamber.

“The pastors alongside one Ibo man were asked to change their faith to Islam like they did to other people taken as hostages. I think there was an argument by one of the pastors which gave the others some level of confidence to also resist accepting Islam.

“The Yusufiya men who were armed on that Tuesday afternoon were not comfortable with the pastors and they took one of them to the sect leader in his inner chamber. They came out later to the courtyard within the compound and cut their heads one after the other and thereafter, shouted allah akbar in wild celebration accompanied with several gun shots,” the eye witness disclosed.

The article goes on to describe how Pastor George Orjih preached the love of Christ to his murderers up to the moment he was beheaded. While we mourn his loss, and the loss of the other two pastors who refused to convert, we can only give thanks for their courageous witness and take comfort in the knowledge that they have entered into an eternity with their Savior where there is no more suffering and fear.

The article does not say what happened to the other 50 hostages who were kidnapped at the same time. Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusef, however, was killed by Nigerian police after being captured earlier this week.

Please continue to pray for all the hostages and victims of persecution and oppression throughout the world.

Morning Prayer 8/7/09

Psalm 77

1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.

2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.

3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.

4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.

5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;

6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:

7 "Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

10 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.

13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?

14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.

15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.

17 The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.

18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Morning Prayer 8/5/09

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two American Journalists Held in North Korea Pardoned

American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee are free after 6 months of imprisonment in North Korea, after being pardoned and released to former US President Bill Clinton, who traveled to that despotic nation to negotiate on their behalf. Via Associated Press:
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has issued a "special pardon" to two American journalists convicted of sneaking into the country illegally, and he ordered them released during a visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, North Korean media reported early Wednesday.

The release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee was a sign of North Korea's "humanitarian and peaceloving policy," the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Clinton, who arrived in North Korea Tuesday on an unannounced visit, met with the reclusive and ailing Kim — his first meeting with a prominent Western figure since his reported stroke nearly a year ago.

North Korea accused Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, of sneaking into the country illegally in March and engaging in "hostile acts," and the nation's top court sentenced them in June to 12 years of hard labor.

Thank God who has softened the hearts of the tyrants and blessed this mission with success, bringing these two prisoners to liberty once more. Please continue to pray for all the hostages and prisoners of conscience throughout the world.

Possible Amnesty for American Reporters?
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

Mid-Day Devotion 8/4/09

1 While Jeremiah was still confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the LORD came to him a second time: 2 "This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 3 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'
Jeremiah 33:1-3

For Jeremiah, for the prophet of the Lord as he looked around, it would have been easy for him to abandon his faith as so many before him. Like so many around him, he looked and he watched as the children of God, those who had seen great and mighty things at the hands of the Lord God Almighty, those who delivered out of the hands of the Egyptian masters, those who were handed victory over the Philistines, those who were given a great land, a land of milk and honey, forswear the promises of the Lord. He watched as they fell away, he watched as they abandoned their faith, and there, to their own demise, to their own destruction, they were carried off, they were carried off to foreign masters in foreign lands. And they thrived there, they thrived there bowing before these foreign masters, not even fully realizing that they were slaves, as they gave piece after piece after piece of their souls.

Yet as Jeremiah looked, Jeremiah couldn’t help but see the glory of the Lord as the Lord spoke to him. He couldn’t help but hear the voice, the voice of his God, talking to him, speaking to him, telling him great things. He couldn’t help but find himself amidst the majesty of His Heavenly Father, a Heavenly Father who cared for him and loved him, and there, there amidst even the most brutal captivity, even amidst the worst of situations, even as the world fell around him, prone to chaos and suffering, Jeremiah could not turn his back from the Lord, he could not avert his eye, he couldn’t pretend as if God wasn’t there. Instead, in all things, through all things, he gave glory to His name, he knelt before Him, he bowed his head in humble submission even as he saw the Temple in Jerusalem collapse, the glory of the kings fade around him, even as he saw foreign masters rise and fall. For through it all, and in it all, there was one constant, one universal, one transcending, encompassing truth: the Lord God Almighty, the Lord God of righteousness, was there. He was there to care for and protect His children, He was there to be faithful to them, to deliver them, to ensure that His truth transcended the ages, to ensure that His people were protected, guarded, loved and guided in all things and through all things.

We don’t often hear the voice of the Lord, not like Jeremiah did, so clearly speaking that we could make out the words whispered in our ears, we don’t hear the Lord like Samuel did, calling to him, we don’t see His face as St. Paul did on that road to Damascus, we don’t see His anger as a bolt of lightening hits the ground and the earth shakes all around us. We don’t see His presence in the same way that Jacob saw it as he wandered through the desert.

And yet, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t there, it doesn’t mean that He has abandoned this world or that He never was there. What it shows is that He works His ways in ways even more mysterious than we could ever imagine, in ways more mysterious and glorious and miraculous than even the prophets and the saints, the disciples and the apostles could have seen. For He is that ever-vigilant, ever-present, ever-moving force in the world that shows us great and wonderous things, and who there contends with the cause of the prophets and the apostles, who there contends with the cause of His children. He is the God who is ever-present in the struggles of the captives, the captives and the prisoners who are ripped from their homes. He is a God who works His ways as the innocence is ripped from those who just sought to live their lives, and who then found themselves the victims of weak and evil individuals, who use terror and hatred, fear and loathing, as their weapons. He is there to contend with the cause of the political prisoners and the religious prisoners, the sex slaves and the laboring slaves, the captives and the hostages, those who are treated as nothing more than cattle, their lives held cheap, their bodies bruised and broken. He is there to contend with their cause in all things, through all things as He was there with Jeremiah, as He was there in all ages, through all ages. He is there because He loves His children and has a purpose in all things for their lives.

Trust in the promises of the Lord, the promises He made to Moses, the promises that He made to Joshua, the promises that He has made to each and every one of us. Though we may not see that encompassing presence in all things and through all things in our lives as greatly as the prophets once had, He is still there, moving throughout this world, binding us together, linking us together, and bringing to the Lord God Almighty, our Heavenly Father who cares for us. Be of good courage, be of good courage and of strength, look to the power of His might and know that He shall contend with the cause of His children.

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

Hansa Stavanger Released

More good news from Somalia, where the German cargo ship the Hansa Stavager was released yesterday after 4 months of captivity. This comes just after the release of another long-held ship, the Masindra 7, on Saturday. Via Bloomberg News:
Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A German-flagged ship and its crew were freed four months after the container vessel was seized by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The Hansa Stavanger is being escorted to the Kenyan port of Mombasa by two vessels of the European Union’s anti-piracy force, Daniel Auwermann, a spokesman for the unit’s operational headquarters in Northwood, England, said today by phone. He declined to say whether a ransom was paid.

Ahmed Hassan, a member of the pirate gang that hijacked the vessel, said in an interview that the brigands released the ship yesterday after receiving $2.7 million from the owners, Hamburg- based Leonhardt-Blumberg.

“There were critical disputes over the amount of ransom recently, but we’ve now received our money,” Hassan said late yesterday by phone from the city of Harardhere, central Somalia.

A spokeswoman for Leonhardt-Blumberg who identified herself only by her surname, Reuter, said the company would not comment beyond a statement welcoming the crew’s release.

The Hansa Stavanger, a 21,000 deadweight-ton freighter, was seized on April 4 about 400 miles (645 kilometers) east of Mombasa, in an area where pirates had not previously been active. It was then taken to Somali waters near Harardhere, the company said.

Thank God for the release of these two ships and for the safety of their crews who will now be able to return to their homes and loved ones. Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of the remaining ships held by pirates.

Morning Prayer 8/4/09

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, August 3, 2009

Masindra 7 Released

Good news from Somalia, where the crew of the Masindra 7, held captive for 8 months, has been released unharmed. Via BBC:
Eleven Indonesian sailors have been released by Somali pirates almost eight months after their ship was hijacked.

The crew of the Malaysian tugboat Masindra 7 were captured in mid-December as they sailed to Male, Maldives, an EU spokesman said.

A ransom was paid for the release, a Kenyan-based NGO, Ecoterra International, told AFP news agency.

Thank God that the sailors are all safe after their long ordeal and will be returning home soon. Please continue to pray for the safe release of all those being held by pirates in this dangerous region.

Remains of Capt. Scott Speicher Recovered

The remains of Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher have been returned to the US and positively identified more than 18 years after his jet was shot down during the First Gulf War in 1981. Via CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The remains of the first American shot down in the 1991 Persian Gulf War have been uncovered, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Sunday.

U.S. Navy Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher was shot down in an F/A-18 Hornet on January 17, 1991, the first night of the war.

The announcement early Sunday of the discovery of Speicher's remains ends more than 18 years of speculation about whether Speicher may have survived the crash and been held captive, or died in captivity in the ensuing years.

"The news that Captain Speicher's remains have been recovered is a reminder of the selfless service that led him to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom," President Obama said in a statement. Video Watch: Naval aviator's remains found »

"I am grateful to the [U.S.] Marines who pursued the information that led to Captain Speicher's recovery so that he can now come home. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, and I hope that the recovery of his remains will bring them a needed sense of closure," Obama said.

Speicher's family thanked the military in a statement Sunday, saying Speicher "was a brave and wonderful father, husband, and naval officer who responded without hesitation when his country needed him. ... We thank the active duty men and women whose diligence has made this happen, and hope that this process has prevented another of our service men and women from being left behind.

"We will miss him, and will never forget. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers."

Our condolences to Capt. Speicher's family and loved ones who have endured so patiently during these long years, and our thanks to the Marines who never gave up searching for him and were able to bring him home at last.

Three American Hikers Detained by Iran

Three Americans hiking in the Kurdish region of Iraq were detained by Iranian authorities Friday after they strayed across an unmarked border crossing. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- Swiss diplomats are trying to meet with three American hikers being held in Iran, the Swiss Embassy in Tehran said Monday.

The embassy would not say whether Iranian authorities had responded to their request or if diplomats had met the Americans.

Four American friends -- seasoned travelers -- were hiking through Iraq's Kurdistan region last week before three of them crossed the unmarked border with Iran, where Iranian authorities detained them.

Kurdish officials identified the hikers as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, CNN confirmed Sunday. The fourth hiker, Shon Meckfessel, stayed behind in Iraq.

"My husband and I are eager for the best welfare and conditions for our son, Josh, and for the other two companions he's with," Laura Fattal of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, told CNN Radio. "And that is our only concern, his welfare and the best conditions for him."

Meckfessel, a graduate student at the University of Washington, was identified by his grandmother, who told CNN that he stayed behind because he felt sick. Meckfessel met with a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the embassy said.

"My grandson has asked me not to talk to the media," said Irene Meckfessel of Carmichael, California, before hanging up Saturday.

Iran's state-run media reported that Iranian security forces arrested the three Americans on Friday on charges of illegally entering the country from Iraq's Kurdistan region and that the matter is under investigation.

Please pray that this incident is resolved quickly and that the three young people are released unharmed without this turning into a major ordeal like the recent Roxana Saberi case.

Morning Prayer 8/3/09

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done,
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth,

O King of all the ages
Who can fail to do you homage, Lord
and sing the praises of your Name
for you only are the Holy One.

All nations will draw near and fall down before you
because your just and holy works have been revealed.

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.