The Power of Prayer

Prayer

Before reading the story below I had never heard of Pahrump, Nevada. Google it and you’ll see a listing of “adult entertainment” that gives an indication of what might be its “claim to fame.”

Here’s the story:

In Pahrump, Nevada, the Diamond D brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business.

In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding, with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

Work on Diamond D’s project progressed until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the building and burned it to the ground! After the brothel burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about “the power of prayer.”

But shortly thereafter, Jill Diamond, the owner/madam of Diamond D, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church “was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business, either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.” 

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork that we now have a brothel owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that thinks otherwise.”

The moral of this story is we’d better be careful about how and for what we pray. And if we really trust God to answer our prayer, when he answers the way we asked, we’d better be willing to say that that’s exactly what happened and to give him the credit.

God bless your day!

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Jesus Loves the Little Children

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That was the topic of my brief devotion at the office of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod this week. I shared some graphic representations of little children with Jesus and three actual photos of God’s children living today.

Photo #1 was my grandniece Amanda Wheaton and her two children, Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Some of you may recall that they are the survivors of triplets born prematurely (about one pound six ounces each) on Christmas Day 2013. That means they will turn four years old this Christmas. Their little brother Logan Christopher met Jesus the day after he was born.

Although not without ongoing physical challenges, Emma and Anna are doing remarkably well, by the grace of God. Jesus loves Emma and Grace. And Jesus also loves Logan.

Photo #2 was 15 month old Lily Grace Stigall, great granddaughter of Marlene Hahn, who worked for many years in the Texas District LCMS office. Lily is in Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin after a Thanksgiving evening fall into a backyard pool. Initially fighting for her life, Lily is now breathing on her own, yet faces many challenges on the road to restoration.

Thousands of people across the nation and around the world are praying for her complete recovery, which would be truly miraculous. Please join Lily’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and their entire family in praying for this precious child. Jesus loves Lily.

Photo #3 was my 101 2/3rd year old mother, Elda Kieschnick. Although in a much different chronological category than Emma, Anna, and Lily, Mother Elda is still very much a child of God, who prays every day to see him face to face. Jesus loves Elda.

That’s the message of Christmas, my dear friends. Jesus loves the little children, no matter how old we are. Here’s how the familiar song goes:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world!

That includes you, my friend. God bless your day!

The Center of Life

Bible

Q: What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 117
Q: What is the longest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 119
Q: What chapter is in the center of the Bible? A: Psalm 118

Facts: There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters after Psalm 118. Add those numbers together and the result is 1188.

Q: What is the center verse in the Bible? A: Psalm 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?
A: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

The next time someone says he or she would like to find God’s perfect will for his or her life and that he or she wants to be in the center of his will, just send him or her to the center of his Word!

My prayer for each of you: Dear Lord, bless my friends in whatever area of their lives you know they need this day. May their lives be full of peace, prosperity, and power, love, life, and laughter as they seek a closer relationship with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reformation 500

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Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

Onward, Christian Soldiers

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One of my favorite ancient childhood memories is a privilege that was afforded each child in Sunday school at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Houston. All children and teachers gathered in the auditorium for a joint opening with hymn and prayer before going to our individual classes.

During that brief time the week before a child’s birthday he or she was invited to pick the hymn for that day. My favorite was Onward, Christian Soldiers. I picked it every year.

That hymn, #662 in Lutheran Service Book, is not sung very often these days. In fact, until last Wednesday’s memorial service at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown for John Draheim, a longtime friend of mine and Terry’s, it had been quite a while since those words had left my lips.

Verse two goes like this: “Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

As I sang that verse last week, my mind wandered to the question of whether the Church of God was or was not more united in hope, in doctrine, and in charity than it is today. We know from history that the Church has often had struggles and divisions and most likely always will have.

That’s evident in the organic division among national Christian denominations and internal disharmony within denominations, including my own church body. The basic points of doctrinal agreement are accompanied by areas of disagreement. That’s simply a fact.

What gives me hope are the words of verse three: “Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the Church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail; we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

That’s still one of my favorite hymns!

A Time for Everything

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Today’s quote comes from Holy Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

These words were written by King Solomon, son of King David and builder of the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon goes on in this chapter to talk about other times, seasons, and activities in addition to the ones quoted above.

His list includes a time for killing, healing, tearing down, building up, crying, laughing, grieving, dancing, scattering stones, gathering stones, embracing, turning away, keeping, throwing away, tearing, mending, being quiet, speaking, loving, hating, war, and peace. Quite a list!

The impetus for selecting the quote above is this past Monday’s arrival of the season of spring. For everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest. Although spring has just arrived, much planting has already occurred. Harvest will come.

Spring is my favorite season, partly because it brings vast fields of wildflowers. Even before the official arrival of spring we’ve been blessed by the beauty of Bluebonnets and other strikingly gorgeous blankets of blooms across the fields and along the highways of the great state of Texas.

Other parts of the country have similar but different floral beauty. Even a simple list of official state flowers in the U.S. includes an impressive variety of natural beauty, from the Camellia in Alabama to the Indian paintbrush in Wyoming and everything in between. Check out the list at: http://www.50states.com/flower.htm

Martin Luther has an interesting quote of his own in this regard: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” He also said: “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring time.”

Indeed, this is a season for planting, harvesting, and thanking God for his grace, displayed this season in the flowers that add beauty to his earth and to our life!

Obstacles in Life

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A story: One day a man walking down a path saw a butterfly cocoon that was about to open. As he watched, a small opening appeared in the cocoon. For several hours the butterfly struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared to have gone as far as it could go.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily, but it had a withered body. It was tiny and its wings were shriveled.

The man continued to watch because he expected that at any moment the wings would open, enlarge, and expand, to be able to support the butterfly’s body. That didn’t happen. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings. It never was able to take flight.

What the man in his kindness and good intentions did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If allowed to go through life without any obstacles, we would not be as strong as we might otherwise have been. Essentially, without struggles or obstacles we might never be able to achieve what God created us to accomplish.

One writer’s applications of this story to life:

  • I asked for strength and was given difficulties to make me strong.
  • I asked for prosperity and was given a brain and brawn to work.
  • I asked for courage and was given obstacles to overcome.
  • I asked for love and was given troubled people to help.
  • I asked for wisdom and was given problems to solve.
  • I asked for favors and was given opportunities.
  • I received nothing I wanted but everything I needed.

The moral of this story: Live life without fear and confront obstacles that arise, knowing and trusting that by God’s grace and with his power, nothing is impossible! (Luke 1:37)