Friday, June 28, 2013

When We Seek Justice

by Charity Pence
This week's verse: "Then the Lord said, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'" (NKJ)

There are a lot of tragedies in this world that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.  People cause destruction and devastation with their actions, and those of us to witness such things cry out for justice.  But I often catch myself and wonder how I should really feel.

I was reading the story of Jonah a few days ago and something struck me.  The story begins with Jonah's blatant disobedience to God.  God had instructed Jonah to preach to the people at Nineveh, but Jonah refused and went the opposite direction.  For his actions, Jonah was rewarded by being tossed out to sea, swallowed by a big fish, and then vomited onto dry land.  God spoke to Jonah a second time.  "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." Jonah 3:2 (NKJ)  Jonah finally listened, and by reading further we learn why Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh.  The end of chapter three says the people turned from their evil way so God's anger relented.  "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  So he prayed to the Lord and said, 'Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, one who relents from doing harm.'" Jonah 4:1-2 (NKJ)  Jonah didn't believe the people deserved God's forgiveness.  He didn't think it was right.  From this part of the story we learn a couple things.  First of all, God's will will be accomplished.  Jonah had tried to flee, but God intervened.  Next, we learn our Heavenly Father is quick to forgive when we repent.  These are great lessons.  But what stood out to me as I read about Jonah was what God said in verse 4.  "Then the Lord said, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'"

When we hear of bombings, shootings, murders, kidnappings, and countless other tragedies, aren't we quick to anger? Like me, do you watch the news, anxiously waiting to hear the perpetrator has been caught so he or she can be punished? Despite how angry I get, I find myself thinking of how God must be grieving, not just for the innocent blood shed but also for the person who strayed so far from God's plan that he took innocent life.  This is where I throw in a disclaimer stating anger in itself isn't wrong.  Anger is an emotion we were created with, and it lets us know a wrong has been committed.  But there is a difference in being angry and being so angry that we decide what is right, we decide the punishment.  When Jonah's anger got the best of him, God corrected him. 

Our Lord is forgiving; the Bible assures us of this.  "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJ)  And 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  So the next time a tragedy occurs, let us think of God first.  Let us remember who God is so we can show Him to the world and give all the opportunity to truly be sorry and repent.

Dear Heavenly Father, It is hard to grasp why such horrible things are allowed to occur in this world.  For reasons we may never know, there are people who inflict harm upon others and innocent lives are taken.  But I trust You, Lord, and know You have a plan.  You are the judge; I am not.  Forgive me for the times I try to take that title from You and place it upon myself.  Fill me with Your love and mercy so I can share it with this hurting world.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Power Verses:
1 John 2:25 "And this is the promise that He has promised us - eternal life." (NKJ)
1 John 3:11 "For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." (NKJ)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

God Is Our Strength

by Charity Pence

Memory Verse: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." Psalm 34:19 (NKJ)

"I'm not strong enough."
"I can't do it."
"It's more than I can handle."

Do you ever make those statements? I know I do.  What I find interesting, though, is that for all my talk about not being strong enough, I'm strong enough to cling to things I shouldn't.  Perhaps you can relate.  Is there a situation in your life that God has asked you to correct? Have you taken the necessary steps to be obedient? Making changes is hard, regardless of their degree of difficulty.  But I wonder, wouldn't it be easier to make the change and be done with it rather than exerting so much energy on fighting it?

Too many times I've allowed the devil to trap me in negative thought patterns like the ones listed above, but the problem isn't necessarily with the statements alone.  The greater problem is that the statements and the discouragement that comes with them cause me to forget I don't have to have all the strength.  Instead, I need to call out to Jesus, who is more than enough.  Jesus said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJ)

Allowing ourselves to feel alone is easy, especially when faced with challenging circumstances.  But God is right there with us.  And "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:19.  Don't let Satan fool you into thinking you're on your own to battle this world.  Jesus says, "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." John 14:18 (KJV)  Trust God to show you the way.  "In all ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:6 (KJV)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for being all that I need, for never forsaking me when life becomes more than I can bear.  Open my eyes so I see you, Lord, and nothing else.  I place my trust in You, and You will not forsake me.  I love You, Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Power Verses:
Psalm 40:4: "Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust."
1 Peter 5:7: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Changes...and a prayer!

As you can see, what was once The Olive Branch has changed.  New name, new look, new layout.  And lots of good things in store.  Our mission is the same.  We hope you will continue in your journey with us as we serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

God bless!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for instilling in us a desire to serve Your kingdom.  Lord, we are so far from perfect, yet You equip us and use us for Your glory.  We love You, Lord, and seek to complete the work you set before us.  Help us to reach those who desire to know You more.  It is in Your name we pray, Amen.