A Written Prayer

From the moment we could put sounds together to form real words, our parents helped and encouraged us to say something that, although another human might not understand, your heavenly Father could. It was a prayer; a prayer of blessing and of thanksgiving, a prayer of sorrow and defeat, of longing and of peace. Prayer is the line of communication to our Father. It is part of the bond that we experience as His precious sons and daughters. In order for our relationship with our Lord and Savior to grow, we must “pray without ceasing” as we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. This means that prayer is a regular occurrence and should have a special part in our personal devotional life as well.

All too often as I am praying at night right before laying my head on the pillow, my mind drifts off to the events of the day, or I find myself drifting into sleep before ending my prayer. This is a serious mistake because prayer is so serious. Not only am I talking to a friend, but the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Not only am I talking to a father, but my heavenly Father. Not only am I talking to a God, but to my God and my Redeemer, the One who laid down His life for me at the bitter and shameful cross. And I thank Him by falling asleep as I try to muster up enough energy to repeat the all too familiar lines of previous prayers. I struggled with this for a while until a good friend of mine suggested something that has changed my prayer life and has helped me think deeply about what I am saying to my Father.

She suggested that I write a prayer journal. At first, I thought that would take too much time but that’s exactly the point! Sitting down with a notebook and a pen and actually writing every word out does take longer, but that is the blessedness about it! You get to spend more time talking to your heavenly Father! When I started writing a journal, my prayers felt more personal as I thought harder and longer about how the Lord had blessed me and what I was thankful for and who I wanted to pray for. It was as if heaven was brought down, closer to me in those late hours of my day as I poured out my heart to my Father in the pages of my journal. Sometimes, I even look back and read my previous prayers. There is joy as I see the prayers that God has answered and how He used every individual person and situation to mold me into the person I am today.

Writing my own prayer journal has helped me with my prayers, and I strongly encourage you to try it out too. None of us will be perfect with our prayers, but I firmly believe that this can help us think more about what we say when we enter into the presence of our Father and to mean every single word of that written prayer.

Arianne VanUffelen

What’s the Best Network?

There is nothing as commonly used today as the internet. You are on it right now! I used the internet to research and write this blog post. Over 55% of the entire world’s population have frequent interaction with the internet (1). Jim Gilliam, founder and CEO of Nation Builder, an organization devoted to giving everyone opportunity to become leaders through the internet (2), said that “god is just what happens when humanity is connected…the truth is we all owe every moment of our lives to countless people we will never meet”(3). He believes that the internet has given man power to be god because it connects billions of people. I believe that the true triune God is the only One that can beautifully network people. I think we can take value from analyzing the internet’s role in the world and God’s church throughout all nations in regards to the connection of the world through the internet and the shortcomings within these networks.

The internet connects the world in a way nothing ever has before. Distance, language, and culture is becoming less and less of a barrier between people. These things certainly still play their part, but it is much easier to get past them through web applications to translate, instantly connect, and learn about one another. The scary truth is who has the most influence on the internet. Often, leaders on the internet are not good examples. The world does not pick leaders based on ethical rightness but follow as a flock, and all “like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Consider Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Today, the internet has made it easier than ever before to follow that which is right in their own eyes. One can sit in the cover of his or her screen and enjoy sinful pleasures only wealthy men such as King Ahasuerus, who summoned all the women for a beauty contest, once had. The internet can quickly connect us with wickedness. 

However, this first point is not to say the internet is awful and should never be used. The internet has many benefits and we rejoice in this truth as well. The internet has opened many doors for spreading the gospel. Tools are accessible to study the Bible, it is easier to communicate with other believers near and far, and social media provides an opportunity to let our light shine. In our current situation with the coronavirus, the internet provides us some connection with others even when we remain home. It is not the same, but we rejoice we can still talk with one another and have some semblance of a worship service on Sunday. The connection the internet provides can be a great blessing when used properly for God’s glory.

While billions are connected through the internet, God’s remnant is also connected through one Spirit and one mind in the service of Him. This connection is far superior. In our network, we seek God’s glory. We do not seek our entertainment or sinful pleasures as many do through the internet. We do not walk after the flesh in this bond, but all together “we live in the spirit” and “walk in the spirit” (Gal. 5:25). In this bond, we are called to minister one to another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 6:10, 10:24). When Jesus speaks to God he prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). I have heard from those around me who disregard the network of faith ask, “How do you have so many friends in so many places?” They are puzzled at the fact I have friends in the Philippines, Canada, Ireland, and all across America. I have made many friends in only a week at convention. Other friends I have only met over social media. It is because of the bond of faith that draws all God’s people together that I can be confident of my friendship with these friends abroad. When we speak of Christ with one another we quickly grow in friendship and the true union that can only be found in Him.

These networks at times have their errors and their faults. Though it is amazing that so many are connected and can share information through the internet, this freedom allows for many to spread false information. As information rapidly flies around, it can be hard to know what information is real and what to trust. There is also the issue of connection. At times one can lose connection to the internet or have poor service. In God we will never be taken from his covenant because it is “an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7).

As God’s people we have perfect union with God and with one another as saints. However, while we are still on earth sin often sets a barrier to this union. Sin is all that prevents perfect fellowship. Sin is often referred to as transgression, rebellion (Ps. 32:1). When we sin we distance ourselves from God and say, “I do not want to follow Your way for me.” In our sin, we might hold grudges towards one another rather than forgive each other’s sins. However, we can forgive one another of these sins and the perfect unity in the spirit can be enjoyed again. We find greater comfort in God who has forgiven our sin and compasses us with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7). We see here how even though sin might at times make us feel bitter toward one another or make us feel distant from God, the unity in the Spirit is far greater than the connection found on the internet. We look forward to the day God will unite us all in heaven where sin will no longer hinder our union with Him and with one another. 

It is amazing how connected the world has become through the internet. As God’s people, there are many benefits we can enjoy in this connection. In current times, we may not be able to gather physically as brethren in God, but we can be thankful too for the connections we have through the internet. We thank God especially that we have an everlasting covenant of perfect union with Him and our fellow brethren in Christ. In our place within these networks, may we always be mindful of our unity with God and serve Him by our use of the internet and through our relationships with one another.

 

Luke Christian Potjer

 

Sources

  1. World Economic Forum, 2020: “https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-digital-divide-internet-data-broadband-mobbile/#:~:text=Globally%2C%20only%20just%20over%20half,in%20the%20past%20two%20decades.
  2. Nation Builder Mission: https://nationbuilder.com/mission
  3. Jim Gillian, “The Internet is my Religion”, 2011: https://www.jimgilliam.com/pdf11

Jehovah

Read Exodus 2 and 3

As prince of Egypt, Moses likely felt untouchable when he hashed out the idea to try to spring the Israelites out of bondage himself, killing the Egyptian man. He must have been shocked, his world flipped completely upside down when it was not the Egyptians who first sought to punish him, but the Israelites. The people who were his family, the ones whom he was seeking to avenge, turned against him in scorn, asking if he would kill them next. When Pharaoh finally caught word of what Moses had done, being his adopted grandson was no longer enough for impunity. Moses felt the only way to preserve his life was to flee to the mountains and begin life as a shepherd.

The doubt that must have flooded Moses’ mind! Here he had planned out a way to make the Israelites love him. He left the palace that day and “looked on their burdens.” Maybe this was the first time he had truly seen the bondage of Israel, but since Pharaoh’s daughter had asked his own mother to raise him, he was likely not only aware but a witness to the situation his entire life. Maybe there was already tension between him and his fellow people because of this, for he and his family likely were exempt from the slavery and bondage that the rest of Israel experienced because of the princess who had pulled him out of the bullrushes. While all of the other boys and young men in Israel were beaten down by the heat in the fields each day, Moses spent the hours of his childhood being educated and pampered in royalty. 

In a time of prosperity, Moses depended on his own strength. Never in the account of Moses’ young adulthood and even childhood is it mentioned that he turned to God. He was raised by a godly mother, one who had faith that He would preserve her son, refusing to throw him to the river to drown and be eaten by the crocodiles. Yet Moses, just like many children of God in times of prosperity, forgot to trust in God and not lean on his own understanding. It was not yet God’s time to relieve His people of the burden of bondage, and yet Moses attempted to place God’s plan on his time instead.

In his life as the adopted son of the princess of Egypt, it was probably quite unlikely that Moses would have ever imagined himself as a shepherd, a lowly and lonely occupation. It would have been completely humbling to leave a life where everything was done for him and enter a new life where he had to fend for himself. However, all this time God was preparing Moses, and when God decided it was time, appearing to Moses in the burning bush, suddenly he doubted. The Moses who was confident on his own in Egypt, ready to lead the charge, no longer felt fit to do so. He stumbled through questions and excuses, likely rooted in the doubts of the past, following his first attempt. “The people will not follow me,” he tried to argue. “Pharaoh will never listen.” But God gave Moses the comfort that lasts forever, the comfort He gives to all of His people today, in this time of uncertainty, the same uncertainty that Moses faced.

Only months ago, life was full. There seemed to be little to worry about in the world, and maybe we, like Moses, struggled to turn to God and rely on Him. When finances and food were not a daily question, and we too lived like princes, the temptation to rely on our own strength instead of resting under the covert of our Father’s wings was overwhelming. Since then, the United States and Iran increased tensions, Australia burned, Northern Africa was ravaged by locusts, and COVID-19 has rampaged, leaving the world uncertain for the future. The world turns and points fingers, trying to find someone to blame or someone who will step up, a doctor or scientist to create a vaccine for life to return to “normal.” Are we caught up in the frenzy? Are you worried about where your next meal will come from or how you’ll pay next month’s rent? As a college student, are you afraid that, now left without a job for the foreseeable future, you will not be able to afford your education? Will the schools have to close down because there is no funding? Is this swirl of anxieties your own?

Moses stood before the bush with anxieties. The pampered, luxurious life was far behind him, and now he stood as a lowly shepherd, among the poorest, working to make ends meet and fend for himself and his new wife. The Israelites who scorned Moses the last time he was among them are now the people God is calling him to lead from bondage. In Moses’ mind, this is impossible. They hated him then; they’ll never listen to him now.

Our time of luxurious living is in the past now too. Many have lost their jobs or are working odd jobs to, like Moses, make ends meet. The future is uncertain and the damage seems impossible to recover from. Maybe we, in sin, have joined in the throngs, lashing out in anger over what has been taken away. May God give us the contentment of Job, so that we too may say, “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

God’s comfort to Moses is the same comfort He gave to Job and the same comfort He gives to us: His name. Jehovah, I AM THAT I AM. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Even when we fall, relying on our own strength, even when we doubt, He is our God. He will provide. We have no reason to fear. We have no reason to doubt. This world is not our home. The gifts and luxury in times of prosperity were given by His gracious hand, and in times of poverty and instability, when His gracious hand takes those away, He still provides. He is unchanging in His promises to us. 

Moses took comfort and confidence. Maybe in that moment, when God told Him to tell the people of Israel that I AM THAT I AM had sent him, everything in his past flashed before his eyes and he truly saw. The God with him now was not only with him all along but directed him to be the perfect leader for His people. He was not ready yet when he tried to take that into his own hands. By being raised an Egyptian royal, Moses was educated and knew the ways of diplomacy. As a shepherd, he learned how to direct and protect a flock, and now, with the strength of I AM, he was prepared.

The God who was with us in prosperity is still with us now, and we do not need to fear. He will use this, just as he used the events that shook Moses’ world and shook Job’s world, to shake and shape our lives. And when we come out on the other side, we, like Moses, can go forth in our calling with confidence. The events in our lives will change us, molding us into the person God has created us to be. But Jehovah is our God; because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, because He is the I AM THAT I AM, though situations will change, nations will rise and fall, people are born and people die, yet He will remain the same.

 

Alison VanBaren