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(On Tuesday, July 16, 2013 a toddler in a town nearby was missing. Isaiah lived with his parents in the country, just outside a little village of barely 1000 people. Even so, over 4,000 people joined in the search for Isaiah. Just over 24 hours later, the toddler was found in the locked trunk of a car. Perhaps a game of hide-and-seek gone wrong? We’ll never know. However, the area has been devastated by the loss. Following is the prelude to a prayer I was honored to make at a community candle light vigil the day after Isaiah was found. My purpose for posting it is two-fold. First for those who have lost a child, may this encourage you. Secondly, for those who are faced with similar situations, may these words offer words of support. God Bless you all, and may God offer comfort to Dad, Mom and brother.)


In honor of Isaiah Theis

During times of tragedy there are always the questions of why and how. There are the thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if onlys’. But in the end what really matters is that we are a hurting people. Hurting people show hurt in different ways. Some show it in anger, others in sorrow.

Tonight we come together to remember, to cry, to wonder, to celebrate a life. Each of us grieves in our own personal way. For those of you who knew the rambunctious and unpredictable Isaiah, you have a hole in your heart only time will heal. Those of us who prayed and walked and gave of our material possessions did so because we felt we could make a difference and now feel a great loss even though we didn’t know him.

As we pray together I want to share a verse with you from a book in the Bible that bears Isaiah’s name. Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Tonight, although we weep, we also know that Isaiah is in the arms of Jesus Christ. We mourn, but not as a people with no hope for in Jesus Christ there is always hope. Tragedy can either pull us apart or it can bring us together and make us stronger. Let the memory of Isaiah make us a closer, stronger community.

You came to look for Isaiah because you wanted to make a difference and you still can. There is no pain greater than to lose a child. The search for Isaiah is over; the opportunity to support his family and each other has only begun.

And so, we come before a God who loves us, forgives us, and at times confuses us, but never leaves us. Let us pray for Isaiah’s family and friends, and for ourselves. Let us hold our children and loved ones close and pray that God’s love will grow among us because of our continued support of each other.

Let us pray!

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NLT)

Because I believe in the God of Genesis and believe that everything He makes is good,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Because I believe that nothing, absolutely nothing that happens today has not passed through the screening of His perfect will,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I am misunderstood, I know that my Heavenly Father knows the truth about me and my motives. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I suffer from the consequences of my own poor choices I know that I will not walk alone because even then His hand of love and compassion. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I suffer from the abusive hand of evil people, I know that my Father will comfort me and heal me with the healing salve of his love. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I rebel and find myself in a situation I never thought I’d be in I know I can confess my sin to Him and will be forgiven. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I am harassed because of my beliefs or mocked for my stand for Jesus, I will be comforted by the fact that Jesus Himself was also mistreated. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

I may not always agree with the things that come my way. My prayers will not always be answered in the way I hoped. Tragedy will come. Pain will happen. I will be rejected by my friends. I will lose loved ones. But because my faith rests in the God of Genesis, the creator/sustainer of the universe, who loves me beyond measure,

I am resolved to have a good day.

PRAYER: Father God, I don’t know what is ahead for me today. I may suffer loss, or victory. I may suffer pain or experience healing. I may be afraid or courageous. Whatever comes my way I ask that you would empower me to live my life in the realization that nothing can happen to me unless your loving hand allows it. I may not agree or understand but I trust you. Therefore I am resolved that since you made this day, it will be a good day. Amen.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:7

“I’ll pray for you.” We say it all the time, especially as believers. I remember when my son was only a few months old. He was very sick and the doctors in our small town couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We were referred to a doctor in a much larger city, very well-known for it’s medical expertise.

As we were making the preparations to go and word spread, many from our church called or stopped by to offer support and prayers. Some even prayed with us. The one comment that sticks in my mind the most was a dear lady where I worked. In a very sincere voice she said, “We’ll be thinking of you.”

The reason her comment has stayed with me all these years is because of how empty those words were. ‘Thinking of me? What good will that do?’ Of course I knew her heart and sincerity, but I was struck by the fact that our prayers are so much more than simply thinking sympathetic, heartfelt thoughts about something or someone. Prayer, whether spoken, written or simply thought in our minds, is a personal, intimate communication with the eternal, omnipotent, all-knowing God of love! What a privilege we have to approach Him in that way for ourselves and on the behalf of others.

The apostle Peter was taken prisoner and sentenced to death. The Bible gives us no indication that he was distraught about this, but it does give us a picture of God’s people in action. We don’t know the details, but at some point after his arrest a prayer meeting was held to pray for his deliverance. It was in the midst of that prayer meeting that an angel appeared to Peter. How many of us, if we were in prison and to be executed the next day, would have to be awakened from a deep sleep! Peter wasn’t worried. He knew that whatever happened, God’s will would be done.

Prayer works. Don’t think prayer doesn’t work when you don’t get the answers you want. Don’t think it a waste of time because no one will hear you. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the privilege, honor and responsibility to approach the very throne of God. Don’t take the matter of prayer lightly. When you say you will pray for someone, do it. Right then. Whether you are driving, walking, in a meeting or working, PRAY! You don’t know how much impact your prayer may have on the person(s) involved.

As a body of Christ we must always be ready to fight the enemy. Prayer is our major weapon of attack. It was no doubt the fact that Peter ‘knew’ his friend were praying that allowed him to sleep that night.

One more thought. Surround yourself with people who pray. ‘Thinking of others’ is a nice gesture, but thinking of someone doesn’t really do anyone any good. Your problems may not go away when you have friends praying but the burden will be lighter.

PRAYER: Holy God, I thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for the example of prayer in the life of the early church. Like Peter, I ask that I can have the faith to rest in the midst of despair because I know people are praying for me and your perfect will will be done. Help me to remember to pray for others and not treat it as merely a spiritual exercise. Help me to really believe that prayer works. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What makes you happy? What causes you to have joy? If you were to ask most people this question they would no doubt describe an activity, a person, a certain type of weather or some environmental situation.

It’s human nature for us to allow the environment around us to dictate our moods and disposition. The Apostle Paul teaches us that this reaction to the things around us is completely opposite of how we should react as Christ-followers. He tells us that we should always be joyful. Joy should be a defining characteristic of each of us regardless of what is going on around us.

Paul goes on to say that we should pray continually. This doesn’t mean that we should spend all of our time going around with our eyes closed, our heads bowed and completely oblivious to the world around us. Paul is telling us that wherever we are, and in whatever situation we find ourselves in, we should have a constant awareness that God is there, He’s aware of our thoughts and feelings and He wants to be a part of every part of our life.

Lastly Paul says that we should be thankful in all circumstances. There are some people who will try to get you to believe that if you only have enough faith and trust in Jesus then all of your circumstances will be happy ones. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, take a look at the life of Paul! The very person that writes that we should have unending joy and thankfulness was left for dead after being stoned, beaten numerous times, spent several nights in a cold dark prison and was shipwrecked. He spent much of his ministry in conflict with either the Romans (who eventually killed him) or the Jews (who tried several times to murder him).

Sometimes people allow their circumstances to control their entire lives. They let circumstances affect their job, school, relationships and even their view of God. They become bitter, angry and discouraged. Feelings of hopelessness and failure seem to follow them everywhere they go. Their attitude can even affect those around them and destroy the atmosphere of an entire room!

How was Paul able to live a life of joy and thankfulness in such painful circumstances? Paul learned and lived a lesson that each of us should learn: We don’t rejoice in the circumstances that hold us. We rejoice in the One who holds the circumstances!

Faith in Jesus is more than a ‘pie in the sky’ philosophy. The rewards we get from following Him aren’t only limited to eternity. He is with us wherever we go. He loves us no matter what. He is always willing to forgive us and comfort us.

Sometimes we suffer because of our own poor decisions. Sometimes we suffer because other people are evil and intent on hurting us. Regardless of the reason for your pain, Jesus wants you to know that he loves you and will help you through every circumstance you encounter, no matter how painful; no matter who is at fault.

Learn to rejoice in the one who holds your circumstances and the power of those circumstances to hold you will be destroyed. You will be able to live a life of joy in the midst of adversity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you for the fact that you know what I’m going through. I praise you for the truth that no matter what happens around me, You are there to comfort, love and strengthen me. I want to live a life of joy and thankfulness. Please empower me by Your Holy Spirit to rejoice in you and not let my environment affect how I feel about myself, others or you. Amen.

 “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11

In Old Testament times when people were in deep distress they would put on sackcloth and wail in anguish. This was particularly true when they mourned over the death of a loved one. As it is today, this was perhaps the deepest agony of all. Death brings with it the loss of dreams, the loss of companionship and the loss of hope for the future.

In Psalm 30 David recounts the many times that God has delivered his people from a variety of disappointments and tragedies. In verse 11 of this song of praise he tells us how, in the midst of their agony God brought them joy. The rough and uncomfortable clothing of sackcloth became clothing of joy and comfort. Their songs of agony became songs of praise.

As we travel along the journey we call life there are many times when tragedy comes upon us. It can be the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job or a broken relationship. People we trust let us down. We let people down we trust and love dearly. We grow old and change becomes harder to adjust too. Health and financial woes remove our hopes and dreams.

How we react to the hard times of life is really up to us. We can dwell on the pain or we can allow God to turn even our own most desperate times into a time of joy and comfort. How we respond to adversity is largely dependent on our view of God and of ourselves.

If we allow the words and actions of other people to determine how we feel about ourselves and God then we will feel the pain of life’s disappointments. Life will seem hopeless. Pain and discomfort will be the rule of our days and sleeplessness will spend the night with us.

If we realize God’s great love and provision for us then we enable Him to make our darkest times to be times of comfort and joy. It is only God that can take the sackcloth of our mistakes and the abuse of others and turn it to joy. It is only through God’s love that we can endure the hardship of tragedy that comes our way.

You are a child of the God of the universe. You are His most cherished possession and the apple of His eye. Leave the ashes and sackcloth of yesterdays mistakes and abuse be replaced with the comfort of God’s love for you. Replace the wailing for the failures and tragedies of the past with praise for the fact that through faith in Jesus Christ you will see a better tomorrow.

You won’t find lasting joy here on earth through relationships, toys, wealth, power or popularity. Lasting joy comes only through complete faith in Jesus and the realization of God’s great love for you.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I’m in such turmoil today. You know the pain I’m feeling. You know the mistakes and tragedies of my past that handcuff me. I’m trapped by feelings of hopelessness and despair. To be honest there have been times of late when I’ve doubted your love or even your presence. I ask that you would empower me through faith in Jesus and the power of your Spirit to clothe myself with your joy and comfort even as I walk through these dark and lonely times. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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