The Second Half
Last weekend I attended a conference titled "Women on the Front Lines." Two of the speakers, Patricia King and Clarice Fluitt, are not only pastors but professional motivational speakers. They combined preaching the Gospel with motivating the attendees to do something about it. This is ongoing evangelization at its finest.
Many of the people there, like me, are in what might be called "the second half of life." Of course, we don't really know how long we are going to live, so we don't know exactly when our second half starts, but we can assume that at 50 we are beginning that second half. Both women urged us not to slow down, not to retire, not to think that our work with and for God is finished just because we are over 50.
Patricia told us that at the age of 50 she had never written a book. Now she has written 35. She started her own publishing company and media enterprise after the age of 50. She is still creating, still dreaming, still going with God. She is enjoying her life, her children and her grandchildren. She plans to "die with her boots on" whenever God calls her home. But in the meantime she is actively pursuing the plans God has for her.
For Reflection: Have I taken on a retirement mentality? Have I decided that God is through with me? Or that I am finished with God?
Let us pray. God, I agree with your word, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I declare that I am strong in you and in the strength of your might and in your love.
Jesus never traveled outside of a small geographical area, yet his life changed the world. Today we have the opportunity not only for physical travel around the world but also for virtual travel around the globe through social media. I know, for example, that people in varied countries have read this blog and contacted me by email. So, how many people can we touch?
We can touch the people in our daily lives just by smiling and being pleasant. Do you know how unusual this is today? Look around you. How many people look happy? Perhaps very few. But I think that Christians should look happy, and I know it is easier said than done. We know that our Redeemer lives; we know that everything works together for good for those who love Jesus; we know that we are going from glory to glory. Given what we know, we should be happy and that happiness should be reflected on our faces.
For Reflection: In my world today, what difference can I make by smiling and being pleasant?
Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too will Christians be raised. With these words Paul again comforts the people of the church in Thessalonica who have lost loved ones. They will be with Christ in heaven. He has the Lord's word on this.
Paul speaks about the resurrection, "According to the Lord's own word" in 4:15. Either Jesus spoke of this while he was alive and it was not written in the Gospels, being left to the oral tradition, or Paul had a personal revelation of it. Specifically he says, "We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thess 4:15-17).
So, when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise first and then those who are still alive will rise to meet Christ in the air. If those who are alive at that time get to see the rising bodies of those who have died, it will be quite a sight. But I don't think Paul was trying to paint a picture so much as trying to reassure the families of the deceased that there would be a bodily resurrection of both the dead and the living, and they would be reunited with their loved ones. We don't know exactly when that will happen, but happen it will (5:1-3).
Let us pray. Jesus,you were crucified, you died and you were buried. You rose on the third day. You ascended into heaven and are seated at the right hand of the Father. You will come again in glory to judge the dead and the living and your kingdom will have no end. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to being with you in the world to come. Because of you we have hope.
Our Sure Hope
Those who have died in faith will rise to eternal happiness. It is this hope of the resurrection to which Paul refers throughout his first letter to the Thessalonians. Christians are not like other people who, when a loved one dies, have no hope of their continued happiness or of ever seeing them again. We will see each other again in the resurrection. That is our sure hope.
So we should not grieve as non-believers do when someone dies. And, in fact, we should not fear death. There is life beyond this one, and it is a better life. In heaven there is no pain, no illness, no sorrow, no mourning. In heaven there is the presence of the complete fullness of God. That is our sure hope (1 Thess 4:13-14).
For Reflection: This hope should make us happy. This hope should reassure us about our future life and the lives of others who are in Christ. Do we have this happiness and assurance deep down within us?
Let us pray. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:1, 2, 5).
Paul continues to stress his themes of faith, love and hope in 1 Thessalonians. Faith in Jesus; love for God, fellow Christians and others; hope in the resurrection to come. In chapters 4 and 5 he gives general instructions for living the Christian life and what to expect at the end.
Evidently some of the people in the church at Thessalonica began to think that Jesus was returning soon and so they slacked off on working. Why work if the Lord is coming back for us in a little while? But Paul encourages them to keep working up until the end, whenever that is, just as Paul himself continued to do (1 Thess 4:11-12). Taking care to provide for oneself and one's family is not a matter of pride; it is a matter of not putting undue burden on others to take care of us. It is hard to share the gospel when others are giving us a handout.
For Reflection: Christians are not to be slackers. Paul continued to work as a tent maker wherever he traveled. We don't all have such portable businesses, but do we lend a hand whenever possible? Are we doing our utmost to provide for ourselves and our families? Are we giving our employers a full day of work for a full day of pay?
For retirees: Are we volunteering our services to anyone?
Let us pray. Jesus, I thank you for the work that I have, that you have given me to do. I thank you for a body that is capable of working, a mind that is fit and active, a disposition that is cheerful. I thank you for my family and that I am able to provide for them.
For those looking for work: Jesus, I look forward to working again at my full capacity. I thank you that you are placing me where I will be happiest and the most productive.
Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
After Paul and Silas left Thessalonica they tried repeatedly to return to the young church there. But, Paul says, "Satan stopped us" (1 Thess 2:18). He is not specific about how Satan stopped them. Perhaps it was the persecution, threats from the authorities, illness or some direct attack by Satan; we don't know. Nevertheless, Paul has hope and joy just thinking about the Thessalonians. It gave him great joy just to remember how they had received the gospel, how they had turned from idol worship to worshiping the one true God, how they had stood under persecution. Paul's reward in life and before God was knowing that he had brought people to Christ. That was his hope, his joy, his glory. No matter what came against him in life, no one could take away what God had done through him - the salvation of more people for the kingdom.
For Reflection: What is keeping me from remembering the great things God has done?
Let us pray. What can keep us from recalling the great works of God? Sickness or depression? Persecution or danger? Loss of job? Criticism by a loved one? No, we are more than conquerors through Jesus. Nothing in creation can separate us from God's love. Jesus, you are my sunshine on every cloudy day (based on Romans 8:35-36).
Faith, Hope, Love, Encouragement
Paul always began his letters with greetings and thanksgivings. His first letter to the people in Thessalonica is no exception. The purpose of the letter is to answer the questions of this young church but he begins with praise and encouragement. Paul assures them that he is constantly praying for them for he knows that they live in a city that is an international trading center with many non-Christian influences in their daily lives. Paul also knows that they have been under persecution because he himself had to flee not that long before he sent this letter back to them.
And what does Paul recall about them? Their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3; see also 1 Corinthians 13:3). Faith, hope and love are the three theological virtues, supernatural virtues, given by God to help us live the Christian life, growing in love with God and others. Paul is commending them for already growing in these virtues even as a young church.
For Reflection: Who needs to hear some praise and encouragement today? Could I be commended for my work produced by faith, my labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope in Jesus?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for my family and friends who encourage me. I thank you particularly for those who encourage me in faith, prompt me to love and inspire me to hope.
A Little Help from My Friends
As I looked around the church on Sunday, I noticed how many people in the congregation were using canes, walkers and crutches. Those are great testimonies to the treatments of modern medicine, but not such great testimonies to the healing power of Jesus.
When Jesus saw the faith of the man's friends, he healed the paralytic. We looked at this story of healing on Monday (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). We don't know if the paralyzed man had faith. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. But we know that his friends did. They carried him to Jesus, tore a hole in the roof, and, using ropes, lowered him in front of Jesus. That took planning, preparation and persistence.
This may be the case when we pray with someone. They may not have much faith, but their friend does or we do. The person in need of prayer may be hope-filled but not faith-filled. They may be doubtful or skeptical. They may be incapable of getting to Jesus on their own. We may be the only one praying who has faith. We may need to plan, prepare and persist so that the experience of healing can bring them to faith.
What would have happened to the man who was paralyzed if he hadn't gotten a little help from his friends? He could not have gotten to Jesus on his own. His friends helped him get his life back.
For reflection: Is there anyone among my friends with a knee, hip or ankle injury? Anyone facing joint surgery with weeks of rehabilitation afterward? Am I the friend who will take them to Jesus? Can I help them get their life back?
Let us pray. Jesus, you instantly healed the man who was paralyzed because his friends brought him to you. I bring to you today _____. I don't want him/her to suffer any longer. I don't care what the doctors say about the length of their recovery. I care about their health and their relationship to you.
May 23rd, 2014
Jesus, according to the Gospels, worked miracles large and small. There were so many that the disciples didn't even try to record them all. When they did record them, they didn't always give specifics. Take for example just a few sentences of Matthew's gospel - 8:14-16. The first two verses are about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Probably the only reason this healing was mentioned is because it was Peter's mother-in-law. She had a fever. From just the touch of Jesus' hand, she was made well enough that she got up and started cooking and feeding them. It's not a big miracle unless you are the one down with a fever. But it was enough of a miracle that word spread because the next sentence gives it away: "When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick."
It's a big jump to go from healing a woman with a fever to healing the demon-possessed. But somehow people had hope that if they brought people with any kind of sickness to Jesus he would heal them. Their hope was not misplaced. He healed all the sick.
For reflection: How did we get from the evidence of the gospels that a big part of Jesus' ministry was healing people to the state of many Christian churches today where it is not normal to pray for healing, except in a general way? When was the last time I prayed with someone for healing?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to do your will. If that means praying with people to be healed, so be it. If I see someone this weekend who needs prayer for healing, even if they only have a cold or a fever, help me to be bold enough to offer to pray with them. Thank you for always being with me.
Keep On Keepin' On
"Keep on keepin' on," is an old exhortation. I think it stems from St. Paul's words to the people in Philippi: "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12b-14).
As I watched some of the figure skating at the Olympics last night I heard one of the commentators say that the couple skating had practiced a particular move for years before putting it in the competition. How many times did they fall, do you think? At the end of one year of trying, did they want to give up? No. They ignored how many times they failed and pressed on, kept on, straining toward perfection, having in mind the Olympic gold, the prize which called to them.
For reflection: Jesus never gave up. Paul never gave up. Peter never gave up. What has God called you to do that you have not yet accomplished?
Let us pray. Jesus, I thank you for taking hold of me. I am pressing on to take hold of that for which you took hold of me. I am forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I am keeping on toward the goal you have set for me.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.