Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)

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Bible Study with Pastor Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Pastor's Day Off Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Worship Celebration with Holy Communion Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Worship with Celebration of Holy Communion

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27

Adult Bible Study Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Join us for a lively discussion and study of God's Word!

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28

Food Pantry Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Diane's Day Off Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Quilting Group Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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29

Devotional Game Day Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Tuesday, 12:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Join us for devotion and prayer, followed by a time for fellowship, playing games (card and/or board). Lots of laughter and fun. Anyone can come. Join us!

Sep

29

TAWG Women's Bible Study Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Tuesday, 6:00 PM
Sep

29

Live Deep Bible Study Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Tuesday, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

If you want to dive deep in God's Word this is the group for you! We take a leisurely walk through a given Bible book, taking time to "suck the marrow" out of it. Great discussions are always had!

Sep

30

Food Pantry Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Wednesday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Sep

30

Ladies Bible Study Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Wednesday, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

A Ladies Bible Study that meets weekly. Study topics vary. Led by Director of Christian Education, Diane Cruz.

Oct

1

Bible Study with Pastor Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Thursday, 10:00 AM
Oct

2

Pastor's Day Off Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Pastor's Blog Posts
Sunday's Sermon Revisited
Sunday's Sermon Revisited

Eric Gawura • July 28, 2020

Sunday's sermon was based on Matthew 13:44-46, two parable about the Kingdom of Heaven: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (NIV)


In these parables YOU are NOT the "man" (I know, I know, every guy likes to think "I'm The Man!" but in this case you are definitely not "The Man"). In these parables JESUS IS THE MAN. And what are you? YOU are the TREASURE!


The Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, put aside all of His divine privileges and prerogatives as God, and became a man. He did this so that He could save us by taking the curse of sin on himself and putting to death in his body on the cross. He gave up everything, so that through his death and resurrection He could pay the ransom price of our sin; so that He could save people that are precious to Him.


Notice that the treasure in these parables are completely passive. They don't do anything! So it is with you and I. Jesus does all that is necessary to secure our forgiveness and our eternal life with Him. Because of His love and grace shown to us we receive inestimable value; we become treasures to God.


When Christ returns He will dig you up to live with you forever!

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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 14:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 14: "When Will This End?"

Eric Gawura • July 27, 2020

“Lord, when will this end??? When will you bring this sad chapter in my life to a close? When will you lift your finger off of me and let me breath again? When will you look on me with your love and favor again? Will this ever end, or is it your intention that I live with this for the rest of my life? Will it end, and if so, then when?”


That’s the prayer born of crisis. It’s a good prayer, too. Far from being a sinful prayer, it is a prayer of honesty that reflects an underlying faith in God. One of the difficult things about a crisis in the life of a Christian is the fact that we sometimes don’t know how to pray to God. If we are already self-conscious about our prayer life, thinking that our prayers ought to be like the ones we hear in church on Sundays (which they shouldn’t be anyway), and that God only hears prayers that praise Him, then offering a prayer like the one above may seem disrespectful and even sinful.


Yet the Bible itself contains many such prayers. Here are some examples: 


  • "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" (Psalm 13:1-2a).


  • "How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?" (Psalm 79:5)


  • "O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (Psalm 80:4-7).


  • "How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave? O Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?" (Psalm 89:46-49).


These Psalms are known as Psalms of lament (“lament”: to feel or express deep sorrow for; mourn or grieve for; to regret deeply). They give expression to the deep grief, the deep frustration, the deep sorrow and sadness that calamity or crisis bring into a believer’s life. They are part of God’s Word to us, and they can serve as a pattern for us when we, too, are in the process of lamenting troubles in our lives. This is so for two broad reasons: First, because they do give expression to our sorrows and inner doubts and fears regarding God. They show us that God wants honesty when we pray to Him. They show us that our darker emotions are not sinful in and of themselves. Secondly, because each of these Psalms of lament ends on a note of hope and faith: 


  • "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me" (Psalm 13:5-6).


  • "Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake" (Psalm 79:8-9).


  • "Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (Psalm 80:19).


  • "Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies have mocked, O LORD, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one. Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen" (Psalm 89:50-52).


Prayers like the one at the beginning of this devotion express our feelings honestly and openly. They are prayers of lament, and they run the risk of communicating our fears and doubts about God’s timing, His goodness, His purposes because we know in Jesus Christ that those fears are ultimately misplaced. God is not, in fact, angry with us; He doesn’t toy with His people or prolong their suffering; He isn’t callous toward us. Instead He is loving toward us, merciful, and gracious. We know that because of Jesus. So we know that God will help us. That is why we are bold to cry out to him in prayers of lament. They show that we are still connected to God in faith. They are doing exactly what 1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us to do:  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”


The issue of “when”, which is the issue of timing, is in the Lord’s hands. Here we recognize that His timing isn’t our timing. His timing is based on His purposes for the world – and our part in that purpose – and for the spread of the Gospel, as well as His plans for our lives. Whenever God relieves us of our crosses of suffering – and in whatever ways He accomplishes it – we can be sure that the timing will be perfect for us, because God never does anything to us to hurt us, but always and only to help us. We are, after all, His dearly loved children!


Prayer: Father, sometimes it seems wrong to throw my fears your way; as if I’m sinning. But your Word gives me examples of how the saints of old have done the same thing, and yet all in faith. Their examples make me bold to cast my anxieties on you, too, for you care for me. Grant that my laments will not slip into accusations, and grant me the assurance that you hear my prayers for help and will answer them – not based on any merit in me, but based on the merits and promises of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 13:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 13: "I Wish Someone Understood My Sadness"

Eric Gawura • July 23, 2020

Day 13: “I Wish Someone Understood The Depth Of My Sorrow. I Feel Alone With It Right Now.”


“There are some seasons that you can’t do anything to change. You can’t fix it. I think in our instant society, where any family problem or relationship can be solved during a one-hour television show, we have an unconscious expectation that things will work out to a pleasant solution, and the solution will come along by the end of the week. The depth of the pool of sorrow that I swam through was not so simple.”  -- George 1


Sorrow is a constant companion of those going through crisis. Most crises involve some kind of loss: loss of health, of youth, of independence, of loved ones, of job, of friend(s), of identity, of structure, of a marriage, of home, of economic stability, and of pride. Loss brings sorrow. Part of the sorrow is the loss itself. Part of the sorrow is in a deep and abiding sense of failure. One woman relates an experience she had in the wake of her divorce: “I received a card congratulating me on my divorce. When I opened the card, it sent me into a bout of tears. I hadn’t gotten married with the intent of someday having my heart ripped out through a painful divorce. While I may have wanted the divorce due to the repeated unfaithfulness of my spouse, I certainly didn’t want to celebrate it!”2 


In some regards this woman’s sorrow is the sorrow of anyone going through a crisis. No one gets married with the intent of that marriage ending in a divorce. The divorce feels like a failure, and a personal one at that. Sorrow flows from the loss, but also from the sense that “I failed!” Likewise, no one makes plans for the future planning on being diagnosed with a major health problem, be it cancer, or Parkinson’s, or Hodgkin’s, or MS, a stroke, a heart-attack, or any of the other debilitating illnesses that are out there. Though we know with our heads that we are not responsible for the onset of such health challenges, nevertheless there is a sense of personal failure involved in such diseases. Sorrow flows from the loss of health and mobility and independence, but it also flows from the sense that “I didn’t have it in me to stay healthy” (or in the case of a parent with a sick child, “I’m responsible for his/her condition because I passed on a bad gene to him/her”). Similarly, no one takes a job planning on being fired or on being laid-off. Sorrow flows not only from the loss of economic security and the shaking of self-identity, but also from the sense of failure attached to the loss (even if the loss was the result of nothing more than corporate downsizing or reorganization). 


The sorrow that comes from these major life-altering loses is overwhelming and isolating. There is a sense that no one understands the depth of our pain. That’s especially true when our friends or family members offer us platitudes or feeble attempts at comfort. Such words sound hallow, insincere, and unfeeling. That just makes us feel even more alone and isolated in our sorrow (It may help to know that such words are genuine attempts at comfort, but that they flow from the anxiety of the comforter who feels inadequate to offer words of real empathy and comfort. In other words, their hearts are in the right place even if their words are not).


Through the ages God’s people have experienced the same sorts of sorrows that we feel and for the same reasons. The Bible itself is full of laments of sorrow, and so the Bible can help us shape our sorrow and the ways that we voice it so that we are voicing it in faith. An example is Psalm 6: 


“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.”


In our sorrow it helps to know that we can turn to God and be fully known, even in the depth of our sorrow. We can express and voice our sorrow to God, for in Him we will find complete empathy. We have a constant, listening ear in God. God is able to listen to us and empathize with us completely, too, because in Jesus He has become one of us. It is not as though God were a disembodied spirit that is only able to sympathize with us like we might sympathize with our dog or cat when they are in distress. Jesus is one of us, and He knows the full range of our emotions – not just as the creator of those emotions, but also as one who has personally experienced our emotions, even our sorrow. Jesus knows (from experience) what sorrow is, and He knows our sorrow. And He has promised not to leave us alone in it, but to hold us up and bear us up through it.


As the opening quote of today’s devotion says, not all the seasons of life can be changed or fixed. Sometimes we are called upon to carry a cross for a season – for a long period of time. Some of the crises that we experience in life will be things that change us forever. But God promises to be with us through it all, no matter what may come our way. He promises to eventually change your present sorrow into joy. That doesn’t mean that the present crisis will end pleasantly in a week’s time. But it does mean that you will learn to laugh again, learn to be at ease again, learn to look back over your life and not be ashamed of anything that has happened, while at the same time being able to look toward the future with hope. Hope may need to be redefined, depending on the nature of the crisis faced, but God will supply whatever needs you have. He is a loving God, one who is personally concerned about the welfare of His children. As He turned David’s sorrow into joy and praise, He will do the same for you!


“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, save me!" The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you” (Psalm 116:1-7).


Prayer: Lord, It helps to know that you know the depth of my sorrow. Please turn my sorrow into joy in Your good time and according to Your good purpose. Fill me with your peace, and remind me of the joy that is found in belonging to You. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.


1 The Art of Helping: What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting, by Briggs, Lauren Littauer; Life Journey, Colorado Springs, CO; c. 2003; page 31.


2 Ibid p. 32.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 12:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 12: "What Is God Trying to Teach Me In This?"

Eric Gawura • July 22, 2020

Day 12: “What Is God Trying To Teach Me In This?”

( And Why Can’t I Learn It Without Having To Go Through This???)


There’s nothing in the world like the feeling that God is punishing you. Calamities in life feel like a punishment from God. As we express our feelings to Christian friends we may hear words like this: “God’s not punishing you. He doesn’t do that. He’s teaching you a lesson about life. He’s disciplining you in order to make you a better Christian and a better person” (or perhaps we tell ourselves this). Our friend(s) may be well meaning, but their words don’t help. If anything, they may make us feel even worse. We react by thinking, “Why does He have to teach me in this way? Was I so deaf to Him that I needed to be hit over the head with a 2 X 4??? What lesson could possibly be worth all of this pain, suffering, hurt, and mess??? If God wants me to learn something, why do I have to go through this???”


I get nervous when people try to defend God’s goodness by interpreting difficulties in life as “lessons” from God. It makes God out to be someone who toys with His people, who purposefully sends trouble into the lives of those He loves in order to “teach” them something. That isn’t the God I know, and it shows a superficial understanding of the Biblical teaching about sin in this world.


Some questions that we ask in life just don’t have answers. We’ll never know why God allows bad things to happen to good people. We’ll never know why God allows the wicked to prosper at the expense of the suffering of righteous people. We’ll never know why God, who is complete and total love, allows calamity to invade our lives. But there are some things that the Bible does want us to know in regard to these questions. 


First, God does not purposefully bring suffering into the lives of His people. He will certainly use them to build us in Christ-like character, but he doesn’t cause them or intend them. Secondly, we live in a sin-fallen world where the consequences and effects of sin are so many and so deep and so pervasive that nothing and no one is spared their presence in their lives. Even Christ, who was himself personally sinless, experienced the fullness of the effects of sin in His life in His rejection by the people, His suffering, and His crucifixion. Thirdly, that God never abandons His people in times of crisis. He has promised to be with us until the very end of time, and He has also promised us that nothing in all of creation can separate us from His love. Fourthly, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). We cannot overlook the fact that, according to the Bible, God’s people are attacked by the Devil through the imposition of troubles in our lives that are designed to cause us to turn our backs on God. Satan does this by causing us to doubt God’s goodness, His love for us, His promises to help us. Troubles in life are the best way to get us to doubt these things.


These are the parameters that the Bible sets around our big questions regarding calamities in life, plus one more: That in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God has overcome the Devil, has revealed the depth of God’s love for us, and has shown us through His own example that God can – and will – bring good out of evil (The particular good that He brings out of any episode of evil in our life may not be known this side of heaven). Because of this Paul voices the conviction of all Christians: “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. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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 5:1-5).


Has God brought this calamity into your life? No! God is not the source of evil. Will He nevertheless use it for your good? Absolutely! You will learn some things about yourself, and more importantly you will learn some things about God through it all if you read, believe, and trust in His promises, including the promises that He will be with you always, that He works all things for your good, that He hears your prayers and answers them, and that He will provide you with the necessities of life.


Prayer: Lord, I don’t understand why you’ve allowed this crisis to come into my life. I know that your Word promises me that you did not cause it or intend it for my life. Nevertheless you’ve allowed it. That frightens me and it raises questions that I don’t find easy answers too, dear Lord. It’s hard to live with unanswered questions, because without answers it’s hard to see any meaning in all of this. But Lord, I also know that you love me and that you are a faithful God, and that you are walking through this with me and fighting for me. Strengthen my faith, use this to build my character, and guide me and lead me on Your path through it all. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 11: “I Don’t Even Know Who I Am Anymore!”
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 11: “I Don’t Even Know Who I Am Anymore!”

Eric Gawura • July 21, 2020

Our sense of self, of who we are, comes from a complicated interplay of our past, our dreams for the future, our health, our body image, our intricate web of social relationships (past and present), and our relationship with God. When we lose any of these things we experience a loss of identity, a loss of who we are, a loss of our worth. That loss if identity brings with it feelings of anxiety, depression, lovelessness, and in some cases self-loathing.


As an example, women who have gone through mastectomies have reported that the loss of one of their intimate body parts has left them feeling like half of a woman. They look in the mirror and they don’t see the same person that they once saw. The experience leads them to question who they are now, what their relationship with their spouse will be like now, what their friends will think, etc.


It is not uncommon for people to become depressed as they reach higher ages. The loss of reflexes and of health brings with it a loss of independence and a concomitant dependence on others for even simple things like getting to the grocery store or the pharmacy. Such loss if independence creates a sort of crisis of identity, a need to redefine one’s place in the world. That is unsettling and literally de-pressing.


The loss of a job, whatever the cause, means the loss of a “family” – the loss of relationships and friendship. While former co-workers go on with their lives, the unemployed person now feels like an “outsider” and cut off from significant friendships and daily conversation. Loss of work also means loss of a regular, stabilizing daily routine. All of this in addition to the loss of income and the uncertainty of the future (and the recognition that when work is finally found it means the stress of creating new friendships, finding a new nitch in the office pecking order, etc.).


Loss of a loved one feels like the death of part of one’s self. Our relationships with spouse and/or child are so much a part of who we are that the loss of that significant other (either through death, or through divorce) feels like a significant part of “me” has died. The whole orientation to the world that defines existence has now been lost. People who experience this type of loss feel numb, saying that they just don’t “feel” at all. A gray pall or fog seems to settle over their entire lives so that they can’t feel, they can’t think straight, they can’t make even simple decisions, they can’t think about the future. They are not sure how they will “deal” with the loss, and they are not sure who they are any more.


Crisis makes us feel vulnerable. It makes us feel like we’re standing on one leg, just sort of teetering and ready to fall over at any moment. It makes us feel threatened at the most basic level – our sense of “self”, our very identity.


Into this emotional upheaval God speaks to us: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1b).


Our self-worth doesn’t come from our ability to “do” anything. It doesn’t depend on our health, on our age, on our career, on our employment status, on our relationships. Our worth comes from God. We are His unique and good creations. He spent time and care in forming and shaping us individually, as a potter shapes and forms a piece of pottery with great care


(“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place” – Psalm 139:13-15a).


In addition to being a unique creation of God, valued and treasured by your Creator as a work of His own hand, you are also the focus of His love. He loved you so much that He sent His only-begotten Son into human flesh and bone, and then to the cross and through the empty tomb, to have you before Him for eternity. You are valuable to God, worth the price of His own Son!


Likewise, your identity comes as a gift to you from God: You are one of the Redeemed! You are one of His children! You are holy and precious in His sight. You are a brother or sister of Jesus Christ! Your identity is God-given, and no loss here on earth will ever be able to strip that away from you! True, your sense of who you are is impacted by your relationships with others and by your health, etc. But as a Christian these are not the sum of who you are. Your identity is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, and that identity (“child of God”; “redeemed”) is what shapes all of the other things that give you a sense of “self.” That identity can never be taken away, for it is sure and firm, secure and certain in Jesus Christ. As God’s Word says, “…your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3b).


So mourn your loss. Shed your tears. Experience the grief that is your right. But remember through it all that you are loveable – that you are loved by God with an unfathomable love. Remember that you are valuable and valued by God – so much so that He sent Jesus to buy you back. Remember that “you” are one of the Redeemed, one of God’s dearly loved children, and nothing in all of creation can change that! Your loss does not mean that “you” have changed. It means living life in different ways now, but always with your loving God by your side. You are His and He is yours!


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, the thoughts and feelings of my heart are always laid bare to you; you know me fully. So you know the terrible loss that this crisis has brought into my life. You know the ways that it threatens me, at the very deepest level. Father, remind me every day through this crisis that I am valuable and loveable to you, that my identity and my sense of self are rooted in Christ’s cross because of your grace, and not in the things that I’m able to do or accomplish in this life. What comfort it is to me to know that I am Yours and You are mine through faith in Jesus. Bring me that comfort everyday, dear Father. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 10:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 10: "Where Do I Go From Here?"

Eric Gawura • July 18, 2020

When an unexpected event comes into your life and seems to strip you of your anticipated future and the normalcy of your life and daily routine, it’s normal to wonder “Where do I go from here? (Or if it’s something that impacts the whole family we wonder, “Where do we go from here?”). The question may be a sort of “wondering out loud” what the plan is now, or it may be a lament flowing from that sense of loss that overwhelms us. 


The simple answer is this: You take it a day-at-a-time and follow the doors that the Lord opens up to you. God will see you through this crisis! Exactly how he’ll see you through no one can say, it’s a process that will unfold day-by-day. Worrying about the future will only drive you crazy. The most that any of us can do is to deal with the challenges of today as they come our way, and to look for the unexpected doors that the Lord will open for us every day. In a long, drawn out crisis we need hope. We need the long-term hope that comes through faith in Jesus, the hope of eternal life, the hope of God’s love, the hope of salvation. Yet we also need short-term hope, hope that “this too shall pass”, hope that gets us through today. The Lord will supply both kinds of hope to His children. So, every day look for that one thing – big or small – that will bring you hope for today.


Next, you pray. As the crisis goes on it may seem as if God isn’t answering your prayers, but He has promised that He will hear and answer them so trust in His promises and keep praying. Where else do you have to turn, anyway? 

Use your common sense in addressing the problem today. Watch your diet, exercise, watch your spending, take your medication, spend some quiet time in prayer. You probably won’t be able to overcome the crisis in one day, but you can do little things to chip away at it each day. That’s using the common sense that God gave you.


Offer support to those around you who are going through it with you. If you’re single and going through it by yourself, then seek out someone to help. Helping others distracts us from our worries, and reminds us that our inherent self-worth doesn’t come from our health, our age, our work, but from God. There’s something about helping others that drives that point home. 

Find a prayer partner – someone that will pray with you and for you and someone that you can hold in prayer. 


Finally, pray some more. And then pray some more. And remember this: you may not know what to pray for, but the Spirit does, and He will be praying with you, through you, and for you!!!  (“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” -- Romans 8:26-28.)


God will lead you. He will answer the question, “Where do I/we go from here” in His own time and in His own loving way. Trust that, and do what is set before you today and you’ll make it through this crisis!


Prayer: Father, I want to know where I’m supposed to go from here and I get frustrated that you won’t simply show me. Forgive me for my impatience. Please understand how important a quick resolution to this crisis is to me. In my impatience give me the humility to wait on You and Your timing; I know that Your timing will be best. In the mean time, help me to do what’s before me today, and please give me something today that will sustain my hope. Work through Your people and Your Word to remind me of your constant love and care for me, because I’m feeling very vulnerable right now, and not particularly lovable. I ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 9:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 9: "I Don't Think I Can Make It Through This!"

Eric Gawura • July 17, 2020

Crisis brings with it a sense of drowning, a sense that there is a real danger that control over one’s mind is being lost. The overwhelming anxiety and fear that come washing over us in waves make us feel alone and isolated, having the responsibility of dealing with the crisis completely on our own. That, in turn, makes us feel even more isolated and alone. It’s a vicious circle. We know that we need help, but we don’t know where that help will come from, and quite honestly we often can’t even articulate what kind of help we need. Sometimes we feel that we just need a hug, to know that we are not really alone. Most of the time the deepest need that we have is to be understood, and to be reassured that we will make it through the crisis and that we are not alone in dealing with it.


For Christians our support system comes not only through our family and our network of friends, but it especially comes from our church. The Bible describes the Church as being the body of Christ: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body … and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many...But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 24b-27).


In the Church we find people who will genuinely listen to us, who will help us feel that we are understood; we will find people who will speak words of encouragement to us so that we find the reassurance that we will make it through our crisis; we will find people who may have gone through a similar crisis in their own lives and who can offer us that comfort that they themselves have received from God and God’s people; we will find people who will pray with us, share God’s Word with us, and become tangible expressions of God’s love for us. Because God has uniquely gifted the various members of His Church with natural skills and experiences, and with spiritual gifts, we may find in the church people who have resources that can help us. In other words, we may find in the church not just emotional and spiritual help, but also material help, too.


When God calls us to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, He not only unites us to Christ (through faith), but He also unites us together as a family. Through His people He creates a community of love and faith through which He works to bring comfort, help, encouragement, healing, and support to His people who are in crisis. Through the Church God can, and will, assure us that we are not alone. He is with us. His people are likewise with us. We do not walk this dark path alone. We are not as isolated as we feel. 


Of course, we have to reach out to our church family. They aren’t mind readers, after all. If we’re in crisis we need to let someone at church that we trust know, so that the church can start to mobilize its rich resources to help us in whatever form of help God designs. In a society in which we are taught that we are independent individuals who ought to be able to handle problems on our own, that initial contact can be a bit scary and even humiliating. But those feelings quickly disappear once God’s care and love start flowing to us through His people. In the Church we aren’t called to be rugged individualists; we’re called to be a family, to be the body of Christ. In the body of Christ, when one part suffers the rest of the body suffers with it and tends to it and looks after it. We are a community, not a society of hermits; a family, not a loose association of strangers.


Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, how can I thank you enough for all the blessings that you give me. You have blessed me with your presence in all situations in life. But you also know that sometimes that isn’t enough, that sometimes life gets so rough that I need more tangible proofs of your presence and love for me. So you’ve blessed me with my church family. Through the members of my congregation you work to encourage me, to comfort me, to reassure me, and give me some hope and some peace and some rest along the way. You give me people that can help me. Lord, what an awesome God you are! Grant that when I finally come through this crisis that I will be able to show my thanks to you by helping someone else who may go through a similar crisis and touch them with the help and comfort that you’re showing me right now. In your name I pray. Amen.

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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 8:
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 8: "I Didn't Ask for This!"

Eric Gawura • July 15, 2020

“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


In a crisis we find ourselves crying out to God, “I didn’t ask for this!” But who does ask for crises to come into their lives? Yet the cry itself isn’t a statement about whether we wanted the present storm to come into our lives, it’s a cry that laments the injustice of it all, the grand scale of it all, the recognition that something has happened that has permanently altered what we perceive to be the course of our lives. It is, in a fundamental sense, an accusation against God. It’s holding him responsible for the hurricane in our life, and charging Him with injustice.


In that regard it is something that we must seek God’s forgiveness for, because God does not deal with us in unjust ways. The more fundamental pain being expressed in this cry, though, is a sense of helplessness. And that isn’t something we need to repent of, it’s something that we need to bring to God and lay at His feet. 


In the end, we are helpless over many of the events that happen in our lives. Nothing shows that better than calamities like loss of health, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a significant relationship, loss of economic security, or any of the other major problems that come into our lives. We are completely powerless to prevent these calamities from hitting us. But we are not powerless in dealing with them. Oh, it often feels like we are powerless to deal with them, and the gnawing anxiety that eats at us is the result of that. But the truth is that we have real power to find our way through these dark moments of life because we belong to God, who has power over all things.


Like St. Paul, who dealt with a “thorn in the flesh”, we discover that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that His power is made perfect in weakness. It is when we are most down that God’s resurrecting power is made most clearly visible to us. When we are most down, He is most there for us in ways we would never have anticipated. Crises have a way of reordering our priorities in life, of reminding us of our inherent helplessness in life, of reminding us of our utter dependency on God and our fundamental need for Him. 


J.R.R. Tolkien, in his book The Lord of the Rings creates a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf, two of the main characters, in which Frodo voices a sense of helplessness and fatalism due to the circumstances in life that have conspired to place him on a journey of great personal danger. “I didn’t ask for this!” says Frodo. “No one asks for the bad things that happen to them in their lives!” replies Gandalf, “It's what we do with the time we have that matters.” (paraphrased).


Likewise with Christians. No one asks for bad things to come into their lives. But we do have a choice on how we will deal with them. We can acquiesce in a state of defeatism, depression, and victimization, or we can face them in faith, with trust in God, and with the courage that He gives us. 


In the Old Testament book of Job we meet Job as a man who is wealthy, wise, influential, godly and pious. In one day he loses his health, his wealth, and his seven children. Job’s response sets an example for us: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22).


St. Paul learned to glory in his weaknesses because through them His dependency on God – and thus the real source of his strength – was reinforced and the perfect power of God was made manifest. Paul and Job faced their calamities and troubles with faith and dependency on God. Let us pray that we will do the same. We didn’t ask for it, but now that the storm has entered our life we deal with it in faith and with the strength of God. He will take care of us through it all because He loves us.


Prayer: Lord Jesus, I didn’t ask for this darkness to come into my life. I feel helpless, angry, and defenseless. Take these emotions and deal with them, Lord, because I cannot. Remind me that your power is made perfect in my weakness, and give me strength to face this crisis with faith, hope, and trust in You. In your name I pray and rest. Amen.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 6:  “Does God hear my prayer?  Why doesn’t He answer?”
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 6: “Does God hear my prayer? Why doesn’t He answer?”

Eric Gawura • July 09, 2020

Matthew 21:22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."


It would be one thing if God were the type of person who created the universe and then walked away from it, having no further involvement in what He’d made. Then the universe would just simply run on the laws and principles He had built into it, and we’d just have to deal with whatever comes our way on our own. It would be tough, but at least we’d know that we’re on our own and could plan accordingly.


But that’s not the kind of God that we have. We have a God who is intimately involved in the ongoing unfolding of creation, and who has told us in His Word that He wants us to bring all of our concerns to Him in prayer, and that He will answer our prayers. So we have learned to believe that God is there for us, and that when we really need Him He will help us when we pray to Him.


Yet when crisis hits us this isn’t always what we experience. Often when a crisis hits we pour out our hearts to God, asking Him in countless ways for His help out of the crisis. Yet nothing seems to happen. Our prayers seem to go unanswered, as if they had fallen on deaf ears. And so we redouble our efforts, thinking that a great show of our sincerity and our urgent need will rouse God from His slumber and quicken Him to answer our prayer, only to meet the same silence. 


Then the frightful thought enters our heart that maybe God isn’t going to help us out of this mess. Maybe He’s angry with us and so will refuse to help us; or maybe in He’s powerless to help us; or maybe in the end He isn’t as “good” and “gracious” as we thought He was; or maybe the scientists and atheists are right, and God just doesn’t exist. But then who will we turn to for help and comfort and support? 


Once again we must first listen to His Word before we let our thoughts dictate anything to us. We find in His Word that God promises to hear the prayers of His people when prayed in faith in Jesus Christ. He doesn’t say that He might hear our prayers, nor does He say that He might answer them; He promises that He will, and does, hear our prayers and will answer them.


As with all requests, our prayers can be answered in one of three ways: “Yes”, “No”, or “not yet.” God will answer our prayers because He has promised that He will. It may not be on our timetable, which only serves to remind us that God will not be bound by our timetables. However, He will hear our prayer and He will answer our prayers. In fact, the Bible assures us that our needs are known to God before we even bring them to Him. So here’s a thought: perhaps the Lord has been actively working through human history and the local circumstances of your life to bring an answer to your prayer before you’ve even offered it to Him. Perhaps the answer is being unfolded right now!


Hindsight is always 20/20. It has been my experience in life that oftentimes in my darkest moments when my prayers have ascended at the speed of light I’ve only seen how the Lord has answered those prayers once the crisis has passed.  During the crisis itself I was forced to rely solely on God in ways that I hadn’t before. While that may have been unnerving, it grew my faith. And the next time a crisis hit me, it was very helpful to remember that in every crisis I’ve ever been through that I could look back once it was over and see how God had answered my prayers – and always in ways that I wasn’t expecting. It has given me assurance that the Lord does always hear and answer my prayers, and that patience is the key to the ability to see His answers to my prayers.


God is a faithful God. He has promised to hear us and to answer us when we call to Him. He doesn’t relinquish His position as Creator by promising to answer our prayers, making Himself bound to the whims and wishes of His creations. He still is in control. But it is a comfort that the One who works out all things according to His plans and purposes nevertheless invites us to come to Him and lay our requests before Him, promising to answer our prayers for Jesus’ sake. 


God has promised to hear our prayers and to answer them. Because they are promises they call forth faith. No human being can give your absolute certainty that God will hear and answer your prayer. Our ability to be certain rests on the trustworthiness of God, who makes the promises. God is not a liar or deceiver, so He is trustworthy. So we believe that God's promise provides all the certainty that we need. And that is faith at work -- trusting in the promises of God in Jesus Christ.


Does God hear your prayer? YES! Will God answer your prayer? YES! Will He answer it in the exact way that you want? Will He take direction from you? Not necessarily. Sometimes He will, oftentimes He will answer it in unexpected ways. But it will always be with your eternal best interests in mind. He loves you too much to ignore your cries for help! He is a faithful God, and He keeps His Word.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes when I pray to you it seems that I get no answer. That causes me to doubt You and Your goodness. Forgive me for my doubts, for my accusations, for my lack of faith. Give me patience to wait on you, and give me faith that is certain of Your faithfulness to Your promises. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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Devotions for Times of Crisis ~
Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ "Why Won't God Fix This?"

Eric Gawura • July 08, 2020

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).


These are the words of King David, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Even the great heroes of the Bible gave expression to the frustration that flows from God’s apparent lack of help in times of trouble. Yet they always remembered that their frustration flowed from God’s apparent lack of help; they did not really believe that God was absent from their lives, or that He had handed them over to injustice or evil for good. They always realized that God’s promises were unshakeable and certain. Because He had promised to always be with His people and to always help them, they knew that their present frustrations were the result of human impatience with God’s timing. So David begins Psalm 13 with a cry of lament, but ends it with these words: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).


God has promised you, one of His cherished children, that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). No matter what you are facing, that promise is sure and certain. So while it may be tempting to think that God has turned a deaf ear to your prayers and is unconcerned about helping you, it might help to entertain the possibility that God immediately set about helping you the very moment that Satan brought this calamity into your life. God works behind the scenes, but He has always rescued His people. Look back through your own life and you’ll see that God has always helped you in the past. Often His help came in unexpected ways, but it always came. St. Peter reminds us of the lengths to which God has gone to help His people:


"For if God …did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) -- if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment" (2 Peter 2:4-9).


God sent His only Son into this world as one of us to live as a servant and to die for our sin, Because of that, we know that God’s love for us is beyond measure. If God loved us to the point of sacrificing His own Son for us, then why should we doubt His love for us now? And why should we doubt that He who loves us so very much will see us through this minor crisis now? Oh, it doesn’t seem like a minor crisis to us; but in the grand scheme of eternity it is a minor blip on the radar screen. Our biggest problem, from the standpoint of eternity, was our sin that would have separated us from God forever. Yet He overcame that monster of an obstacle through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Certainly He will see us through this present, temporal crisis. He is a faithful God, and He loves you. He is both willing and able to help, and has been busy and active to turn this calamity into something that will serve your eternal good from the moment it happened. Trust in Him, and wait patiently and trustingly on Him.


Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am impatient. I want this crisis to be over now; I want relief from the discomfort and anxiety that it is causing me. My impatience is causing me to doubt your presence, your willingness to help me, and your love for me. Forgive me, Lord, for doubting your promises to me. Strengthen me in faith, and give me the patience and peace needed to make it through this present crisis. Help me to take your promise of help at face value, and to know and trust that you will help me according to your timetable; that you will not let me fall into utter calamity and destruction; that you will see me through this. In your name I pray. Amen.


Exercise:


“Listen to me, …you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” – Isaiah 46:3-4


Read the above passage from Isaiah 46. What promise does God make to you in this passage?_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


How this promise bring you reassurance during this crisis? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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