Daily Prayer 

How good it is to give thanks to you, O Lord, to sing in your honor, O Most High God, to proclaim your constant love every morning, and your faithfulness every night. Psalm 92:1-2, TEV

We thank you, Lord our God. How much good you have poured out on us throughout our lives! And how much we should thank you every day! We thank you that again and again we feel your help and know that you can fill our earthly life with what is of heaven. May your kingdom come over the whole world, for all people are longing for faith and for mercy and are to be gathered into your house under the staff of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Watch over us during the night. May your help go far and wide into the whole world. Stand by those who call upon you, even when they do not understand how they should pray. Help us and grant that the Savior may come, to the glory of your name. Amen.


Daily Dig

Mother Teresa
Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will cease, and the bridegroom will say, “I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12). What are these drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting. These are the true drops of love that keep your religious life burning like a living flame.



The Miracle of Life


hand holding a baby's hand



    ~~~Dion Todd

In wireless networks today, repeaters are used to expand the coverage area, and each repeater says the same thing as the last one. It does not question the signal sent to it, but passes the message down the line just as it was received. We are not meant to be a repeater. If you are hungry for more of God’s truth, read today’s message for a word of wisdom.


The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea. When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Acts 17:10 WEB

The first mechanical repeater was a telegraph machine, but the practice was in use long before that. A repeater hears a signal and then repeats it verbatim. With the telegraph, someone tapped a signal at one end, and the repeater at the other end of the line reproduced that exact tap. In wireless networks today, repeaters are used to expand the coverage area, and each repeater says the same thing as the last one. It does not question the signal sent to it, but passes the message right down the line just as it was received.

For a season in my life, I was merely a repeater. I heard things at church or seminary that sounded good, then repeated them as the gospel truth. I would staunchly defend them. I am now embarrassed to say that at least forty percent of it was rubbish, traditions of men, and fairy tales. That is being polite, because it was probably more like sixty percent.

There are so many pet doctrines floating around out there that have absolutely nothing to do with God, nothing to do with scripture. Jesus said in Mark 7:7 ‘In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ I was taught commandments of men, and then I began teaching others the things that I had learned, just as the ones that Jesus spoke to had.

Don’t just be a repeater like I was. The more that I studied the Bible, the more rubbish that was revealed in my life. Listen to, or read the Bible for yourself. The Berean Christians received the word eagerly, but then searched the scriptures to see if it was true. If you do not know what is in the Bible, you will almost certainly be deceived.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I pray that You give me a hunger for Your Word. Stir up that desire in me and open my mind so that I can understand the scriptures. Please help me discern what is from You, and what is not. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Jesus was known to be a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

Fun With Electronics….


Unstoppable! ‘Verification by the Spirit’


When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.

— Acts 8:14-17 NLT

Key Thought

Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Spirit to them. He told them that the coming of the Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses to the whole world (Acts 1:8). Even though the Holy Spirit typically came to those who trusted in Jesus as Lord and Christ and were baptized (Acts 2:36-41), the Spirit didn’t come immediately to these Samaritans. God moved through the Holy Spirit to show God welcomed them into his kingdom. The Spirit’s coming demonstrated God’s approval and made the Good News of Jesus unstoppable!

Today’s Prayer

O Jesus, please inspire, motivate, lead, and confirm your work to reach all people in our day. We long to see more and more people accept you as Lord, be baptized, and be filled with your Spirit. Please renew in our day the movement of the Holy Spirit to empower us as witnesses and tear down walls that stand in the way of people coming to you. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Passion for Praise: ‘The LORD Made the Heavens’

Illustration of Psalm 96:4-6 — Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the LORD made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Be Undaunted!’

Illustration of John 16:33 AMP — I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world." [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

— John 16:33 AMP

Today’s Prayer

Lord, some false teachers say that God won’t let anything bad happen to Christians, but Jesus said we will surely suffer. This world is full of trials, stress, pain, sorrow, and many other scary things. That is a fact of this current world, according to Jesus. But I praise Your Name, Lord, because Jesus came in the flesh and overcame, and I know that through Him I can overcome, too. My confidence isn’t in my own abilities, Lord, it’s in Jesus. It’s in His victory that I rejoice and celebrate that my position in Christ lets me have the same victory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



 Life Changing Books

A Time for Regeneration

Letter from the Editor

Peter Mommsen

This April, when Jews and Christians around the globe retold the Passover story as we do each year, the Exodus account of the ten plagues of Egypt no longer seemed a distant Bronze Age myth. Today’s plague may not be as deadly as those visited on Pharaoh, but it’s lethal enough. A friend who works in a nearby senior home here in upstate New York tells a now-familiar tale of exhausted nurses, inadequate supplies, and daily deaths. We are keenly aware of the devastation among our neighbors in New York City, and fear what will happen as the virus spreads in other urban areas, through prisons, and in poorer countries lacking the same healthcare resources and infrastructure. Meanwhile, mass layoffs and failing businesses around the world threaten a bitter aftermath of economic desperation and stunted hopes.

Whether or not this plague, like the biblical ones, is a punishment, it certainly is apocalyptic. I don’t mean this in an end-of-the-world way, but rather in the literal sense of apocalypse as an unveiling – a revelation of how things really are. This crisis has ripped the cover off certain truths about our souls and our society. Some of these truths are ugly. We see exposed the reality of public corruption; murderous inequalities in the provision of healthcare; or for that matter, our society’s unnatural choice to warehouse so many of its grandparents in underfunded institutions where they live and die in isolation, even when no pandemic rages.

But the crisis has revealed other truths, too. It has called forth countless acts of solidarity and compassion, each one proof of the divine spark in humankind. It has cast light on the sacrificial efforts of nurses, doctors, police officers, delivery drivers, and grocery clerks. It’s shown that millions of our fellow human beings, of all creeds and walks of life, will jump at a chance to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, if only by grieving with the grieving or by wearing a face mask.

And as so many of us find our habits and plans disrupted in unprecedented ways, now is also time to prepare for what comes next. That is why we’ve decided to launch this special digital issue of Plough, featuring a growing collection of articles responding to this time of crisis by some of our favorite writers and artists. Here’s how it works: a new lead essay will appear each Monday for the next twelve weeks, often accompanied by shorter pieces on other days.

This issue won’t try to predict what the “new normal” post-pandemic might look like (despite any speculation, this is something we cannot know). Instead, it aims to bear witness to what is being revealed by the crisis – and to ask what is needed for the regeneration that, God willing, will follow it. Our hope is that this project will, to borrow this magazine’s tagline, help “break ground for a renewed world.”

So what can readers expect as this issue rolls out week by week? Writers such as Edwidge Danticat and Eugene Vodolazkin will help us see more clearly the truth of the time we’re living through. Scholars such as Stanley Hauerwas and Sarah Ruden will help us think deeply about what is at stake. Social critics such as Bill McKibben and Zito Madu will address questions of justice and sustainability. Pastors such as Will Willimon and Eugene F. Rivers III will speak to this time’s spiritual challenges. In addition, historical articles and readings will draw out the wisdom that people of faith have gained over two millennia in facing pandemics and economic collapse. Profiles and interviews will highlight individuals and communities who in exemplary ways are doing the works of mercy needed now. Look for a visual portrayal of a poem from Julian Peters and a Dostoyevsky story rendered in graphic novel format by Natalia Osipova and Elena Avinova. We have other exciting contributions in the pipeline too; readers can sign up here to receive our weekly email notifications.

As i wrote in my last editorial, the coronavirus crisis has had a big impact on our publishing house. Like most businesses in New York State, we’ve had to close our main office in Walden, New York. Even before that, since our team is largely made up of parents of young children, most of us had already begun working remotely or taken time to care for family.

In view of the formidable logistics of producing a print edition of Plough Quarterly during the lockdown, we’ve postponed our next issue “Solidarity” from June to September. (Note to subscribers: You should rest assured that you’ll receive the full number of issues you signed up for. And look for a bonus mailing from us around the time when the June issue would otherwise have arrived.)

So in the intervening months, this special, ongoing digital issue will be our main way of staying in touch with our readers. But not the only way. We’re planning a series of online events, in part featuring contributors to this issue. In addition, we’ve put together classic spiritual readings for difficult times, by authors such as Augustine of Hippo, Teresa of Ávila, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and J. Heinrich Arnold. And readers are invited to download ebooks of some of our best-loved titles, which during the crisis are available for free on our website.

In a time of crisis – whether a pandemic, a terrorist attack, or a war – people are quick to say that “things will never be the same.” This comes from an understandable urge. Faced with suffering of such magnitude, our instinct is to find meaning in it by claiming it has shifted the course of history. In reality, while some things may change in the wake of the pandemic, most will not. This crisis reveals many truths, but in itself will not transform or heal or renew.

Christians should not be surprised or discouraged by this. We expect regeneration from another source. For us, the decisive turning point was not in 2020, or 9/11, or 1945, or 1776, but – as Stanley Hauerwas likes to remind us – in AD 33, when Jesus, who had been killed, rose again in the flesh, alive from the dead. The only way to face mass death honestly without despairing is to believe that resurrection is real, that death will not have the last word.

“God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies,” wrote John Donne. “He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons.”

This time, too, is his season. It’s up to us to help break the ground; he will renew the world.

Warm greetings,

Peter Mommsen, Editor



Prophetic Insight newsletter

Prophetic Vision: God’s Children are Birthing New Mantles and Visions


Are you feeling a sudden and intense pressure in the spirit and don’t know why? Are you wondering why it feels as though you have been placed in a pressure cooker of sorts? Are you feeling worn out and ready to give up, wondering if you heard rightly from God for this season? And if so, why does it seem as though everything is upside down?

If any of this relates to you, then be encouraged; you are not going crazy and you have not missed God. You have, in fact, gone into labor to birth a new gift that God has prepared for you, and you are not alone. Many people are in this time of birthing right now. I saw a vision of multitudes across the body of Christ who were heavily pregnant (I saw both men and women—as odd as that may sound). They were pregnant with new mantles, visions, strategies and destiny.

I then saw a picture of an ultrasound of these “babies” that they were carrying. Just as an ultrasound details a baby’s bone structures and physical traits, I saw that these “supernatural” babies of the hour were filled with the DNA of heaven, with specific answers that individuals and the earth, alike, are in desperate need of.

Each “baby” had a unique fingerprint, a unique imprint of answers from God’s heart for individuals, families and nations. I saw these heavily pregnant individuals being ushered by angels into supernatural delivery rooms. I saw that many of these people had reached their due dates, and some were well and truly overdue. Some were prepared for the birthing and intensely focused, while others felt confused and scared.

I then heard the Father’s gentle and reassuring voice speaking to those who were in fear. He spoke the words of Joshua 1:9b: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I felt the Holy Spirit impart some strategies for delivery to my own life for this season of birthing that I wanted to share with you.

1. Be strategic about who you allow to see you in labor. The Holy Spirit recently reminded me of my own physical labor with my second daughter, Sophie, and how there are some valuable lessons that can be applied spiritually from my experience (don’t worry—I won’t get graphic). From start to finish, my labor with her lasted three days. You read that right—three days. Looking back, I realize I played into some distractions that essentially caused my labor to last longer than it should have.

During my earliest contractions, I allowed people into my home thinking it would help with the process. How wrong I was. While I lay on my bed in agony, I had a steady stream of individuals—people who I thought would be of help—come through my home laughing and pointing at my distress whilst helping themselves to my fridge, rather than encouraging me through it. At the time, I thought they were just trying to help me get my mind off it, but looking back, I now know it was the worst possible thing for labor. It elevated my stress, prolonging the birth.

If you are in spiritual labor right now, and you can relate to the intensity of pressure in the spirit, you need to be very strategic and intentional about who you allow to come in close at this moment. Labor and birthing, even in the spirit, are both an intimate time and a vulnerable time.

If you have a crowd of people who have full access to your life, you are going to need to close the door to all but one or two strategic cheerleaders at this moment. You cannot have people degrading you and laughing at you as you go through the contractions of birth. You need cheerleaders in the delivery room, not fear-mongers, mockers and distractors. There will even be those who may appear good, but want to ride on your delivery.

I’m not suggesting that you be critical about every person, but I am saying, be strategic. If you don’t, you may end up with a prolonged and delayed delivery, just as I experienced. If you take these steps in creating boundaries, this will allow you to focus intently on the contractions and deliver what God has assigned to you, rather than face delay.

2. Breathe, breathe, breathe! Recently, I have heard a particular word on repeat in my spirit, and that word is “focus.” The Holy Spirit is saying to you today, “Focus, focus, focus!” In a time of birthing, intense focus is required.

After two days, I was finally admitted to the hospital, but when I got there, the newly built hospital was understaffed and they were unable to admit me into a birthing suite. Instead, I was placed in a side corridor alongside other women who were birthing, just like me, with only curtain partitions to separate us. Just when I thought I could finally focus, I found I was more distracted than ever by the sounds of other women in labor filling the entire corridors. It was then that Nate gave me headphones with gentle worship playing so I could tune out the distractions I was hearing and focus intently on my breathing.

There is a reason you always hear people in movies coaching a woman through labor by saying, “Breathe, breathe, breathe.” It’s not just a saying; it is a direction of focus. No sooner had I begun focusing properly on my breathing, than my labor started to progress rapidly, and a door for a birthing suite was opened up to us. It was not long after this that I gave birth—in the peaceful surroundings of a beautiful suite.

It’s likely that you are surrounded by other people in labor right now. You’ve probably noticed that you are surrounded by the intensity of their problems, as others push through their own barriers and deliver the promises ordained for their own lives. But know this: You cannot labor for them. Again, you are going to need to “tune out” the noise and focus in on what the Holy Spirit is breathing over you right now.

What has He spoken? What are the promises God has declared over you for this season? Don’t lose sight of them in this pivotal moment. You are going to need to rehearse them; breathe them in deeply and breathe them out; speak them, fix your eyes on them and declare them. You are about to give birth to what has been promised, but you need to focus. Focus is faith in action. This is what Hebrews 11:1 (AMPC) directs us to do:

“Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].”

Interestingly, a definition I found for the word “focus” says, “adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.” Isn’t that amazing? Adapt your focus to what God is speaking—not to everything else that is surrounding and distracting you. Take your eyes off the problems and fix your eyes on the Light, and you will see clearly what is before you and obtain what has been divinely guaranteed to you. As you focus, you will deliver the baby quicker than expected.

3. Protect the promise! In the dream-like hours following Sophie’s birth, we were visited—uninvited, I might add—by a very boisterous person (evidently, Nate and I had no idea about the concept of boundaries in those days). He came into our hospital room yelling, screaming and shouting, and picked my toddler up in the air and was throwing her about in the room. I remember feeling as though I was about to pass out from the noise; following three days of delivery, it trigged me into a near panic attack.

Thankfully, my midwife happened to be in the room and immediately saw the pale look on my face and ordered him out of the room abruptly—so much so, he became offended. But she looked at Nate and me and said, “It’s fine for the family to come to see the baby, but Mum is just as important as the newborn. If you don’t protect this space, you’ll fall into depression.”

I didn’t listen. In the days and weeks following her birth, we had yet another steady stream of people visiting, and I felt the intense pressures to be “up and about” like normal: going to church on Sunday immediately following her birth, making coffees for all of our visitors, and giving the impression I was a “do it all” mother who was all put together. But in reality, I was crumbling inside.

I feel this lesson is imperative for those of you who are in labor and delivery of your promises right now. Just as Western cultures have depicted a narrative that modern mothers should be back on their feet in no time, there is also a subtle belief within the Western church that has a similar storyline: “The more you do, the better and the more effective you are for the kingdom.” Whereas I believe that the Holy Spirit is speaking, just like the midwife: “Protect the promise. Protect your time!”

You are important to God, and He doesn’t want you burning out in depression because you feel you need to rush into the assignment once it is birthed or say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. I believe that now, more than ever, we need to be intently focused on what we are specifically called to do; we need to be nursing the “assignment” and allowing recovery and time.

This is an era where the enemy is attempting to trap the body of Christ in immense amounts of distraction to prolong the births of mantles and assignments, and even to cause stillbirths of promise. However, if he doesn’t succeed there, he will attempt to draw you into burnout. I believe God is protecting us in this season and preventing these things from happening, but we also need to be vigilant just as 1 Peter 5:8 states: “Be sober and watchful, because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Notice that the enemy is “like” a lion, which gives us keen insight into his strategies. Many lions hunt their prey when the prey is giving birth. A time of birthing is a vulnerable time, so be vigilant to protect it. Breathe on the promises of God. Shut the door to all distractions, and protect the promise once it has been birthed.

Allow yourself time to adjust and for the promise to grow. Don’t rush it. This is not a season to rush, for what you are about to birth will grow in the months and years to come into the weighty call and assignment upon your life. You are birthing destiny for the years to come.

Congratulations on the birthing of your promise!

Christy Johnston was born and raised in Australia. After living the majority of her life plagued with insecurity and fear, she came to learn the power of her identity in Christ. She now lives with the mandate to breathe fresh hope and life into God’s sons and daughters through her passion of writing, uncovering the truths of living in grace and freedom through our identity in Christ. Nate and Christy have two daughters, Charlotte and Sophie, and currently live on the Gold Coast in Australia.



N.T. Wright Online Logo

Do You Feel Safe with Jesus?

Do you feel safe with Jesus?

I think most of us trust him to take care of us and provide for us.But do you trust him enough to ask him raw, honest questions?

Jesus is no stranger to hard questions. In fact, he frequently asked them.The Gospels are filled with Jesus asking questions of his hearers.Jesus masterfully used questions to reveal both more of himself and the heart of the hearer. What often takes place as a result is a deeper knowing and more intimate relationship with Jesus. Take for example his exchange with Peter in Mark 8:27-29.

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”

Asking hard questions requires vulnerability for both the asker and the person being asked. Too often we hide behind ‘politeness’ and refuse to ask people we love the questions that expose darkness. It is the relationship and the ‘deeper knowing’ that results from such questions that make them so vital. Jesus once again set an example for us in his relationship with Peter.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 NRSV)

Hard Questions

I experienced the revealing power of hard questions first hand through my relationship with my sister-in-law. Almost two years ago exactly, I experienced my first miscarriage at 10 weeks pregnant. I learned that a miscarriage is not a one-time event or trauma but an ongoing, seemingly never ending, source of pain.

For the two months after it happened, I thought I had allowed myself to fully grieve the loss. As we were celebrating the following Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, my sister in law pointed out that my baby would have been due the following week and asked how I was feeling. I immediately started crying and experienced emotion I was previously unaware was still inside me. For the next month, my grief over the loss resumed.

At first, I’ll admit I was upset with her for bringing it up again because I did not want to feel the pain again. Now, I’m incredibly grateful to her for helping me fully grieve the loss. Often concerning painful events such as miscarriages, we hesitate to ask hard questions out of fear of the pain they will cause without realizing the safety and healing that can ultimately result from the asking.

Honest Questions

The same comfort and healing we experience through asking questions in human relationships is available to us when we ask God our most honest questions. Once again, Jesus is our ultimate example. As Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane preparing to go to the cross, he didn’t hesitate to ask God some hard questions. Read the full passage below and hear the deep cries of his heart to the Father. ‘Can you spare me the suffering that is to come?’ ‘Isn’t there another way?’

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:36-46 NRSV)

We know that God did not give Jesus the answers he had hoped for. However, we do know that he walked out of Gethsemane different than when he walked in. So how did Jesus ‘cope’ with the suffering he experienced on the cross? Did he sing worship music while hanging on the cross to dull the pain? Did he boast about having the ultimate victory? No, in the moment of his greatest suffering, without any reservation, he expressed (loudly) his fear, anger, and frustration to God in the form of a question:

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. (Matthew 27:45-49 NRSV)

Another Biblical figure we look to as an example in times of suffering is of course Job. Job was full of questions for God, even to the point of questioning his own existence. ‘Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?’ (Job 3:11 NRSV). Have you ever suffered to the point of regretting ever being born? If so, you are not alone.

What are human beings, that you make so much of them,
that you set your mind on them,
visit them every morning,
test them every moment?
Will you not look away from me for a while,
let me alone until I swallow my spittle?
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity?
Why have you made me your target?
Why have I become a burden to you? (Job 7:17-20 NRSV)

How did God respond to Job? Did God answer his questions? No, God asked questions of Job. In fact, he spends the majority of four chapters (Job 38-41) asking questions of Job in return. The end result was a deeper relationship, deeper understanding, and ultimately Job’s comfort.‘You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you’ (Job 42:4-5).After you take some time to ask God your difficult questions, take some time to listen to his response. What question(s) is God asking you?

Faith over Fear?

‘Faith over fear!’ is a common theme from pulpits these days. What if expressing our fear to God in prayer is an act of faith? Doing so demonstrates that we have faith that he is caring and compassionate towards us in our suffering. It shows that we have faith that he will not reject or condemn us simply for being afraid. We wouldn’t express our fears to God if we didn’t have faith that our cries for help will move him to action on our behalf.

What if expressing our fear to God in prayer is an act of faith?CLICK TO TWEETLet me offer a better alternative: ‘Courage overcomes fear’. What fuels our courage? Divine Purpose. Prof. Wright talks in great detail throughout many of the N.T. Wright Online courses about our vocation as being God’s image bearers: reflecting God to the world.Our example demonstrates to people who God is. What image of him are you reflecting? An angry God? A distant and apathetic God? Or the God who wants us to cast our burdens on him because he cares for us! Now more than ever, we need to show the world the God who is not afraid of our hard questions.

I have always felt enormous pressure as a minister, an ambassador of Christ, to always have a divine answer for hurting people. I have always prayed for the Holy Spirit to supernaturally reveal to me the exact scripture verse or word of encouragement that someone needs to hear to alleviate their suffering. You may have seen Prof. Wright’s recent article in Time Magazine titled ‘Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus’.This article resonated with me deeply. After 10 years of ministering to those enslaved by addiction or experiencing homelessness, I have learned the hard way that asking questions is always better than giving answers.

Safe Space

Recently I was talking on the phone with a friend who was explaining to me the deep impact childhood abuse still has on her thinking and behavior. As I listened to the horrors she has endured, I wanted to help but I had no answers for her, all I had were questions. We spoke for about an hour, after which I was certain I had offered her nothing of value. Later she sent me an email thanking me and told me, ‘The Lord really used you the other day to be a safe-space.’ I was floored by her response as I was reminded of the power that simply asking honest questions could have. The safety we both experienced in this difficult conversation was the outcome of vulnerability and acceptance within the relationship. Remember back to Jesus’ time praying in Gethsemane. Even though he didn’t get the answer he wanted and even though he would not be spared the coming suffering, Jesus found safety in his relationship with the Father.

This global pandemic offers all of us new opportunities for empathy and the chance to be a ‘safe-space’. Maybe part of our struggle to be a ‘safe-space’ for others is that we do not view Jesus as a safe space for us. We are afraid or ashamed to let him into our darkest emotions and ask him our burning questions. We forget that Jesus experienced many emotions we have labeled as ‘negative’: anger, grief, despair, fear, betrayal, and loneliness. We must remember that there is no sin or shame in experiencing these ‘negative’ emotions. They are in fact, essential. They are the birthplace of our questions.

What does Jesus expect of his Church during this time of crisis? You do not need to have all the answers, but you should embrace the questions. Honest questions are the keys to unlocking the ‘safe-spaces’ we are all longing for. Boldly let Jesus enter the space of your anger, grief, fear, and loneliness, and experience a side of him you have may have never known before. Find the safety and comfort you have been searching for in being known fully and still accepted by Jesus. Then, use that knowledge to authentically reflect him to the world.

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Rebecca Bowling

Rebecca is an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God and has her Bachelor’s Degree in Practical Theology. She has spent the last 10 years working in the nonprofit world to serve those with addictions, the homeless, and poverty stricken both at home and abroad. Rebecca has observed first hand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true hope for redemption in this world. She currently serves as the Director of Operations for the Wisconsin Center for Christian Studies.
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