Reversed Thunder

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5)

Everyday God’s people are doing mighty things in and for the world: They pray.

God hears and gathers their prayers, fashions these into a thunderbolt, and strikes the earth with it.

The earth shakes. Lives are changed, the sick are healed, blind eyes are opened, lepers are cleansed, the prisoners are set free, the hungry are fed, and the poor are enriched. Storms are stilled, light shines in the darkness, life bursts forth from the tombs, and dead bones now live!

“Prayer reenters history with incalculable effect. Our earth is shaken daily by it.” (Eugene Peterson)

Let us pray!

Praying to be Rich

Sometime ago, I asked God to make me very rich – as in very, very rich! I now think that prayer was motivated by greed. Come to think of it, what would hundreds of hectares of land and billions of pesos in my bank account really mean to me on my deathbed? I am reminded of a Tolstoy short story: the man who ran all day to cover a large piece of land – he was promised that it’ll be all his, as much as he could cover by running all day – only to fall dead at sunset. Now all the land he’ll own is the six feet of dirt he’ll be buried under.

What about praying to be rich? I’m not saying that to pray in such a way is absolutely wrong all of the time. But I remember two examples from the Bible that seem to teach that praying to be rich is not ideal.

First, Agur. “Give me neither poverty nor riches.”
Second, Solomon. He prayed for wisdom. Riches were just a bonus.

That too is now my prayer: Lord, make me wise.

“Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7, NIV)

How To Be A Thankful Church

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

(Col. 3:12-17)


We are called to be a thankful church, but this doesn’t happen automatically. Certain things have first got to be true of us. Certain conditions must be met in order for gratitude to arise in our hearts. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, is teaching us in this passage that at least three areas of our corporate life as a church should be set right in order for sincere gratitude and true thankfulness to arise. These areas are: 1) our relationships, 2) our worship, and 3) our conduct. So, in order for gratitude to arise in our church –


We are God’s children – God’s chosen, holy and beloved ones. We should reflect the loving character of our Father and love one another as befits members of one family. We should therefore put on compassion (mercy and pity towards those who are weak, are suffering, are miserable), kindness (readiness to do good even when it is undeserved), humility (thinking of others as better than ourselves and being willing and ready to serve them) meekness (gentleness; the willingness to suffer injury rather than inflict), and patience (longsuffering); bearing (enduring!) one another, forgiving one another (even as the Lord forgave us). These are all characteristics of our loving Lord in his relation to us. And all these are also aspects, manifestations or characteristics of love. “Love is patient and kind,” (see I Cor. 13:4ff.). They are also the fruit (not fruits) of the Holy Spirit, love being the first mentioned in that list, as if to say that the rest follow if there is love.

The greatest is love; therefore, above all, we must put on love. It is love that unites us and moves us towards spiritual maturity. The implication is where love is lacking the church cannot move on to perfection or maturity.

But if love is present it follows that peace must be too. The peace of Christ should serve as the standard by which we measure our actions, especially towards one another. In our dealings with our brethren we must ask ourselves, Is this in line with the peace of Christ which should prevail among us? The peace of Christ should rule (i.e., serve as an umpire) in our hearts. An umpire settles disputes. If a dispute, if disharmony, is about to break out in our midst, we must let the peace of Christ settle the matter. This is what is expected of us. This is what we are called to, for the fact is we are already one body in God’s mind and plan. Our relationships should therefore reflect and correspond to this spiritual reality.

And be thankful. For what? The answer, based on the context, is Be thankful that you are one body. So here then is the connection. Gratitude arises when the body is united as a result of the love of Christ controlling and constraining us.

(To be continued)

Pray for the Church in Turkey

I felt like crying after I read the report on the martyrdom of three Christians in Malatya. Three hours of horrible torture as a consequence of having a Bible study for “seekers”! I join the world-wide church in praying for the church in Malatya, that the Lord will make good come out of evil, that the gospel of God’s grace and forgiveness will shine all the more in the midst of great darkness, and that Christians everywhere – beginning with me – will be awakened from their spiritual complacency so that we may take part, even at the cost of great suffering, in the great task of sowing love where there is hatred. On the cross the Lord Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Now Susanne Tilman, the wife of one of the martyred Christians, had the tremendous privilege in making her Savior’s words her own:

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for the cause of Christ. Let us also pray for ourselves. We take so much for granted: we enjoy freedom of speech and religion, we live comfortable lives, we complain so much about our personal sorrows which are nothing compared to the sufferings of many of our brethren in the mission field. May God shake us in order to wake us up. May he make us more courageous in speaking the truth in love!

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverence,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”