Friday, May 29, 2020

Prayer List - May 2020

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly
and be glorified, just as it is with you...
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

Bangladesh – Cyclone Amphan, that ravished northeast India before hitting the southern coast of Bangladesh about a week ago had devastating effects on several Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission congregations in the Jessore and Sathkhira districts. BLCM church buildings, schools, and homes of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been severely damaged or destroyed. There has been no loss of life among the members of the BLCM, but many have sustained injuries and are still in need of medical care. All of this is happening while the people are struggling to feed and care for their families during the coronavirus lockdown. CLC Project Kinship has sent emergency disaster relief funds to the BLCM to provide for basic needs and shelter. Praise the Lord that no lives were lost among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask for His love and compassion upon those who are suffering and for protection for Pastor Monotosh as he travels to visit the people of the BLCM over the next several days.

Note: Contributions to the CLC Project Kinship general budget have been used to provide for disaster relief and COVID-19 aid.    

Myanmar – The situation with the family of eleven that has been hospitalized and quarantined for several weeks due to the coronavirus is improving. Five family members remain in the hospital, but their health has improved, and they are waiting for their test results to be returned from the government laboratories in Yangon. If the lab results come back negative, they will be able to go home. Take this to the Lord asking that He bless the treatments they have all received according to His mercy that this family will be healed of this disease and be united with each other very soon. Pray also that the Lord will provide for the medical bills that have accumulated during this long hospital stay. 

The Spiritual Welfare of Our Brothers and Sisters Around the World – as much of the world has spent the past several weeks in mandatory coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines, many in developing nations have not had the advantage of the high-speed internet connections that most of us take for granted to provide opportunities for home worship, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. Also, many of the people do not have the financial means to own their own Bibles and/or are unable to read so they depend upon weekly worship and Bible studies to hear, learn, and be strengthened by God’s saving word.

Pastoral training has also come to a halt for those who are training around the world. Options for online classes, correspondence, etc. just are not possible as most of the students have very weak and limited data available on their phones, if at all, and virtually none have internet in their homes. Pray that the Lord will bring a quick end to this pandemic that He people may return to worship and Bible study at their churches. Pray that the Lord will lead and strengthen all of us to be reminded of His great love and the truths of His saving grace that we have learned from His word and rejoice always, even in the midst of such uncertain times.

The Physical Welfare of Our Brothers and Sisters Around the World – Leaders from our sister church bodies in Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, D.R. Congo, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, along with contacts in several other countries, have reported that much of the population in these developing nations is struggling to provide the basic necessities of life. Most of the pastors and those they serve in these nations provide for their families through day-labor. For this type of laborer, you are paid for your work each day. If you do not work, you do not get paid. The coronavirus lockdowns have caused much physical suffering. Pray that the Lord will provide and that He will bless the CLC Project Kinship aid that has been sent that it will go much further than expected in providing for the sheep of His flock who are suffering.

Seminaries Preparing to Re-Open – the Wartburg Lutheran Bible Institute in Tanzania and the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute in the D.R. Congo are planning to bring students back soon. Pray for the safety of the students and instructors as they travel. Pray for the families of the students as they prepare to have their husbands and fathers gone for the next few months of classes. Pray for the teachers as they prepare lessons for this shortened semester. Pray that there will be no government interference with their plans to continue the work of training pastors for the Church. Ask for God’s blessings on these efforts to train men to be faithful preachers and teachers of His saving word during these strange and uncertain times.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

What Does The Bible Say About Pandemic Diseases/Sicknesses?

There have been lots of things written and shared on the internet and social media about God's role and intentions concerning this pandemic. As God's children, by His grace and through faith in our Savior of Jesus Christ, we will always want to turn to the Bible to find what God has revealed to us. We know that the Bible is God's word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and thus truthful in every way (John 17:17). We are not so concerned with what mankind conjures up and how he interprets these situations but rather what God reveals to us in the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21) because God is always faithful and His word will always reveal truth. We pray that the Lord will empty our hearts and minds of false ideas or claims and fill us with the truth of His saving Word!

Concerning this current Covid 19 pandemic, we ask: "What does the Bible say about pandemic diseases/sicknesses?"

Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as this current strain of the coronavirus known as Covid 19, have prompted many to ask why God allows, or even causes, pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies “to make you see my power” (Exodus 9:1416). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His own chosen people from being affected by them (Exodus12:1315:26), thus revealing His almighty power and control over diseases and other afflictions.

God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues (Leviticus 26:21, 25). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, “The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation . . . which will plague you until you perish” (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused or allowed to happen.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger. But God’s wrath always has the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Here we see God using a disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.

In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness,” as well as plagues in the areas He visited (Matthew 9:35Mark 3:10). Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed diseases and sicknesses to demonstrate His power and to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to those first Apostles to verify their ministry (Luke 9:1, Matthew 10:1). God still allows sickness for His own good and righteous purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a sinful fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has power and control over all things (Romans11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those whom He has called to be His very own, to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

The spread of sicknesses, such as this strain of the coronavirus, is a foretaste of pandemics that are a be part of the end times. Jesus referred to plagues that are associated with the last days (Luke 21:11). Revelation reveals that in these ends times the two witnesses will “...strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of severe judgments described in Revelation 16. This pandemic, like so many other plagues and troubles that we witness on this sinful and fallen world, should remind us of the sure and certain promise of the coming Judgment Day and keep us focused on promises of God as we stay ready for our Savior's return! 

The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying too much concerning any specific pandemic or disaster as proof that Judgment Day is imminent. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, this disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is uncertain and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:52 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 9:28).

How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases? 
  • First, do not panic. God is in control and has demonstrated His love for all sinners (Romans 5:8) on the cross as He sacrificed His only Son Jesus to pay for our sins  (1 John 4:10). Our forgiveness and salvation are secure! When Jesus died on the cross, He said: "it is finished." With those words, He was declaring that the work of paying for our sins and the sins of the whole world was complete! So there is nothing in this world that can threaten our forgiveness (Romans 8:31-39). Our Savior Jesus paid for our sin and thus provided full and complete forgiveness on the cross and His resurrection from the dead proves that fact. These are the promises that God makes to us and God is always faithful and He has kept and will keep every promise. 
  • Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family.  As Christians, we have the love of Christ in our hearts (Ephesians 3:14-21). We love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  We take steps to prevent contracting the virus out of love for God because He gave us life and this life is a precious gift that we should protect. We also take steps to prevent this virus out of love for our neighbor because we don't want to unknowingly infect someone else and cause sickness or even death to another individual. This is also true in all areas of our lives. We should always take care of the bodies and life that God gave to us and we should always conduct ourselves in ways that will keep those around us safe and healthy. We do all of this because the love of God is in us through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Third, rejoice in the opportunity as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to share the message of reconciliation between God and sinful mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). In the midst of all of this suffering and uncertainty, we have the privilege of sharing promises of God's love, protection, provision, compassion, forgiveness, and salvation that are all made sure and certain in our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, as you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).