Cleared to Watch by Julie Luetke
My backyard slopes downhill to a very pleasant wooded area. It had gotten overgrown and became a tangle of brush, thorns, and vines. The growth was smothering desired plants like wild flowers and berries. After spending many afternoons clearing the unwanted growth, I feel a peace and hope that wasn't there before.
Why am I telling you about my woods? God tells us to watch and pray and be ready for His return. How can we when we are distracted by unwanted thoughts, fears, drama or time consuming habits.
In order to walk at peace in the woods, the obstructions had to go. In our faith lives we need to remove obstructions too, like distancing ourselves from people who tear others down, control our use of social media, ban stress-inducing topics at the dinner table, watch less news and discern what we read. These small steps add up to clearer minds and hearts so we can focus on Jesus’ Word and promises.
When I pray more, read the Bible more and surround myself with people who love Jesus, I can see more clearly to watch, pray and be ready for Christ’s return. Everything about me is at peace.
And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3,5 (NIV 2011)
Dear Lord, fill my mind with Your thoughts. Take my desire for things of this world away from me, so I will cling to you and be ready for your return. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Peace and Hope in the Midst of Suffering by Karen Maio
Towards the end of last year, social media was full of comments and cartoons about being relieved that we’re almost done with 2020. I laughed and thought, “What? Do these people think that all of the COVID-related troubles will magically disappear on January 1st?”
While I remain hopeful that people will stay vigilant in their masking, hand washing, and social distancing, and that the vaccine will be safe and effective, the fact is that the virus and its effects are still raging. Some may ask, “Why is God allowing this?”
Nobody knows the answer to that, but one shouldn’t be surprised by its occurrence. God has told us that in this world, we will have trouble. Even the upright suffer (think of Job). Though he was restored with double blessings, he bore the lasting painful scars of his ordeal.
We may, too. But we don’t despair because there is hope! We can find peace in the fact that God is not judging or punishing us for our sins - Jesus has already suffered for all our sins; we are forgiven. We know our God is always with us and will strengthen us through this challenging time. He has promised that even our tribulations will be for our good.
We can help comfort other people during this time of fear and uncertainty with Jesus’ gospel promises.
While I don’t have the answer to the question above, I cling to this bible verse and the eternal hope Jesus’ promises provide:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)