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Thursday, November 29, 2007
I was out for a walk early this morning and witnessed the pre-sunrise red sky just beyond our back yard.
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"Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). "Pray for one another" (James 5:16).
Last night I called a friend from our church in New England who is in the hospital. A mutual friend who now lives in Florida emailed us and reported that Hope had been admitted to the hospital. Hope and her late husband, John, were a dear older couple in the church we served in New England. John passed away in 1999 and we stay in contact with Hope making an effort to visit her whenever we are in that area.
Brooksyne and I joined together and prayed with Hope over the phone and then shared a few words of encouragement. We sought to fulfill the two Scripture portions at the top of today's message, a mandate I believe intended for all believers; bearing one another's burdens and praying for one another. Actually we had several occasions to do so yesterday with people we know who would be unknown to most of you (some also unknown to us personally, but somewhat familiar through the daily encouragement.)
I want to share something that could be misunderstood, but please hear my heart. Consider those mass forward emails that request prayer for someone unknown to us. I am sure the initial sender was earnest (sadly though this is not always the case since hoaxes exist in many forms including email prayer requests.) Perhaps the initial recipients were a part of that circle and knew of the individual involved. The email might have a touching request often accompanied by a photo.
But somebody then dresses it up a bit and creates a chain email. It often goes on to declare the more prayers the better with instructions to pass it on to everyone in your contact list, usually with a subtle hint that in not doing so you must not care or, worse yet, promising an esoteric blessing if you do. The internet is a great tool to help us get out important messages quickly and to many individuals all at once with the press of the "Send" button. But let us also use this tool responsibly and prayerfully.
Generally bearing one another's burdens and praying for one another is relational. This is not to say that we can't pray or enlist other prayer warriors concerning a distant disaster affecting many who are personally unknown to us such as the recent flooding in Bangladesh or fires in California. We do this regularly as a family. Tragedies such as the Amish shootings last year certainly captured our hearts and prayers were spoken all around the world. But generally speaking a personal bearing of burdens is based on factual knowledge and is relationship-oriented.
I recall standing before brothers and sisters who regularly associated with one another and asked, "How can we, in praying for one another, fulfill a call to glorify God as a church body?" Several thoughtfully responded:
1) We express our dependency on God, which is a fundamental aspect of faith.
2) We obey God's call as expressed in the daily Scripture portions I have used this morning.
3) We show our genuine love and care for others.
Whose burden can you bear today? Who can you pray for? It won't take long to identify real people in our lives who need our prayers. Let's do it and follow up the prayer with personal contact that brings encouragement. "I prayed for you this morning…." "The Lord laid this Scripture verse on my heart that I would like to share with you…."
I have often had the weight of my heavy burdens lifted in this manner and I do well to help lift others' burdens in that same spirit. I want to be motivated by God's love and be a representation of Him in human form to one who needs to hear from God.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as ambassadors of Your heavenly Kingdom, we want to be keenly sensitive to those whose difficulties seem overwhelming. Some of our brothers and sisters are weighed down with troubling circumstances that might overtake them if not for those of us who take them by the arm and pull them up out of the quicksand of discouragement that ultimately sinks them further to depression or despair. As we walk heart to heart and hand in hand with our family of believers we also weep with them in their sorrows and rejoice with them in their victories. Would You lay upon my heart today two individuals, a believer and an unbeliever, and love their souls through me. Help me to do my part to strengthen my brother or sister in their faith journey. Reveal to me a way that I can show genuine concern for the unbeliever, through my caring words or in a loving deed, who needs to see the love of Christ represented in human form. In the blessed name of Jesus, I pray. Amen
Note regarding anonymous prayer request forwards. Some of you may have received these and taken a prayerful interest in them and that's fine. But several issues concern me and, yes, they can even annoy me:
1) The assumption that the more people praying is necessarily better, as if God is moved mostly by the number of people praying. Pity the poor soul who has no connection to the internet!
2) The often implied guilt if you delete the message without forwarding it on. I see this on a lot of group forwards, not only prayer requests. This is a clue for me to delete immediately and a sign of fraud. Years ago chain letters did this. Some even have a spooky warning that something bad will happen to you if you don't pass it on or if you "break the chain."
3) The promised blessing you will receive if you pass these and other types of group forwards on. As John Stossel says, "Give me a break!"
Here is a revised update concerning our Daily Encouragement Net ministry.
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