Peace, Prosperity & Politics

By Erika Rizkallah

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. My parents worked in the Capitol – one in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives – though neither were politicians. They worked grueling hours for Congress and I grew resentful about the way our government treated its workers.

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Politics was the news in our town. Other than that, we just got doom and gloom reports of crime and death in what was then “the murder capital of the world.” What I remember most was a having a sense of overwhelming fear. Almost every thought and decision was filtered through a lens of anxiety.

I felt like a captive.

Many of my friends thrived on political discourse but I hated it. I didn’t want to hear or talk about it so I stopped watching the news.

I learned the “behind the scenes” truth from my parents. Though our politicians fought and filibustered on television, many were backroom buddies. The powerful and power-hungry dined and drank together in posh clubs, away from the C-Span cameras.

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When I turned 40, God called me to a new place – hours away from the ladder climbing and clamor. It’s my personal “Promised Land” and the home I’d always longed for.

Ironically, I’m a political junkie now. I guess it’s woven into the fabric of my life. However, I’m no longer anxious or fearful about the state of our country or world. I believe making it a better place is up to us.

It’s the duty of those who believe in Christ, to be salt and light. To help create reform. We’re able to create positive changes because we have true power.

We have the Holy Spirit.

I’m halfway through the book of Jeremiah and it reminded me being a captive. Jeremiah warned people for years that if they didn’t reform their ways, they’d be exiled to Babylon. But they didn’t listen and were sent to live in a land with a new ruler, customs and language.

 

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In the midst of their servitude to King Nebuchadnezzar, God gave them instructions for living through a letter sent by the prophet Jeremiah. He said, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper . . .”  Jeremiah 29:5-7

I love the phrase . . . Build houses and settle down.

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It conveys a sense of peace in frightening circumstances. Though their rebellion resulted in captivity, God still comforted them. He always has a purpose and plan for his people.

The letter also said, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “ v. 29:11

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We often hear the prosperity part without the following verses:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” v. 29:12-14

I believe his declarations. His gracious promise of peace and prosperity. He’s for us no matter the political posturing or predicaments.

When we seek him with all our heart and seek the peace and prosperity of our cities, he will listen and we will be found by him.

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Oh what a reason for rejoicing and wonder!

How about you: Are you seeking?

 

 

Called to struggle

By Erika Rizkallah

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Out of the darkness comes light. Do you believe this?

Whenever a mass killing streams across news headlines I try not to spend too much time in front of the television. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of a natural disaster or at the hands of a psychopath.

It’s too painful and I tend to absorb the energy of those who’ve suffered and lost.

However, the Orlando attack resonated with me; it could have been me in that bar. I don’t go to bars now (because I’m sober) but a long time ago, I frequented gay bars in my old hometown. It was the best place for a young woman to dance the night away without being hit on by sloshed and groping men.

Last night I forced myself to listen to the many survivor stories and I can’t get two of them out of my head.

The first was about a guy who’d made it out unharmed. On the way, he found a man who’d been shot three times – one was a life-threatening shot in the back. He helped him to a waiting police car for transport to the hospital. The officer had him shove his shirt in the bullet wound and instructed him to bear hug the guy all the way to the hospital. It was a human tourniquet and would help keep him from bleeding to death. Bloody and hugging the injured man, the good Samaritan said, “Can I pray for you?” He then cried out to God on the man’s behalf and comforted him, telling him everything would be alright.

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He silently begged God that his words would be true. His prayer was answered.

The next story was told by a man hiding in a bathroom stall with others when the shooter came in. He says they begged him not to shoot. The killer laughed and sprayed bullets. The survivor told the reporter the laughter sounded satisfied. It was a laugh unlike any he’d ever heard before.

He then went on to say, “It sounded like it came from another world.”

I don’t doubt it. The Bible clearly states that our world is increasingly evil. Because of this, we’re called to struggle.

We are called to strenuously resist our own evil inclinations and fight against the forces of darkness. We’re called to struggle in prayer.

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Prayer is our weapon. Faith is our shield. His word is our sword.

Today will you pick up your weapons and fight with me?

 

5 Tips for Conquering Procrastination (aka Resistance)

By Erika Rizkallah

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5 tips for conquering procrastination

Yesterday I was talking with a shrink (that’s what he calls himself) about procrastination. I was listening in on an open conversation he was having with a family member and as soon as he said the word my ears pricked up. I struggle with procrastination and he told us it’s really a symptom of anxiety.

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He said if it were laziness we would be fully lazy – we wouldn’t do anything at all. But if it’s procrastination it’s a matter of choosing to do something other than the thing we’re avoiding. I think there’s some truth to that and it got me thinking about  Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

It’s a great book for people of a creative nature. He talks about resistance being an impersonal but powerful force that immediately appears as soon as we delve into the creative.

While it’s secular in nature, it speaks to me and I turn to it as as way to shake the grip of procrastination from my spirit. Here are 5 of my tips to help you conquer this inevitability.

Tip #1 – Be prepared: There are always things in life that will make us anxious. Whether it’s a task, conversation or event, rest assured, resistance will come. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a good time to run the “what if” scenarios through our minds. We can ask things like, What if my computer crashes? or What if the boss doesn’t like my presentation? By thinking through things that could thwart our efforts, we’re preparing ourselves for success.

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           Think through problems

Tip # 2 – Pray for God’s strength: We’re simply human beings, only flesh and bone. We are inherently weak, but when we ask God for strength to persevere, we’re accessing his power. He’s generous and he loves to give us gifts.

Tip # 3 – Face the obstacle head on: Yes, there may be resistance but we don’t help ourselves by avoiding it, we just delay the inevitable. Or worse, live with regret.

Face obstacles head on!

Face obstacles head on!

Tip # 4 – Get an accountability partner: Grab a friend and ask for help. Ask her to help you stay on top of the issue by calling, e-mailing or standing with you as you reach for your goal.

Tip # 5 Stand firm: At the end of procrastination is a gift waiting to be opened. In his struggle to preach the gospel, the apostle Paul suffered beatings, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and more. It’s likely we won’t suffer physically, but if we do, we’re in great company.

Your Turn: Can you share tips for conquering procrastination? What tip will you use from my list? 

The key to calm in the storm

By Erika Rizkallah

As I wrote this post, a storm raged outside. It’s name was Joaquin.

Isn’t naming storms strange? I’m not sure why we do this. Why do we try to “humanize” a havoc wreaking force of nature? It’s not as if Joaquin is a friendly visitor popping in for coffee. No . . . Joaquin is no friend of mine. He’s flooding my town and turning my backyard into a swimming pool.

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See, there I go using the pronoun “he” for what’s really a large mass of wind and rain. It’s a storm for Pete’s sake! And who is Pete and why is this a phrase?

I guess it’s part of our need to name things and somehow understand them better. It gives us a sense of control over the mysterious. Oh sure, science has it all figured out so we no longer consider them “Acts of God” (until our insurance denies the claim – then it’s God’s fault.) We know what elements cause storms in our earthly environment, but what about the “storms of life?”

Who or what causes them? Do they really strengthen us as people claim or just leave a mess of nasty debris that needs to be cleaned up?

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Are you experiencing a hurricane of your own? Has a crisis whirled through your life like a tornado?

As my friend Sondra would say, “Rest in Jesus.”

He knows all about storms. Once when he and his disciples were cruising across the Sea of Galilee (actually a large lake), a perilous storm arose. Even today fierce storms suddenly occur on this lake, creating waves as high as twenty feet.

The account is written in the Bible in Luke 8:23: As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” He asked his disciples.

Jesus is almighty and all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He will still the storms but we need faith in order to see it played out in our lives.

Let’s pray!: Heavenly Father, you are mighty and rescue us from trouble. Help us navigate through our trials with grace and peace. Help us trust you when it appears you are asleep to our problems. We know you have good plans for us and we ask that your timing and will be done in our lives. Amen.

The Way

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4

Living with fear, especially in our day and age – these days of brazen and barbaric wickedness – can seem like a normal way to live.

I lived much of my life with fear. In fact, I was one of the most fearful people I know…until I was delivered of it. Fear is a form of bondage. It causes anxiety, stress on the body and affects all aspects of our lives. We are clothed in it and everything we do is borne out of it. In short, it’s a terrible way to live.

…he will come to save you.

And Jesus did. He came to save us and set us free from the oppression of it. I know this to be true because it’s part of my story. One of my earliest memories is one of fear. And even when I accepted Christ as my savior, at the age of 26, I wasn’t immediately released from it. God had some serious work to do in my spirit and my freedom wouldn’t come until years later.

I urge you to read all of Chapter 35 in the book of Isaiah. It’s titled Joy of the Redeemed and speaks of Jesus well before he ever walked the earth as a human. Isaiah gave God’s people a hint of what was to come and this picture always makes me think of him.

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It says our savior will:

give sight to the blind. And Jesus did.

unstop the ears of the deaf. And Jesus did.

cause the lame to leap like a dear. And Jesus did.

cause water to gush forth in the wilderness. And Jesus did.

cause the burning sand to become a pool and the thirsty ground bubbling springs. And Jesus did.

It speaks of new growth and a new road, a highway – a way in which the righteous walk. And Jesus was.

Jesus is The Way.

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Those who walk in this way have no fear, because His perfect love casts it out.

What about you? Do you walk in this way? Have you accepted Him as your savior? If so, fear not!

And if you don’t know Him as your savior yet, I urge you to choose life now. Your reward will be great. Your reward is Jesus himself and a new life. All you have to do is ask him to be the savior and Lord of your life. And he will because he loves you.

Isn’t that amazing?! It is! He loves you. He wants you and he wants to give you this new life and Way of life.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Finding comfort in a “messy” world.

Yesterday our President said, “…The world has always been messy.”

He’s right.

As I watched the news and lamented over the brutality of ISIS, one picture filled my mind. It’s a scripture from the book of Isaiah:

…All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:6

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Think about it. Whatever ISIS is doing and whatever our government is not doing, this is the truth – God is watching over us and his ears hear our prayers for peace. 

Here’s more truth to comfort you:

He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. Isaiah 40:23-24

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Regarding barbarians like ISIS: We have nothing to fear. Our God is stronger and His ears hear our prayers.

Jesus never worried about men and what they could do to him. We are His followers. So today Lord, we ask in your name that you blow them away like chaff. Blow them all away.