Newspaper Prayers: A Daily Series

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump Doubles Down on Threats Against North Korea as Nuclear Tensions Escalate

President Trump escalated his war of words with North Korea on Thursday by declaring that his provocative threat to rain down “fire and fury” might not have been harsh enough, as nuclear tensions between the two nations continued to crackle.

Rejecting critics at home and abroad who condemned his earlier warning as reckless saber-rattling, Mr. Trump said North Korea and its volatile leader, Kim Jong-un, have pushed the United States and the rest of the world for too long.

“Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” he told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Friday, August 11, 2017

Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). When I pray this I ask that God so pour out his forgiveness on people that they feel compelled to forgive those who have injured them.

This kind of praying can be used in our own personal lives. It can also be used when praying for ethnic conflict within nation or nation-against-nation conflict.

Both Jesus and the teaching of history has taught us that hatred and fear cannot be conquered with greater hatred.  This is why forgiveness is so powerful.  It is not idealistic to believe that forgiveness can solve deep divisions.  Consider what Jesus accomplished when he prayed, while hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them for the don’t know what they are doing.”

Prayers for Friday, August 11, 2017

Dear God, we pray that you so pour out your forgiveness on people and nations that we will be compelled to forgive others.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, August 10, 2017

At Least 50 Migrants Drown as Smuggler Throws Them Into Sea

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The migrants — average age 16 — were fleeing two desperate places, Ethiopia and Somalia. They were headed to the shores of another, Yemen.

But early Wednesday morning, as they were about to reach land, they were thrown into the Arabian Sea by a boatman they had paid to take them across the water, according to the United Nations migration agency.

At least 50 of them drowned.

Their attempted flight to a country consumed by war was a measure of the desperation of thousands of people from the Horn of Africa, where successive droughts have led to acute shortages of food and water and to outbreaks of disease. Thousands have fled, usually paying smugglers to take them to Persian Gulf countries in search of work.

The route, across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, takes them through Yemen, one of the world’s most dangerous war zones, where airstrikes and mortar shelling have become routine, and a cholera outbreak has affected more than 400,000 people.

And Yemen, too, is on the brink of famine. Nearly seven million residents rely entirely on food aid, the World Food Program says.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Thursday, August 10, 2017

Right in the middle of the greatest prayer that has ever been given to humanity, we have this request: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6.11).

Please note, God invites us to bring our “daily bread” needs to him in prayer. So, let’s do it. Let’s bring everything we need to him, just like a child boldly asks a parent for what he or she needs.

As we pray for our “daily bread” needs, take time to discover areas of the world where food shortage and starvation is a paramount concern. Ask God that he provide for their daily bread.

Prayers for Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dear God, we pray for migrants throughout the earth, who are attempting to escape desperate situations. Please grant them their daily bread needs. 

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trump Threatens ‘Fire and Fury’ Against North Korea if It Endangers U.S.

President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangered the United States, as tensions with the isolated and impoverished nuclear-armed state escalated into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet of his administration.

In chilling language that evoked the horror of a nuclear exchange, Mr. Trump sought to deter North Korea from any actions that would put Americans at risk. But it was not clear what specifically would cross his line. Administration officials have said that a pre-emptive military strike, while a last resort, is among the options they have made available to the president.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is spending much of the month on a working vacation. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Referring to North Korea’s volatile leader, Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump said, “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Undaunted, North Korea warned several hours later that it was considering a strike that would create “an enveloping fire” around Guam, the western Pacific island where the United States operates a critical Air Force base. In recent months, American strategic bombers from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base have flown over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Matthew 6.10 – “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Newspaper headlines are filled with information about the governments of this world. On a daily basis, they contain stories of oppressors and the oppressed. God has an alternative kingdom. What is his kingdom all about? I recommend that we read the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels), carefully looking at how Jesus lived and what he taught. This is the best picture we have of what God’s kingdom is all about.

The more we know about God’s kingdom, the more we will pray for it to come in its fullness.

Prayers for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dear God, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven in my life and in the world today.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Secrecy and Suspicion Surround Trump’s Deregulation Teams

When President Trump ordered federal agencies to form teams to dismantle government regulations, the Transportation Department turned to people with deep industry ties.

One appointee had previously lobbied the department on behalf of American Airlines. Another held executive roles for several electric and hybrid car companies regulated by the department. A third was a lawyer who represented United Airlines in regulatory matters.

The three appointees have been identified by The New York Times and ProPublica in a continuing effort to track members of the deregulation teams. The appointments, previously unreported, follow a pattern identified by the two news organizations: By and large, the Trump administration has stacked the teams with political appointees, some of whom may be reviewing rules their former employers sought to weaken or kill.

The congressmen cited a recent investigation by The Times and ProPublica revealing that members of the deregulation teams have included lawyers who represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups and employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The greatest prayer that has ever been given to humanity begins with these words: “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6.9).

Let’s not miss the importance of calling God, “Father.” The term, “Father,” assumes a personal relationship. Jesus teaches us that God is not an impersonal force, but a very personal Being who can be experienced in the same way we relate to a human father or mother. It is quite natural to both speak to and listen to an earthly parent. Jesus teaches us that the same is true when we communicate with God.

To hallow our Heavenly Father’s name means to set his name apart as special and important. A person’s name refers to his or her reputation. When we speak with our Heavenly Father, our first prayer is to ask that God’s reputation match his magnificent character. We pray for his reputation on the earth be a reflection of is character.

Prayers for Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear God, thank you that you have revealed yourself as personal and approachable. Your character is magnificent, beyond the limits of language!

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the Internet for Monday, August 7, 2017

I live with the ability to have abundant varieties of food. That is not true of many in the world. Below are the statistics for fellow citizens of the world. I don’t relate well to numbers, but I can imagine the people I love living in the circumstances that are faced by millions of people. Certainly, the needy and vulnerable of the earth are worthy of our prayers.

Number of hungry people in the world

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016. Almost all the hungry people, 780 million, live in developing countries, representing 12.9 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Monday, August 7, 2017

Matthew 6.6 – “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

One of the heroes of our church took these words literally. She had a prayer room where every day she met with the Heavenly Father in secret. On the wall were pictures of people for whom she prayed. I believe that the good we experience in our church has its beginning in this lady’s prayer room.

Our world needs praying people like this woman. The dire situations of the world need millions of people who enter their quiet place and pray to the Heavenly Father. This secret place will produce results that will be obvious for the benefit of many.

Prayers for Monday, August 7, 2017

Dear God, please take us to the secret place of prayer with you.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, August 4, 2017

Opioid Users Are Filling Jails. Why Don’t Jails Treat Them?

NEW HAVEN — When Dave Mason left jail in October 2015 after his 14th criminal conviction, the odds were good that he would end up dead.

A man with a longtime heroin addiction, Mr. Mason was entering one of the deadliest windows for jailed users returning to the streets: the first two weeks after release, when they often make the mistake of returning to a dose their body can no longer handle.

Standing outside the New Haven Correctional Center, clutching his few belongings in a brown paper bag, Mr. Mason appeared precariously close to taking that path. His ride never showed up. He had no money, no contact with his family and nowhere to live.

But instead of panhandling for cash to score drugs, he went to a methadone clinic, determined to stay clean.

Of the nation’s 5,100 jails and prisons, fewer than 30 offer opioid users the most proven method of recovery: administering methadone or buprenorphine, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Dr. Kathleen Maurer, director of health services for Connecticut’s corrections department, said it was critical for jails and prisons to treat opioid addictions like chronic diseases, including providing medicine.

“We don’t take away people’s insulin or their asthma inhalers,” she said. “Why should we take away their methadone?”

Readings from Jeremiah 5.21-23 for Friday, August 4, 2017

God has given this generation abilities that couldn’t be imagined 100 years ago. Who could have imagined super computers, smart phones, and driver-less cars at that time? Even though we have the ability to travel through space, our morality has not exceeded the times of Jeremiah the prophet.

Our intelligence and mechanical advancements have not brought us closer to love. Like the people of Jeremiah’s day, we are stubborn, rebellious and we have turned away from the pathway of peace.

Jeremiah 5.21-23 – Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but do not see, who have ears, but do not hear. Do you not fear me? says the Lord; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.

Prayers for Friday, August 4, 2017

Dear God, we repent that we are distant from you because of our poor choices. Please cause us to return to you and to what is right.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, August 3, 2017

Trump Can’t Save American Christianity By ROD DREHER

(Note, I have only excerpts from this article. If you have access to the New York Times, it is worth your time to read the entire article.)

According to Genesis 1, in four days, God made the heavens, the earth and all the vegetation upon it. But four days after Anthony Scaramucci’s filthy tirade went public, Team Trump’s evangelical all-stars — pastors and prominent laity who hustle noisily around the Oval Office trying to find an amen corner — still had not figured out what to say.

Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.

This is not only wrong, but tragically so. The most pressing problem Christianity faces is not in politics. It’s in parishes. It’s with the pastors. Most of all, it’s among an increasingly faithless people.

The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States. As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that. In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate.

First, Americans are falling away from the church in unprecedented numbers. According to a 2014 Pew study, more than one in three millennials refuse to identify with a religious tradition — a far higher number than among older Americans. Most of these young adults are likely to stay away from church as they age.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jesus had a lot to say about conflict. He knew that conflict is one of the largest issues we face in life. The “eye for an eye” approach was intended to limit retaliation. If someone injured another, the retaliation could only be equal and not excessive in nature.

Jesus has a far better solution to conflict. His path may seem unduly difficult, as we choose to not protect our security or possessions. We may wonder if it is even remotely practical. Notice below Jesus’ teaching.

Matthew 5.38-41 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

Jesus is our example. When others wanted his only possession, his cloak, and when they threatened his security by executing him by the most cruel method, he permitted it to take place. Jesus knew that the way to defeat our enemies is by making them our friends by love.

Prayers for Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dear God, help us to learn how to deal with conflict your way. May we through love turn our enemies into friends.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Conflict Sells

Conflict is all over the front page of the New York Times. There is so much conflict that I have difficulty finding a single article. Therefore, I haven’t chosen an article for today.

Conflict is also the grist of television news and entertainment. It is a general principle of journalism that people won’t read or tune in without a measure of conflict.

Even though conflict is interesting, it one of the most painful aspects of human existence. Today, consider Jesus’ words about conflict.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jesus knows more about conflict management than any other person to walk the earth. He puts the responsibility for reconciliation within the individual. He goes so far as to say that our gifts of worship and prayer should be put aside until we have made the relationship with our brother or sister right.

Matthew 5.23-24 – So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

It is difficult to pray when we are conscious of a broken relationship. Determine to live at peace with all people and to be peacemakers.

Prayers for Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dear God, please give us the ability to live peacefully with all people and to be peacemakers.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In Mosul, Revealing the Last ISIS Stronghold

(Note: if you have access to the New York Times, the pictures of the devastation are striking.)

Days after the Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul in July, the fighting was far from over.

Roughly the size of a block in Manhattan, the last ISIS holdout of the Old City did not seem like the kind of place where anyone could still be alive after weeks of brutal combat. But a few such areas kept up the fight for days. And — horribly, amazingly — civilians were still being pulled out.

The toll of the battle for Mosul on nearly every front — human rights, lives, property and Iraqi heritage — is only now starting to come into focus. As the last searches in the Old City wrap up, the almost unfathomable task of rebuilding the city and, somehow, coming to grips with all that happened here, stretches out ahead into the unknown.

Readings from Jeremiah 5.1-2 for Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What happens when an entire culture is corrupt? Could it be that the devastation of some countries is due to the inherent corruption of its citizens? I believe that is the case. In Jeremiah’s day the entire nation had turned away from their relationship with God. Even people who “talked a good game” with regard to God were discovered to be false in their supposed devotion.

Jeremiah 5.1-2 – Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note! Search its squares and see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth— so that I may pardon Jerusalem. Although they say, “As the Lord lives,” yet they swear falsely.

The task of praying people is to intercede on behalf of our corrupt world, asking God to help us repent.

Prayers for Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dear God, we pray for innocent suffering people around the world who are the victims of corrupt, powerful people.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, July 31, 2017

‘I’m a Civilian. I’m Innocent’: Who’s in Congo’s Mass Graves?

(Note: This is a long and tragic article about the ill use of power and human suffering.)

KANANGA, Democratic Republic of Congo — They are everywhere. Here next to a house, where a woman is hanging clothes to dry. There in a field, where children are playing.

They are graves, filled with hundreds of bodies.

In the town of Nganza, in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the dead have been decomposing for months. Now it may be too late to identify them. The ground that covers them has turned almost smooth again. The only sign that there are people buried here are the government soldiers in red berets and aviator sunglasses, posted nearby with AK-47s.

They are deployed not for protection but to stop anyone from investigating witnesses’ claims that the security forces went door to door here in March, gunning whole families down in their homes and then closing the doors behind them.

The Roman Catholic Church, one of the few institutions in the country that provides reliable statistics, estimates that at least 3,300 people have been killed in the region since October. More than 1.4 million people have been displaced internally or are flooding into Angola.

Readings from Jeremiah 4.22 for Monday, July 31, 2017

Can you identify with God’s grief, as he looks at his children who are skilled in doing evil, but who don’t understand his ways? Jeremiah’s words are especially true in the age in which we live. Please consider sharing God’s grief over the state of the world. Speak to God about the condition of the world and ask him to bring a spirit of repentance upon the earth.

Jeremiah 4.22 – “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”

Prayers for Monday, July 31, 2017

Dear God, we pray for you intervention in our world. Please restore righteousness and justice.

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, July 28, 2017

Anthony Scaramucci’s Uncensored Rant: Foul Words and Threats to Have Priebus Fired 

When Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, went on television on Thursday morning to compare himself and his adversary, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, to Cain and Abel, it seemed to encapsulate the fratricidal nature of an administration riven by biblical rivalries. Cain, after all, killed Abel as they vied for God’s favor.

As it turned out, that was the cleaned-up version. In a vulgarity-laced telephone call with a New Yorker writer reported on the magazine’s website on Thursday evening, Mr. Scaramucci railed against Mr. Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, both of whom opposed his hiring last week. He even vowed to get the chief of staff fired. “Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he’ll be asked to resign very shortly,” Mr. Scaramucci said.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Friday, July 28, 2017

We can’t complain about the darkness. The darkness does what it does best – killing, stealing, and destroying life. What is needed is light. Jesus tells his followers that they are the light that the world desperately needs.

Matthew 5.14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

The question before us is whether we will allow our addictions, our greed, our lust, our materialism and a myriad of other issues to keep the light from illuminating the darkness of world? Our prayer today is that we will live in such a way that light drives out the darkness of our world.

Prayers for Friday, July 28, 2017

Dear God, please help followers of Jesus to live in such a way that people around us see your character of love and grace.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, July 27, 2017

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas Will Be Nominated as Religious Ambassador 

Sam Brownback, the beleaguered governor of Kansas whose aggressively conservative fiscal polices turned some fellow Republicans against him, will be nominated to serve as ambassador at large for international religious freedom, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Brownback, 60, represented his home state in Congress before being elected to two terms as governor beginning in 2011.

On Twitter, Mr. Brownback wrote on Wednesday: “Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause.”

Comment from Bob: My experience with Governor Brownback is very positive with regard to his passion for religious liberty. I know of instances in the past where his influence has helped free people from religious persecution. I expect this to be a good role for his passion and ability.

Readings from Jeremiah 4.14 for Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jeremiah 4.14 – O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness so that you may be saved. How long shall your evil schemes lodge within you? 

Today’s verse is selected from a passage that highlights war against Jerusalem, a war that the people of that city will not win.

God’s answer for people at war – war within themselves or otherwise – is to turn away from evil schemes. As long as my intellect and will is focused on obtaining my own self-centered and self-directed desires, I will be distant from God and his help. God’s answer is to wash our hearts clean of this kind of activity.

Prayers for Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bob Spradling

Dear God, please help us to wash our hearts of the wickedness of our own self-centered and self-directed desires.

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, July 26, 2017

McCain Returns to Cast Vote to Help the President Who Derided Him 

Senator John McCain is less the lion of the Senate than its wildcat, veering through the decades from war hero to Republican presidential nominee to irascible foil for an unlikely president.

On Tuesday, Mr. McCain ambled gingerly into the Capitol to sustained applause less than two weeks after brain surgery, casting a vote to aid President Trump, who has served as more tormentor than ally.

But moments later in a speech on the Senate floor, Mr. McCain turned what had been an uplifting moment for his Republican colleagues — whom he saved from an embarrassing failure on the floor — into an ominous cloud for any health care legislation.

He said that although he had voted to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, he would definitely not vote for a Senate health care bill without major changes.

As it turned out, however, Mr. McCain did side late Tuesday with most Senate Republicans who voted — unsuccessfully — to replace the health care law with the most comprehensive plan his party has offered so far.

Readings from Jeremiah 4.3 for Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jeremiah 4.3 – For thus says the Lord to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”

Farmers easily understand the terminology, “fallow ground.” It describes a field that has not been plowed or planted for some time. The grass and weeds that cover the earth must be removed before any crops can grow.

Our spiritual life can resemble the farmer’s fallow ground. We have difficulty producing a spiritual crop, because our lives are filled with activities that choke out God’s life in us.

How do we break up the “fallow ground” of our soul? The revivalist Charles Finney recommended that we list all of our sins on paper. Then, we confess each one of them to God and turn away from them. If you follow this practice, you will see the hard places of your heart begin to loosen to the loving work of God.

Another approach, similar to that of Finney is from AA. Alcoholics Anonymous has a Fourth Step exercise that will help us break up the “fallow ground” of our inside condition. You can find resources for the AA Fourth Step on the Internet.

Prayers for Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bob Spradling

Dear God, we desire to have an inside condition that allows you the freedom to produce the fruit of love, joy, and peace within us.

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, July 25, 2017

U.S. Navy Plane Takes ‘Evasive Action’ to Avoid Chinese Fighter Jet 

A United States Navy spy plane had to take evasive action to avoid crashing into a Chinese fighter jet that suddenly pulled up in front of the American plane in contested skies above the East China Sea on Sunday, the Pentagon said.

Two Chinese fighter planes intercepted the Navy EP-3 surveillance plane, approaching at high speeds from beneath the American plane, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

When the planes were only a few hundred feet apart, one of the Chinese planes slowed down and flew directly in front of the Navy plane, prompting the American pilot to take what Captain Davis described as “evasive action.” He said the episode took place in international airspace between the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Matthew 5.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Glenn Clark, Frank Laubach, and Rufus Moseley (see other blog articles) were the first to teach me that the way God defeats his enemies is to make them his friends. What would happen if we imitated God’s activity with regard to our enemies? What if we sought the man or woman who most irritates and angers us and made that person our project? Starr Daily, a friend and co-worker with the men above, did this while serving a twenty-year sentence in prison. Once converted, he sought out the most difficult prisoners to see if he could help turn them from enemies to friends of God.

What a great challenge! Let’s seek to help an enemy become a friend of God.

Prayers for Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dear God, we desire to join your great work of turning enemies into your friends. Show us how to do it, we pray.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, July 24, 2017

Chuck Schumer: A Better Deal for American Workers (by Chuck Schumer) 

Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people.

There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement. In the second half of the 20th century, millions of Americans achieved this solid middle-class lifestyle. I should know — I grew up in that America.

But things have changed.

Today’s working Americans and the young are justified in having greater doubts about the future than any generation since the Depression. Americans believe they’re getting a raw deal from both the economic and political systems in our country. And they are right. The wealthiest special interests can spend an unlimited, undisclosed amount of money to influence elections and protect their special deals in Washington. As a result, our system favors short-term gains for shareholders instead of long-term benefits for workers.

And for far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans.

We are in the minority in both houses of Congress; we cannot promise anyone that this Congress will begin passing our priorities tomorrow. But we have to start raising our voices to present our vision for the country’s future. We will seek the support of any Republicans willing to work with us, but more important, we must start rallying the American people to support our ideas.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Monday, July 24, 2017

Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” 

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author. In one of his books, he defined the pure in heart as people whose will is focused on one thing – loving God. Rufus Moseley (see other blog articles) willed to be united with God and to give love and only love every day. Moseley demonstrated the truth of this promise from Jesus. He enjoyed a very conscious personal relationship with God.

Instead of pursuing so many issues that divide our inside condition, why don’t we join the great men and women of the earth who have made it their supreme desire to love God with their whole being? Why not give this way of living an opportunity to affect our lives, beginning today?

Prayers for Monday, July 24, 2017

Dear God, unite our hearts to love you with a single-focused love.

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, July 21, 2017

Bob Spradling

Exxon Mobil Fined for Violating Sanctions on Russia 

The Treasury Department on Thursday fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia in 2014 while Rex W. Tillerson, now the secretary of state, was the oil company’s chief executive.

The penalty was relatively small for the Treasury and a blip on Exxon’s mammoth balance sheet, but it came as controversy over Russia policy has engulfed Washington. The Trump administration is facing questions about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, and Congress has considered stiffening sanctions out of concern that President Trump will try to ease those already in place.

The move also underscores concerns over Mr. Tillerson’s deep business connections in Russia.

“Exxon Mobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements,” the Treasury said in a report announcing the penalty. “Exxon Mobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program.”

Readings from Jeremiah 3.12-13 for Friday, July 21, 2017

Our lack of faith is not proclaimed with words. Rather, our lack of faith is demonstrated by our actions. When we attach ourselves to money, sex, power, protection, etc., we show that we believe we can secure our own lives apart from God. Seeking to be free from God, we become slaves to our addictions.

God invites us to return to him, to be forgiven and to be healed.

Jeremiah 3.12-13 – Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord.

Prayers for Friday, July 21, 2017

Dear God, we have sinned and have rebelled against you. Please help us to return to a relationship with you.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Defender of the Constitution, With No Legal Right to Live Here 

LOS ANGELES — She spends her days preparing legal strategies to help undocumented immigrants stay in the country. But at any moment, Lizbeth Mateo could be picked up for deportation herself. She is an immigration lawyer with her own immigration lawyer.

Last month, Ms. Mateo was officially sworn in as a lawyer, taking an oath to uphold the United States Constitution. After years of flaunting her status as undocumented and openly defying immigration law, she is now part of the legal system and hopes to represent clients who, like her, entered the United States illegally.

Allowing undocumented immigrants to work as lawyers is a sign of just how far the acceptance of such immigrants has come in places like California. When Kevin de León, the leader of the California State Senate, presided over Ms. Mateo’s swearing-in ceremony, he called her the embodiment of the American dream.

But Ms. Mateo is setting out to practice law in a new era: President Trump, whose vows to seal off the border with a wall energized supporters, has made clear that all undocumented immigrants could be deported. Some immigrants have responded by going into hiding while others prepare to return home.

Ms. Mateo is among those confronting the administration even though doing so carries with it personal risk. She is regarded as a bold advocate by some and as a foolhardy provocateur by others because she left the country and returned illegally, daring immigration agents to detain her.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Thursday, July 20, 2017

Matthew 5.7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Our understanding of the word, “mercy,” can be expanded by looking at some synonyms for it: accepting, charitable, compassionate, forgiving, gentle, kind, patient, tenderhearted, and loving.

Today, pray for these qualities in yourself and pray for them to expand throughout the world.

Prayers for Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dear God, today we pray for a worldwide expansion of mercy.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Paradox of Mexico’s Mass Graves (an editorial by Ioan Grillo)

The Colinas de Santa Fe neighborhood on the outskirts of this port city looks like hundreds of other residential housing developments built across Mexico in recent decades. Streets are lined with identical brick homes — bungalows with two bedrooms, painted pink, blue or green and advertised as being close to a shopping mall. Yards are cluttered with children’s bikes, basketball hoops and satellite dishes. But on the edge of the estate, investigators announced in March, fields for grazing cattle hid thousands of decaying body parts, including more than 250 skulls, buried in a number of pits.

Drug cartels are widely believed to be behind the mass grave. Most of the victims are yet to be identified. A mother living a few blocks from the field said she had no idea it was there. In April, residents filed a complaint that the smell of rotting corpses being unearthed was seeping into their homes.

I’ve covered Mexico’s violence since 2001, but I am still dumbstruck by the extent to which normal life seems to carry on next door to such terrors. A study released last month found that at least 1,400 bodies were dug up from mass graves across the country between 2009 and 2014. And those are just a fraction of the 176,000 murders that police have counted here over the last decade.

At the same time, Mexico has a trillion-dollar economy and is the eighth-most-visited tourist destination on the planet. The government denies there is an armed conflict going on.

The site was discovered not by the police but by mothers searching for their disappeared children. One of them, Maria de Lourdes Rosales, was trying to find her son, a 25-year-old customs worker who was abducted by a group of gunmen in 2013. After the police found no trace of him, she joined other family members of the more than 30,000 people who have disappeared across the country to demand justice. “You live with great pain every day,” Ms. Rosales told me. “You are missing something in your life, in your heart, in your soul, and your only goal is finding them.”

One day, when a group of mothers were marching in protest, a car drew up and a mysterious man got out to give them a hand-drawn map showing where the mass grave was. The mothers went to the site and began digging. Only after they unearthed clothes and human bones did the state forensics teams take over.

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount for Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Matthew 5.6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

The translation of the Greek word for “righteousness” can be either “righteousness” or “justice.” It is perfectly in keeping with God’s desires for us that we hunger and thirst for righteous and holy living. It is also consistent with God’s will that justice prevail for those who desperately need it.

As you pray this passage, please pray for both righteousness and justice to increase in the earth.

Prayers for Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dear God, we pray for both your righteousness and your justice to increase in the earth.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump Tweets ‘That’s Politics!’ About Son’s Meeting With Russian Lawyer 

He ran on a promise to end politics as usual.

But on Monday morning, President Trump posted a defense on Twitter of his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer promising sensitive government information that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton by saying that it was simply politics as usual.

In Mr. Trump’s newest tweet about his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a meeting on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower, he described the gathering as routine and something almost anyone in politics would have wanted to attend.

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr attended in order to get info on an opponent,” Mr. Trump wrote just after 10 a.m. “That’s politics!”

Readings from Jeremiah 2.17 and 19 for Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If a person decides to disregard the law of gravity, jumps and breaks his leg, we may be inclined to use Jeremiah’s words in verse 17. Haven’t you brought your broken leg upon yourself? When we choose to not follow God’s clear directions for life, we can expect the same results just the same as if we decide to challenge the law of gravity.

Jeremiah 2.17 – Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, while he led you in the way?

The word, “apostasy,” in verse 19 is not commonly used today. It refers to a person being confronted with the truth, recognizing it, and deliberately turning away from it.

The phrase “fear of the Lord,” does not refer to cringing in fear before God. Rather, it gathers up the thoughts of our proper relationship of love and reverence to the One who created us and loves us enough to send his Son to save us.

Just as the law of gravity punishes people who turn away from its reality, to turn away from God is disastrous to individuals and to nations.

Jeremiah 2.19 – Your wickedness will punish you, and your apostasies will convict you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, says the Lord God of hosts.

Prayers for Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dear God, please grant us the faith to respond to your love with joyful obedience.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, July 14, 2017

The Spirit of Liu Xiaobo

How Liu Xiaobo died says a lot about modern China and the fears of modern Chinese leaders. The government in Beijing controls a nuclear weapons arsenal and throws its weight around in international affairs. Yet it was afraid to hear the democratic ideas advocated at great cost by a courageous man of conscience.

In 2009, Mr. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and even after he learned he had liver cancer in May, Chinese authorities refused to let him leave the country for treatment. So one of China’s most famous dissidents died on Thursday under guard in a Chinese hospital at age 61. He was his country’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

As is common in an increasingly repressive China, Mr. Liu was punished not for a crime, but for giving voice to the most basic human yearnings. In 2008, he was a leader in drafting Charter 08, a constitutional reform manifesto that advocated respect for “universal values shared by all humankind,” including human rights, equality, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The charter endorsed direct elections, judicial independence and an end to Communist Party dominance, and though it was on the Internet only briefly before censors pulled it, it garnered 10,000 signatures.

The government accused Mr. Liu of “inciting subversion of state power,” but in fact the life of this multi-talented scholar, writer, poet and social commentator was devoted to peaceful political change. During the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, he staged a hunger strike, then negotiated a peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles.

Readings from Sermon on the Mount for Friday, July 14, 2017

Matthew 5.5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Meek is not weak. We have a tragic understanding of meekness. We view meek people as soft or victims of circumstances.

The Bible teaches that meek people are pliable in the hands of God, not soft or victims. Their mind and will is sensitive to God’s direction. When God speaks, they are ready to respond.

The proud, self-sufficient, know-it-all types of the world resist God and follow their own pathway.

Pray today for God-given meekness, a sensitivity to God and his direction for life.

Prayers for Friday, July 14, 2017

Dear God, today we ask that you give us true meekness, a sensitivity to you and to your directions for life.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from NPR Online for Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Bible reading for today is the first Beatitude from Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. There are pockets of intense suffering in our world. One of those is an area of northern Nigeria. This area has suffered intense pain and deprivation because of the actions of Boko Haram. The residents certainly qualify to be Jesus’ “poor in spirit.”

What It’s Like To Come Home After Fleeing From Boko Haram

In 2014, Boko Haram seized the town of Gwoza in northeast Nigeria, killing hundreds of people. The insurgents declared that Gwoza would be the seat of their self-proclaimed caliphate. It was a perfect place for them, protected by a mountainside, with caves and tunnels for hiding out.

The terror network’s fighters held the town for only a few months before the Nigerian army drove them out. Gwoza is now firmly under military control. Some residents who fled have returned. And there’s been an influx of newcomers who’ve been uprooted, often multiple times, by the violence of Boko Haram.

Even though their hopes of controlling a swath of land across the northeast have been dashed, the eight-year-long Boko Haram insurgency has driven more than 2 million people from their homes in northeast Nigeria and killed an estimated 20,000. And the suicide bombings continue.

Uwani Musa Dure, 25,fled Gwoza after the first Boko Haram Raid of 2014, and recently has returned. She is one of the scores of mostly women and children who are living at a settlement for the displaced in Gwoza, called 20 Houses camp.

Her return is tinged with great sadness. During the first Boko Haram attack on the town, Musa Dure’s 10-year-old son, Umaru, and eight-year-old daughter, Hadiza, were both abducted by the group, she says. Also missing are Musa Dure’s mother, her brother Ibrahim and her sister Fadimatu, then 14. She says these family members were kidnapped.

Readings from Sermon on the Mount for Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My plan is to alternate readings from the Sermon on the Mount with those from the prophet Jeremiah in the blog. Chapters five through seven of Matthew’s Gospel contain Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5.3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

As we pray God’s promises of God, let’s pray for the millions who are living in unimaginable suffering as a result of war and conflict. Let’s ask that God intervene on their behalf with blessings that can only come from him.

Prayers for Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dear God, you have always been the hope of the poor and vulnerable. Please bless the people of northern Nigeria, as only you can do.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Deep Industry Ties of Trump’s Deregulation Teams

President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations.

But the effort — a signature theme in Mr. Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts.

Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But The New York Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Readings from Jeremiah 2.5 for Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jeremiah 2.5 – Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he said, “Though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1.21-22).

Both Paul and Jeremiah make it clear that humankind does not fare well when we turn away from God. We don’t turn from God to nothing at all. Rather, we turn to empty, worthless thinking and actions.

The solution to this desperate problem is for God’s people to return to a relationship of obedience and trust with him. The result will be that our inside condition will radically improve. We will no longer be worthless fools, but worthwhile and genuinely wise individuals.

Prayers for Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dear God, please help us to return to a relationship of trust, love and obedience with you. 

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, July 10, 2017

The Islamic State Is Not Dead Yet – An Editorial by Antony J. Blinken

The liberation of Mosul – the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq — marks a turning point in the war against the world’s most dangerous terrorist group. Daesh, as the Islamic State is known throughout the Middle East, no longer controls significant territory in Iraq where it can harbor foreign fighters or exploit resources, like oil.

And its core narrative — building an actual state — is in tatters. But while the Trump administration will be right to celebrate the end of the caliphate as we know it, it is far too soon to feel comfortable, especially in the absence of a strategy for the day after Daesh.

Fifteen years ago, at the start of President George W. Bush’s run-up to the invasion of Iraq, then-Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar raised a prescient concern: “When Saddam Hussein is gone, what would be our responsibilities? This question has not been explored but may prove to be the most critical.”

Substitute “Islamic State” for “Saddam Hussein” and the question they posed retains a fierce urgency today. Even when the Islamic State is defeated militarily, the political and economic conditions that facilitated its rise — unleashed in part by the 2003 invasion — will continue to fester. How, then, to ensure that Daesh stays defeated?

Readings from Jeremiah 1.11-12 for Monday, July 10, 2017

What God said to Jeremiah over 600 years before the time of Jesus Christ is important for us today. God wants his people to pray about both his promises (the almond tree) and the problems we face (the boiling pot).

Jeremiah 1.11 – The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”

And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.”

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?”

And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”

Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15.7). As we align our lives with Jesus and his word, we are equipped to pray his promises over today’s world problems.

Prayers for Monday, July 10, 2017

Dear God, your example and your teachings inform us that we can’t defeat hatred with more hate. Please show us the pathway of love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, June 16, 2017

Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader

Russia’s military said on Friday that it was looking into whether a Russian airstrike in the Syrian desert killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State, in what would be a major military achievement.

In a statement issued to Russian news agencies, the Defense Ministry said that the Russian Air Force struck a meeting of Islamic State leaders on May 28 outside Raqqa, Syria, the group’s de facto capital, possibly killing Mr. Baghdadi, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.

Readings from Psalm 4 for Friday, June 16, 2017

What do you do when you are damaged by a lie? This Psalm answers that question. God is the ultimate basis of honor for the praying person. We can pray this prayer for those whose honor and reputation has been injured.

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?

But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”

You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Prayers for Friday, June 16, 2017

Dear God, let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, June 15, 2017

Steve Scalise Among 4 Shot at Baseball Field; Suspect Is Dead

A lone gunman who was said to be distraught over President Trump’s election opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team at a practice field in this Washington suburb on Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck four people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Trump, in a televised statement from the White House, condemned the “very, very brutal assault” and said the gunman had died after a shootout with the police. Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis.

Two members of Mr. Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail were wounded as they exchanged fire with the gunman in what lawmakers described as several chaotic, terror-filled minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. One was wounded by gunfire, and one suffered other, minor injuries.

Readings from Psalm 3 for Thursday, June 15, 2017

Opponents say that there is no help for me. Even God can’t help me, they claim. The writer of Psalm 3 knows different. As we pray this Psalm we can pray for ourselves or for what is found in the news on a daily basis.

Psalm 3 – O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Rise up, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on your people!

Prayers for Thursday, June 15, 2017

You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sessions’s Senate Testimony: How to Watch and What to Expect

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to testify on Tuesday, starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, before the Senate Intelligence Committee about matters linked to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Follow our briefing here throughout the day for the latest updates and live video once the hearing begins.

• In March, Mr. Sessions recused himself from any inquiry related to the 2016 presidential campaign. Although he justified that decision as stemming only from the fact that he had played a role in the Trump campaign, it came after a report that he had two contacts with the Russian ambassador last year despite having testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not communicated with the Russians. (He has argued that his testimony was accurate in context.)

• He has been under renewed scrutiny since his role came up several times during testimony before the Intelligence Committee last week by James B. Comey, whom President Trump fired as F.B.I. director. In a letter to Congress on Saturday, Mr. Sessions said he wanted to address those matters before the same panel.

• After some initial uncertainty over whether Mr. Sessions would deliver his testimony in an open or closed session, the Justice Department said on Monday that he would testify publicly.

Readings from Psalm 2 for Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The first two Psalms serve as an introduction to the entire collection of the 150 Psalms that we have in the Bible. The first three verses describe the tendency of human beings to attempt to live free from God’s leadership and direction. They are a direct contrast to Jesus’ invitation, in Matthew 11.28-30.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 2.1-3 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

God laughs not at the destruction that humankind has brought by living independent of his will and ways. God’s laughter is a statement of power. He is in control and the purposes of his rule are not stopped by human arrogance and independence.

As we pray this section of Psalm 2, we can join with Jesus and say, ” Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6.10).

Psalm 2.4-9 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

The “fear of the Lord,” is best described in Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6.5). Pray today that people live awaken to the great opportunity to live in a loving relationship with God.

Psalm 2.10-12 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

Prayers for Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dear God, we repent of how we have attempted to throw off your loving, easy yoke. May we enter into a loving, personal relationship with you.

Bob Spradling

Back from Vacation

I am back from vacation and greatly appreciate Stacy Busch’s work on the blog while I was absent. She added beautiful pictures from Iceland to ideas from Dr. Frank Laubach and daily prayers.

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, June 12, 2017

‘We Are Not Unusual Anymore’: 50 Years of Mixed-Race Marriage in U.S.

For their first date, in 1949, Leon Watson and Rosina Rodriquez headed to the movie theater. But each entered separately. First went Ms. Rodriquez, a fair-skinned woman who traces her roots to Mexico. Mr. Watson, who is black, waited several minutes before going in and sitting next to her.

When they married in Oakland in 1950, mixed-race marriage had just become legal in California, the result of a lawsuit that reached the State Supreme Court. They are among the oldest living interracial couples legally married in the United States. It would be nearly two decades before all couples like them across the country were allowed to marry.

On Monday, they will mark the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court case that overturned antimiscegenation laws nationwide. Mildred and Richard Loving, a black woman and a white man, had been sentenced to a year in a Virginia prison for marrying each other. The case would serve as a basis for the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage.

It is far from the life the Watsons might have imagined when she was a child in New Mexico and he was growing up in Mississippi. Today, nearly 20 percent of all newlyweds in the United States are married to someone of a different race or ethnicity, according to the Pew Research Center.

Readings from Psalm 1 for Monday, June 12, 2017

Please consider praying one of the Psalms each day, as you inform your praying by reading the newspaper.

The way we live our life is decisive for how it turns out. The entire book of Psalms is a guide to a blessed life.

One thing is fundamental to living God’s abundant life – engagement with the Torah (Law) of the Lord. Torah (Law) is instruction in the way and the will of the Lord.

The thing about “chaff” (verse 4) is that it is useless. “Fruit” (verse 3) is a picture of a life that is full of life and productive.

Psalm 1.1-3 – Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

Psalm 1.4-6 – The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Prayers for Monday, June 12, 2017

Dear God, may we be people who learn and live from what you have revealed as your will and ways of life.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, June 2, 2017

Maine’s Governor Wants Inmates to Fill Jobs, Not Prison Beds

Paul R. LePage, the brash and deeply conservative governor of Maine, has never been seen as an advocate of loosening punishments for criminals. He once joked that drug dealers should be publicly executed. He has seemed, at times, to support racial profiling in the pursuit of drug traffickers. And he has suggested that suspected domestic abusers wear ankle monitors, even if they have not been charged with crimes.

But last week, Mr. LePage conditionally commuted the state prison sentences of 17 male inmates, and is soon expected to commute the sentences of some female inmates as well. At the same time, his administration is reviewing whether he is legally allowed to commute the sentences of county inmates.

The commutations have flipped the political script in Maine. Mr. LePage is drawing cautious praise from advocates of civil liberties and supporters of shorter prison sentences for some crimes — groups that more often vehemently disagree with the governor. He is drawing anger from some of his fellow Republicans, who see the commutations as part of a political fight over a prison that Mr. LePage wants to close.

Readings from Isaiah 61.1-2 for Friday, June 2, 2017

Isaiah 61.1-2 – The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.

Prayers for Friday, June 2, 2017

Dear God, please help us to be those who bring good news to the oppressed and release to the prisoners.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, May 30, 2017

Immigrants Keep an Iowa Meatpacking Town Alive and Growing – This is a lengthy article about Storm Lake Iowa, where meat packing is the major industry. I have summarized the article below. If you have access to the New York Times, I think you would profit from reading the article.

Meat packing was at one time a union job that was the best employment a worker could obtain in this small Iowa town. Shifts in the meat packing industry caused the wages to drop and to remain at near entry level ($15 an hour).

Storm Lake accepted immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, and Africa to work in the processing plants. The transition of the community has taken place over thirty years. There has been tension, which is to be expected, when different cultures are blended into a community. However, Storm Lake is a thriving community of 11,000, where other similar towns in Iowa are dwindling. The immigrants who work long hours for low wages in one of the most dangerous industries in America are working for their children, who they dream of having education and viable professions.

Readings from Isaiah 60.1-3 for Wednesday, May 30th, 2017

The light of God’s activity in the world is brighter when held in contrast to the darkness of evil. Praying people can ask for the light of God’s activity to shine more brightly in the lives of people today.

Isaiah 60.1-3 – Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Prayers for Wednesday, May 30, 2017

Dear God, we pray that the light of your character and activity will be seen in the darkness of our world today.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York times for Monday, May 29, 2017

Cuts to AIDS Treatment Programs Could Cost a Million Lives – At least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, researchers and advocates said on Tuesday, if funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration to global public health programs are enacted.

The United States currently spends more than $6 billion annually on programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Trump administration has proposed slashing those programs by at least $1.1 billion — nearly a fifth of their current funding, said Jen Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“These are lifesaving interventions, and these levels of reductions will significantly curtail service delivery,” Ms. Kates said.

Readings from Isaiah 59.14-15 for Monday, May 29, 2017

God looks at the world and declares that people in power have turned back justice and righteousness in favor of policies that enhance the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable. Those who turn from evil are stripped of their value or worse.

Isaiah 59.14-15a – Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

Prayers for Monday, May 29, 2017

Dear God, we pray for your intervention in our world. Please restore righteousness and justice.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, May 26, 2017

Today, I present three headlines with a brief summary of each. The headlines highlight the iniquities (literally, bent places) and sins that are breaking humanity.

‘Beautiful Military Equipment’ Can’t Buy Middle East Peace – There is a proposed plan to sell $110 billion dollars of equipment to Saudi Arabia. The contrast between the opulence of the Saudi royal family and ordinary Saudi citizens is a tragic breeding ground that produced 15 of the 9/11 hijackers.

Where Will the Medical Misfits Go? – Safety-net hospitals keep us all healthy by treating the patients no one else wants. Current budget policies will produce serious hardships for safety-net hospitals. Some may be forced out of service.

As C.E.O. Pay Packages Grow, Top Executives Have the President’s Ear – The C.E.O. pay packages for the top 200 corporations range from $90 million to a lowly $13 million. In contrast the average American worker makes less than $38,000. Salaries for the four largest health insurance providers is between $15 and $18 million each year.

Readings from Isaiah for Friday, May 26, 2017

Iniquity is literally a “bent place.” Being bent or corrupted in the core of our being is a serious character issue. Sin is a falling short of God’s intended purpose for us. The bent places of our collective lives causes peace and well-being to escape us.

Isaiah 59.1-3 – See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness.

Prayers for Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear God, we make it difficult for you to rescue our world while our lives are characterized by iniquity and sin. Please help us to change.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump’s Budget Takes Aim at My Sweet Son – (This editorial by Kathleen O’Brien highlights the potential impact of the proposed budget cuts to Medicate for a family with a child on the autism spectrum. I have included a few paragraphs from her editorial.)

President Trump’s budget is here, and it contains serious cuts to the social safety net. One of the big changes is a plan to slash more than $800 billion over the next 10 years from Medicaid.

You may think of Medicaid as a program for the poor, but it also helps a variety of other vulnerable populations. Children with special health care needs rely on the program for services not typically covered by private health insurance, which helps them stay at home with their families. There are about five million children with special health care needs who receive benefits through public health insurance programs, including Medicaid. Proposed limits on a per-person basis are expected to disproportionately affect these children and their families, limiting access to costly but necessary services.

My sweet son is in this category. He had three different evaluations around the age of 2, to confirm the autism diagnosis I first suspected when he was 15 months old.

Mr. Trump’s budget cuts, part of the continuing war on Medicaid, will likely mean cuts to the waiver program, adding to the burden for families like mine. It will also hurt adults with disabilities, poor children and the elderly in nursing homes, all covered through Medicaid, too.

Readings from Isaiah 58.10-12 for Thursday, May 25, 2017

How do we rebuild the world in which we live? God says we should stop pointing the finger of blame at people who differ with us. Instead, we are to engage in practical deeds of kindness and compassion. People who join God in his activity are those who repair the broken places of our world.

Isaiah 58.10-12 – If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

Prayers for Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dear God, help us to join you in your program to rebuild and reclaim the world. Please direct our paths to this worthy process.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Road Trip Through Rusting and Rising America – (This is an editorial by Thomas Friedman. You will be encouraged about America, if you get a chance to read the entire article.)

In his dystopian Inaugural Address, President Trump painted a picture of America as a nation gripped by vast “carnage” — a landscape of “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” that cried out for a strongman to put “America first” and stop the world from stealing our jobs. It was a shocking speech in many ways and reportedly prompted former President George W. Bush to say to those around him on the dais, “That was some really weird [stuff].”

It was weird, but was it all wrong?

I just took a four-day car trip through the heart of that landscape — driving from Austin, Ind., down through Louisville, Ky., winding through Appalachia and ending up at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to try to answer that question.

Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.

Readings from Isaiah 58.6-8 for Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fasting is the elimination of food from our diet for a period of time for the sake of spiritual connection with God. Notice what God says about the kind of fasting he desires.

Isaiah 58.6-8 – Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Prayers for Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dear God, please raise up creative and compassionate leaders, who develop policies that benefit the hungry and homeless of our world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester Concert Attack Kills 22; Children Among Dead – The attack at a Manchester concert venue that left at least 22 people dead was almost certainly carried out by one person, the chief of the Manchester police said Tuesday morning, in a bombing that shocked the country and underlined the continued threat to European security.

Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police, said the authorities were trying to determine whether the assailant, whose nationality he declined to identify, was working on his own or with assistance.

Chief Constable Hopkins said that the attack Monday night at Manchester Arena during a concert by the singer Ariana Grande was being treated as a “terrorist incident” and that the assailant had died in the blast.

The singer has a large and international following, and she usually draws a young crowd to her performances, including groups of teenage girls and their parents. While they did not identify the victims, the authorities said there were children among the dead.

Readings from Isaiah 57.18-19 for Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Isaiah 57.18-19 – I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. 

Prayers for Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dear God, please help us return to your principles, so that you may heal us and grant us peace.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, May 22, 2017

Nigerian Schoolgirls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Rejoin Families – Eighty-two Nigerian schoolgirls released several weeks ago after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity were reunited with their families on Saturday, as anxious parents looked for signs of how deeply their daughters might have changed in the hands of the extremists.

Images from the scene showed brightly dressed family members rushing through the crowd and embracing one another outdoors. One small group of people sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church. Some were in tears.

“I am really happy today — I am Christmas and New Year,” said Godiya Joshua, whose daughter Esther was among those freed. “I am very happy and I thank God.”

The families were reunited in the capital, Abuja, where the girls were taken by Nigerian authorities after their release early this month.

Readings from Isaiah 57.15 for Monday, May 22, 2017

The majority of world news stories today show the rich and powerful meeting in luxurious halls, discussing the fate of the nations. A little known story is that young girls have been released, after three years of captivity. God’s word reminds us that he is with the contrite (literally, those who have been crushed) and those who have been humbled by life’s circumstances. He is there to revive them, that is, to bring them back to life.

Isaiah 57.15 – For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. 

Prayers for Monday, May 22, 2017

Dear God, we thank you that you are present with broken and crushed humanity. We pray that you bring them fully back to life.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, May 19, 2017

Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply as a Trump Mandate Is Carried Out – Immigration arrests shot up 38 percent in the first three months of the Trump administration compared with the same period last year, according to figures released Wednesday, one of the first clear indications that the president’s hard-line policies are being carried out on a grand scale.

While President Trump’s more attention-grabbing ideas have been blocked or stalled, like building a border wall and temporarily stopping travel from some Muslim-majority countries, the statistics released by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement suggested that the more street-level aspects of his immigration agenda have achieved significant results, and quickly.

From Jan. 22 to April 29, ICE officers arrested 41,318 people, at a rate of more than 400 people per day, compared with 30,028 over roughly the same period in 2016, the data showed.

Readings from Isaiah 56.6-7 for Friday, May 19, 2017

Jesus Christ consistently lifted up people who were put down by society and included those who were excluded by other. Jesus demonstrates that God has a special place in his heart for foreigners. When he drove the money-changers from the temple, he quoted from Isaiah and declared that God’s house was for all peoples.

Isaiah 56.6-7 – And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 

Prayers for Friday, May 19, 2017

Dear God, may America return to the roots of our heritage and receive immigrants in the spirit of Christ.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, May 18, 2017

Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation – The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s 118-day-old presidency.

The decision, by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for Mr. Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the subsequent disclosure that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Readings from Isaiah 56.1 for Thursday, May 18, 2017

Some synonyms for “maintain” are “keep alive,” “preserve,” and “protect.” Just and fair dealings are to be maintained with the full meaning of these synonyms. As we maintain justice and do what is right, God promises to bring salvation and deliverance.

Isaiah 56.1 – Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. 

Prayers for Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dear God, please help your people to return to just and right living. May this extend from praying people to those in governmental leadership.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation – President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

(Note: The White House denies the existence of these comments attributed to Mr. Comey.)

Readings from Isaiah 55.8-11 for Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Since God’s word always accomplishes its purpose, it is in our best self-interest to know and to conform our lives to God’s word. Why not go to the wisest and most powerful Being of all for direction?

Isaiah 55.8-11 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Prayers for Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear God, we are coming to you. You are the wisest Being of all. We choose to know and to do your will.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say – President Trump boasted about highly classified intelligence in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, a current and a former American government official said Monday.

The intelligence disclosed by Mr. Trump in a meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, was about an Islamic State plot, according to the officials. A Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information, which was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies.

Readings from Isaiah 55.6-7 for Tuesday, May 16, 2017

God speaks through the prophet and urges us to not delay in seeking God. We have invested our lives in the self-centered pursuit of a consumerism and militarism. The strong words of these verses call us to forsake this way of life and to return with our whole hearts to God.

Isaiah 55.6-7 – Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 

Prayers for Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dear God, we forsake a self-destructive lifestyle and return to you. Please help us to respond fully to your love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from NPR News for Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump’s Lawyers Deny He Has Russian Income Or Debt, ‘With A Few Exceptions’ – In a letter released Friday, President Trump’s lawyers said a decade’s worth of his tax returns show that he doesn’t owe money to Russian lenders and that he has received no income from Russian sources, “with a few exceptions.”

The exceptions include this: “In 2008, Trump Properties LLC sold an estate in Florida, that it had acquired in 2005 for approximately $41 million, to a Russian billionaire for $95 million.”

That buyer was Dmitry Rybolovlev, who never moved into the 62,000-square-foot mansion before tearing it down.

Another exception was the $12.2 million made from holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, according to the letter signed by attorneys Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson.

The lawyers also noted that Trump very likely has received undisclosed payments from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf and Trump-licensed products, such as wine, ties and mattresses.

The March 8 letter was addressed to Trump, who passed it along to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Trump mentioned it during his Thursday NBC News interview with Lester Holt, saying he had “nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None whatsoever.”

Readings from Isaiah 55.1-3 for Monday, May 15, 2017

God’s word through Isaiah in these verses is both a tremendous offer and a tragic indictment. God issues an invitation to us. He invites us to freely come to him for everything that makes for a quality life. The indictment is that all too often we choose substitutes for God at a great cost.

Isaiah 55.1-3 – Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. 

Prayers for Monday, May 15, 2017

Dear God, today we accept your invitation. We regret that we have invested heavily in substitutes for you and the abundant life you provide.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, May 11, 2017

Acting F.B.I. Chief Contradicts White House on Russia and Comey – The acting director of the F.B.I. contradicted the White House on two major issues on Thursday: the support of rank-and-file agents for the fired F.B.I. chief James B. Comey and the importance of the agency’s investigation into Russian election interference.

In a striking repudiation of official White House statements, the acting director, Andrew G. McCabe, said the inquiry was “highly significant” and pledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. would resist any attempt to influence or hobble the investigation.

“Simply put,” he said, “you cannot stop the men and women of the F.B.I. from doing the right thing.”

Readings from Isaiah 54.10 for Friday, May 11, 2017

These words are spoken to a broken, impoverished, distressed nation. They were not spoken to the super powers of their day. Broken and distressed people can take refuge in God, who is as Isaiah describes him in this verse.

Isaiah 54.10 – For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. 

Prayers for Friday, May 11, 2017

Dear God, thank you for your love that is steadfast at all times. Thank you for the well-being and compassion you grant to us.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, May 11, 2017

7 Years After Arrest and Outcry, Young Woman Again Faces Deportation – Jessica Colotl embodied the debate over illegal immigration when she was locked up for 37 days and nearly sent back to Mexico after an Atlanta-area police officer caught her driving without a license in 2010.

To supporters, including her sorority sisters, the president of her college and the immigrant advocates who publicized her case, hers was an example of police overreach and the need to safeguard ambitious young students from deportation. To others, she was an illegal immigrant, plain and simple, who also was abusing the system by attending a public college at discounted tuition.

She returned to college — paying full price, because of a new Georgia law inspired by her case — completed her degree and qualified for a program started by President Barack Obama in 2012, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects some undocumented youth from deportation.

“Since then, I have been working and doing well for myself,” Ms. Colotl, now 28, said in an interview this week. “I thought that all the legal battles were behind me.”

That was until Ms. Colotl, who was brought to the United States by her parents as a child, learned Monday that her DACA status had been revoked, thrusting her into the national immigration debate anew.

With a new president in the White House, she is once again facing deportation.

Readings from Isaiah 54.4-5 for Thursday, May 11, 2017

In the midst of pain and the loss of hope, God’s word reminds us that he is present for us. Notice the thoughts of verse 5. This verse states who God is for us.

Isaiah 54.4-5 – Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. 

Prayers for Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dear God, that you for your character that never abandons the helpless. Today, the helpless and vulnerable look to you for your loving assistance.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

John McCain: Why We Must Support Human Rights – SOME years ago, I heard Natan Sharansky, the human rights icon, recount how he and his fellow refuseniks in the Soviet Union took renewed courage from statements made on their behalf by President Ronald Reagan. Word had reached the gulag that the leader of the most powerful nation on earth had spoken in defense of their right to self-determination. America, personified by its president, gave them hope, and hope is a powerful defense against oppression.

As I listened to Mr. Sharansky, I was reminded how much it had meant to my fellow P.O.W.s and me when we heard from new additions to our ranks that Mr. Reagan, then the governor of California, had often defended our cause, demanded our humane treatment and encouraged Americans not to forget us.

In a recent address to State Department employees, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said conditioning our foreign policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advance our national interests. With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it’s convenient, we might officially express that sympathy. But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You’re on your own.

In the real world, as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality. By denying this experience, we deny the aspirations of billions of people, and invite their enduring resentment.

America didn’t invent human rights. Those rights are common to all people: nations, cultures and religions cannot choose to simply opt out of them.

Readings from Isaiah 53.4-5 for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The power of God is not used to crush his enemies. When his Servant (Jesus) has been crushed, he gives back love, mercy and healing. As God’s people throughout history have imitated the Jesus-kind-of life, the power of this way of living is revealed by the good that takes place in the lives of people who encounter it.

Isaiah 53.4-5 – Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 

Prayers for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dear God, thank you for your intense suffering, so that we could be made whole. May we learn to live the Jesus-kind-of-life.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, May 8, 2017

After Boko Haram Releases Nigerian Girls, an Anguished Wait for Parents – The father of two girls kidnapped by Boko Haram was suspicious when friends told him that dozens of girls had been freed, because he had heard similar rumors countless times during the three years the schoolchildren have been missing.

But by Sunday morning, it became clear to the Rev. Enoch Mark that the news was true. The Nigerian government announced that 82 of the girls who had been taken from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, had been released in exchange for handing over as many as six suspected militants to Boko Haram.

While Mr. Mark was thrilled with hearing some of the girls were safe, his joy was mixed with the awful, gut-wrenching torment of not knowing if his own two daughters were among those released.

“We are hoping God will do something for us,” Mr. Mark said.

By midday Sunday, the released schoolgirls — some of the nearly 300 who were initially captured — had been handed over to intermediaries, taken from a town in the northeast near the border with Cameroon and flown to the capital, Abuja, where they met with Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria.

Readings from Isaiah 53.2-3 for Monday, May 8, 2017

How does God defeat his enemies? Does he use overwhelming power and might? Surely, someone as described here can’t be the answer? How terribly different this image is from leaders descending private planes, riding in limousines, and commanding massive armies. However, the most influential man to walk the face of the earth fit exactly the picture of Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53.2-3 – For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. 

Prayers for Monday, May 8, 2017

Dear God, we pray that we will become imitators of Jesus and value his kind of humility.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, May 5, 2017

The Reality of a Pre-Existing Condition – I read the news about the passage of the House health care bill a continent away, on assignment in Europe. The distance did nothing to lift the weight on my heart, as the parent of a child with a pre-existing condition.

More than 20 years ago, when I sat keening in a hospital anteroom, after the scans and the somber looks and the clueless young intern who told me she would go home and cry for us, my family and I joined the ranks of the unlucky. A rare disease, a grim prognosis, a suffering child. May those who passed this bill never know what it is like to sleep and wake every day with an anvil pressed against your chest, tasting the terror, pushing it away so that you can comfort and care for both the sick and the well in your family.

First you endure the treatments harsh enough to kill, then the surgeries, the hospitalizations, the agonizing wait for the daily test scores, the frantic consultations with doctors and residents.

And if you are fortunate enough, as we were, to somehow beat the odds, to emerge shakily from the Dantean depths and savor the prospect of a child who could grow to adulthood, there remained the cold calculus of the insurance companies. This child, this adult, was labeled an unacceptable risk, either denied insurance altogether or relegated to the high-risk pool, saddled with sky-high premiums and constant uncertainty.

Readings from Isaiah 52.7 for Friday, May 5, 2017

When Jesus began his ministry he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1.15). Jesus fulfilled the amazing promise given through Isaiah that God’s government would rule our world. The best government is God’s government.

Isaiah 52.7 – How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 

Prayers for Friday, May 5, 2017

Dear God, the best prayer that has ever been given to us asks that your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray exactly for that today.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, May 4, 2017

James Comey ‘Mildly Nauseous’ Over Idea He Swayed the Election – James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, sharply defended his decision to notify Congress about new emails in the Hillary Clinton investigation just before Election Day, reopening on Wednesday the still-raw debate over whether he cost her the presidency.

Mr. Comey’s remarks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing were his first public explanation for his actions, which roiled the campaign in its final days and cast a harsh spotlight on him. He acknowledged that revealing the renewed inquiry and enduring the torrent of criticism that followed had taken a toll.

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” he told the senators. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

Readings from Isaiah 51.12-13 for Thursday, May 4, 2017

A recurrent theme of Isaiah’s prophecy is the challenge to trust God, rather than to trust unreliable human beings. God is the wisest, most loving and most powerful Being of all. However, people most often trust human beings, rather than consulting with God for direction.

Isaiah 51.12-13 – I, I am he who comforts you; why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die, a human being who fades like grass? You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. You fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction. But where is the fury of the oppressor?

Prayers for Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dear God, we regret that we often place more trust in human wisdom and power, than in you. Please help us to trust you in every aspect of our lives.

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Donald Trump Embraces Another Despot – The United States has long seen itself as a beacon of democracy and a global advocate of human rights and the rule of law. It has faltered, sometimes badly, undermining leaders whose views did not fit its strategic objectives and replacing them with pliant despots. Yet for the most part American presidents, Republican and Democratic, have believed that the United States should provide a moral compass to the world, encouraging people to pursue their right to self-government and human dignity and rebuking foreign leaders who fall short.

Like so much else under President Trump, though, this idea has now been turned on its head and people are worried about the very survival of the values on which America built its reputation and helped construct an entire international system, including the United Nations. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s decision to invite Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to the White House.

After his election last year, Mr. Duterte took the killing campaign nationwide, effectively giving free license to the police and vigilantes. He has boasted about his tenure in Davao, and admitted to personally killing three kidnappers without trial. The mayhem got so bad that last week a Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court to charge Mr. Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of nearly 10,000 people over the past three decades.

Readings from Isaiah 51.4-6 for Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Just government, correct direction, deliverance and hope are aspects of God’s rule. As we pray, “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6.10), we are asking that God bring to our world this kind of government.

Isaiah 51.4-5 – Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 

Prayers for Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dear God, we pray for your kingdom to come in justice, perfect leadership, deliverance and hope. Our world is in desperate need of your rule.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, May 1, 2017

America, From Exceptionalism to Nihilism – The U.S. leads the free world in its helplessness before the dissolution of its most cherished values.

Extravagant promises by ruling elites, and their unexamined assumptions, are at least partly to blame for this moral breakdown in the world’s most powerful country. In 2011, for instance, Mr. Obama had claimed, “We are perfectly poised to make the 21st century again the American Century.” But such onward-and-upward narratives seemed to mock the suffering, despair and frustration exposed in different ways by Black Lives Matter or the white Rust-Belt proletariat. Mr. Obama, who recently accepted a very lucrative speaking engagement on Wall Street, now looks like just one of the fortunate members of historically depressed minorities who mistake their own upward mobility for collective advance.

Generalizing about the world at large on the basis of personal success, or proclaiming that life has never been so wonderful, can be politically disastrous, it turns out, especially when loss, decay and fear sum up the experiences of many other people. We will have learned nothing from Mr. Trump’s victory if we do not examine today how and why American elites came to indulge in ressentiment-generating boosterism just as economic and cultural inequality was becoming intolerable to so many, and how their loss of intellectual credibility and moral authority brought about the post-truth era.

Readings from Isaiah 50.10-11 for Monday, May 1, 2017

The option to walking in the “fear of the Lord,” is to walk “in the flame of your fire.” We can choose between loving God with our whole being, which is the heart of the fear of the Lord, or we can walk according to our own best thoughts and plans.

Isaiah 50.10-11 – Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God? But all of you are kindlers of fire, lighters of firebrands. Walk in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that you have kindled!

Prayers for Monday, May 1, 2017

Dear God, may we love you with our whole being and give love and only love to everyone around us. Help us to obey, trust, and rely on you.

Bob Spradling

Friday, April 28, 2017

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, April 28, 2017

A Hidden Church in Cairo Pins Its Hopes on Good Will From the Pope’s Visit – To hear the Coptic Catholic priest tell it, building a church in Cairo requires far more than bricks and mortar. He listed the other requirements: the patience of Job, the wiles of a fox and the quiet determination to pole-vault Egypt’s discriminatory regulations.

“Not easy,” said the priest, Youhanna Saad, with a wry smile as he bounced his 5-year-old daughter on his knee. “The regulations were not fair. It made us cheat.”

For the past decade, his small Coptic Catholic congregation in a gritty north Cairo suburb has been trying to build a new church in the teeth of official resistance — a common tale in Egypt, where the law panders to old prejudices. But Father Saad, a former schoolteacher, is almost there.

64.2 Readings from Isaiah 49.14-16 for Friday, April 28, 2017

It is natural for people, who are in the midst of intense suffering, to feel forsaken by God. In the face of horrific anguish God declares that he has not forgotten. He holds suffering people dear to his heart. In justice and compassion he will act on their behalf.

Isaiah 49.14-16 – But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

Prayers for Friday, April 28, 2017

Dear God, we pray for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit Egypt. Please use his visit to further your peace, joy and abundant life.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, April 27, 2017

Uganda Ends Its Hunt for Joseph Kony Empty-Handed

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Uganda began withdrawing its entire contingent of 1,500 soldiers from the Central African Republic this week, effectively ending the hunt for the warlord Joseph Kony and his guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.

“As far as we are concerned, we’ve already achieved our mission,” said Brig. Richard Karemire, the Uganda People’s Defense Force spokesman. “The L.R.A. no longer poses a threat to us as Uganda.”

On Tuesday, the United States military is also set to officially end its mission to capture or kill Mr. Kony, whose fighting force has dwindled to about 100 soldiers from a peak of 3,000. The 150 American soldiers in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Uganda will start a monthslong process of sending home equipment and turning over their bases to the host nations or the United Nations.

Over almost three decades, Mr. Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet, and his fighters killed more than 100,000 people and displaced more than two million, according to the United Nations. From 1987 to 2006, the armed group abducted more than 20,000 children to use as soldiers, servants or sex slaves, according to Unicef.

Readings from Isaiah 48.22 for Thursday, April 27, 2017

Today’s reading is an absolute truth from the very heart of God.

Isaiah 48.22 – “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

There is another truth that is revealed by Jesus Christ on the cross. How does God defeat his enemies? He does not squash them like a bug. Through love, he transforms his enemies into friends. Today let’s pray that the wicked experience the love of God and become his friends.

Prayers for Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dear God, please defeat your enemies throughout the world by making them your friends.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fearing Korean Nuclear War, Women of 40 Nations Urge Trump to Seek Peace – As the White House prepared to brief members of the Senate on North Korea on Wednesday, female activists from more than 40 countries, including North and South Korea, urged President Trump to defuse military tensions and start negotiating for peace to prevent war from erupting on the Korean Peninsula.

They said they feared that the rapidly escalating tensions on the peninsula, if left unchecked, could engulf the region in nuclear war.

“We are united by our belief that diplomacy is the only way to resolve the nuclear crisis and threat of war now facing the Korean Peninsula,” said their letter to Mr. Trump, dated Wednesday. “Peace is the most powerful deterrent of all.”

Readings from Isaiah 48.17-18 for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

God’s love for people has a very practical dimension. He is the wisest Being of all and has our best interests in mind. If we follow him, he will lead us to prosperity and success.

Isaiah 48.17-18 – Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. O that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your prosperity would have been like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea.

Prayers for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear God, please help world leaders to follow your direction for the sake of the multitudes who are affected by their decisions.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rwandans Carry On, Side by Side, Two Decades After Genocide – (Summary: Twenty years ago, in just 100 days, nearly one million people perished in a genocide initiated by the government. Today, the government promotes peace and unity. One organization, Prison Fellowship, has been instrumental in the healing process. I feel Prison Fellowship is a good example of today’s verses from Isaiah.)

Mbyo is one of seven “reconciliation villages” established by Prison Fellowship Rwanda, a Christian organization that facilitates the small cluster of homes for those convicted of carrying out the violence and those who suffered at their hands.

Pastor Deo Gashagaza, who helped found the organization, created a process to connect Rwandans who had been imprisoned for participating in the slaughter with the families they harmed, and encourage dialogue through community-centered activities.

In these villages, reconciliation is not just a moment. It is a way of life.

In 1994, Ms. Mukamana was 17. Her father, six brothers, five sisters and nine uncles were killed that April. She fled to Burundi. When she returned, her family home was destroyed.

Mr. Sendegeya was among the group that killed her father and four other members of her family, a fact that both speak about frankly but without much detail.

Mr. Sendegeya re-entered society through a program that allows perpetrators to be released if they seek forgiveness from their victims. While in prison, he had reached out to Ms. Mukamana through Prison Fellowship Rwanda.

“He confessed and asked for forgiveness. He told me the truth,” Ms. Mukamana explained. “We forgave him from our hearts. There is no problem between us.”

Readings from Isaiah 45.22-24 for Tuesday, April 25, 2017

God is the ultimate ground of reality. He alone has the key to what is really real. One day all humanity will discover that the idols (substitutes for God) that we pursue are tragic imitations and counterfeits. Turning to God in humble obedience and worship is the best course of action.

Isaiah 45.22-24 – Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed.

Prayers for Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dear God, we thank you for those who have turned to you to both receive forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. May we lay aside the idols of privilege, self-rights, and unforgiveness and fully turn to you.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, April 24, 2017

China’s Leader Urges Restraint on North Korea in Call With Trump – China’s president, Xi Jinping, has urged President Trump to show restraint toward North Korea despite signs that the North may be preparing a nuclear test. Mr. Xi made the appeal in a phone call with Mr. Trump on Monday that reflected growing alarm over North Korea’s plans, which could tip the region into crisis.

The phone conversation, on Monday morning in Beijing, came after Mr. Trump had already used a meeting with Mr. Xi in Florida, a follow-up phone call, interviews and Twitter messages to press Mr. Xi to do more to deter North Korea from holding additional nuclear and missile tests. The United States and its allies have been on alert for another atomic test by the North.

In the latest call, the third between the two leaders, Mr. Xi indicated to Mr. Trump that China opposed any such test by North Korea, but he also nudged Mr. Trump to avoid a tit-for-tat response to the North’s fiery threats, according to a report on Chinese television.

Readings from Isaiah 45.18-19 for Monday, April 24, 2017

Our world may be in chaos, but God is not the author of chaos. Neither is he controlled by chaos. His word can be relied upon to be what is accurate.

Isaiah 45.18-19 – For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, “Seek me in chaos.” I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right.

Prayers for Monday, April 24, 2017

Dear God, in our chaotic world you alone speak truth and declare what is right. Please help our world to emerge from the chaos that we have created.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, April 21, 2017

One Country’s War Changed the World – The world seems awash in chaos and uncertainty, perhaps more so than at any point since the end of the Cold War.

Authoritarian-leaning leaders are on the rise, and liberal democracy itself seems under siege. The post-World War II order is fraying as fighting spills across borders and international institutions — built, at least in theory, to act as brakes on wanton slaughter — fail to provide solutions. Populist movements on both sides of the Atlantic are not just riding anti-establishment anger, but stoking fears of a religious “other,” this time Muslims.

Now in its seventh year, this war allowed to rage for so long, killing 400,000 Syrians and plunging millions more into misery, has sent shock waves around the world. Millions have fled to neighboring countries, some pushing on to Europe.

The refugee crisis has posed one of the biggest challenges in memory to the cohesion of the European Union and some of its core values: freedom of movement, common borders, pluralism. It heightened anxieties over identity and culture, feeding off economic insecurity and mistrust of governing elites that grew over decades with globalization and financial crises.

Mr. Saleh, the Syrian dissident, worries that “the Syrianization of the world” could get darker still. He compares today’s populism and Islamophobia to the mix of fascism and anti-Semitism in World War II.

Readings from Isaiah 44.21-22 for Friday, April 21, 2017

Why should we return to God? He is our creator and we are his servant. He removes our guilt and shame. He sets us free from slavery to our destructive thinking and behavior. As we pray, let’s return with our whole heart to God and ask that for people everywhere.

Isaiah 44.21-22 – “Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

Prayers for Friday, April 21, 2017

Dear God, you say to us “return to me and I will return to you.” Please help us to return with our whole heart to you.’

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meet the Foreign Tech Workers Left in Limbo by Trump – They are app makers, they are podcasters, and they are also H-1B visa holders — possibly putting them at risk from the president’s immigration policies.

At dawn in California’s Bay Area, the river of commuters begins to flow. It is filled with the people who help make our smartphones, our favorite games, the apps we download.

But many have also come to make something else, perhaps — a new life in America.

These are just a few of the 85,000 people who come to work at American companies from as far away as India and China on H-1B visas, which are granted to highly skilled workers from overseas. Many, like Kaushik Gopal, land jobs at technology firms that have struggled to find enough American citizens with advanced math and science skills to fill their cubicles.

Often, they hope to call the United States home.

Readings from Isaiah 44.1-3 for Thursday, April 20, 2017

What separates the Hebrew-Christian faith from other world religions? The fact that God is personal is one great distinction. He is a personal being with whom people can have a genuine relationship. Another distinction with world religions is the promise from God to literally put his Spirit in human beings. The promise of God’s Spirit in Isaiah’s day was realized through the work of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (See Acts 2).

Isaiah 44.1-3 – “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants…

Note,  Jeshurun is a term of endearment from God to Jerusalem.

Prayers for Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dear God, we pray for your Spirit to immerse all praying persons. May your Spirit inspire, empower and direct our prayers for the world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from NPR News for Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First DREAMer Protected By Deferred Action Program Is Deported – A young man brought to this country by his parents and granted protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is back in his native Mexico after being deported by U.S. officials in February, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

The center has released a statement saying Juan Manuel Montes is suing the U.S. government for documents explaining why he was deported. “Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how,” said attorney Nora A. Preciado.

Montes, 23, is believed to be the first DACA recipient to be deported despite suggestions by President Trump that he would show compassion to the so-called Dreamers and had backed away from campaign promises to end the program initiated under President Barack Obama.

Readings from Isaiah 43.22-24 for Wednesday, April 19, 2017

God has never needed the objects of worship, whether they are sacrifices of sheep or money. He doesn’t need our prayer, either. However, we desperately need to revere and worship him. Our lives are abundantly benefited by prayer. The tragedy of these verses is that the people of God talk more about prayer and worship than they practice it. May the people who read this article engage in these two wonderful gifts from God – worship and prayer.

Isaiah 43.22-24 – Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.

Prayers for Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dear God, we live in troubled times. Please help those who believe in prayer to spend time in prayer on behalf of all people – especially the vulnerable and oppressed.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The North Korea Paradox: Why There Are No Good Options on Nuclear Arms – North Korea, a small and poor country facing far stronger adversaries and the perpetual threat of its own collapse, would not seem a likely state to defy four consecutive American presidents.

Yet it is precisely that weakness, analysts say, along with the country’s history and internal dynamics, that drives its leaders to pursue nuclear and missile programs at virtually any cost — and that robs the world of almost any option to limit them.

Those factors, when viewed together, show why Barack Obama warned President Trump that North Korea would be the gravest foreign threat he faced — and why a solution has proved so hard to find.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in South Korea on Monday, cited Mr. Trump’s “strength” and willingness to use force, warning, “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve.”

Readings from Isaiah 43.15-19 for Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The chariot and horse were the ultimate weapons of war in Isaiah’s day. God makes a way over all obstacles, including modern weapons of war, on behalf of his people. Let’s pray this prayer for the sake of the vulnerable who are caught in middle of frightening war machines of our age.

Isaiah 43.15-19I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Prayers for Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dear God, please make a way of peace for the millions who are harmed by military policies in North Korea, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and Nigeria. We trust you and ask you to intervene on their behalf.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, April 17, 2017

A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea – All the elements of the North Korean nuclear crisis — the relentless drive by Kim Jong-un to assemble an arsenal, the propaganda and deception swirling around his progress, the hints of a covert war by the United States to undermine the effort, rather than be forced into open confrontation — were on vivid display this weekend.

There was the parade in Pyongyang’s main square, with wave after wave of missiles atop mobile launchers, intended to convey a sense that Mr. Kim’s program is unstoppable. Then came another embarrassing setback, a missile test that failed seconds after liftoff, the same pattern seen in a surprising number of launches since President Barack Obama ordered stepped-up cyber- and electronic-warfare attacks in early 2014. Finally, there was the test that did not happen, at least yet — a sixth nuclear explosion. It is primed and ready to go, satellite images show.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the American position as Mr. Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with up to a thousand times the power than the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far.

Readings from Isaiah 43.10-13 for Monday, April 17, 2017

The temptation I face when I read the newspaper is to be overwhelmed by world events and the inability of world leaders to produce a peaceful, productive place for people to live. Isaiah declares that God is the One to whom we should look for security, prosperity, and all of the things that make for well-being. Newspaper pray-ers have the opportunity to join God by declaring our trust in his activity in the world.

Isaiah 43.10-13 – You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the Lord. I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?

Prayers for Monday, April 17, 2017

Dear God, our daily prayers reflect our trust in you. We pray in trust and obedience that your loving direction will be the reality of our existence.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, April 14, 2017

The Point of Hate – On Palm Sunday, two suicide bombers killed 44 worshipers at Egyptian churches. What compels someone to do such a destructive — and self-destructive — thing? The fundamental answer is simple: hate. But there’s nothing simple about hate.

Lately it seems like hate is in the air, including in the United States, where hate crimes are reportedly on the rise. Like most people, I’m horrified by this outpouring of venom, but as a psychiatrist who tries to understand feelings, I also find myself asking: What is the underlying motivation? And what is it about hate that makes it different from other reactions like anger or frustration? Clearly evolution has preserved hate as a powerful motivating force. Is there perhaps a benefit to experiencing hate?

A 2008 study of the human brain experiencing this emotion confirms that there is a distinct “hate circuit” of activated neurons. Several of the brain regions involved are known to generate aggression and to translate that aggression into action — in this case, revenge.

Strangely, other parts overlap with regions of the brain engaged by feelings of romantic love. Love is accompanied by the deactivation of areas that generate reasoning and judgment. As any poet can tell you, the critical faculties of an infatuated person are lost or at least attenuated.

In its most extreme form, hate motivates the altruistic punishment of organized warfare — a necessity for the defense of any society. In his trilogy on the Allies in World War II, the historian Rick Atkinson describes it as the emotional engine needed to drive troops into battle for that “just war.”

Readings from Isaiah 43.1-3 for Friday, April 14, 2017

The context for this passage in Isaiah is Israel’s return from exile in Babylon. As we read this passage in 2017, consider the millions who are in exile from their homelands, because of war, famine and oppression. Let’s pray today that they know the saving and redeeming power of God’s love that conquers the hate that is so prevalent in our world.

Isaiah 43.1-3 – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Prayers for Friday, April 14, 2017

Dear God, may your powerful love conquer the hate of our world. May those who are oppressed by the haters of this world experience your redemption and saving power. Turn the haters into friends by the power of your love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, April 13, 2017

U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria – President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor.

Readings from Isaiah 42.18-20 for Thursday, April 13, 2017

For many years I have applied the verses below to my own life. I have often called myself “the blind servant.” I often do not see or hear what God is doing, but by his grace he leads me all the same. I am not special, but the people I lead are precious to God. For their sake I, a blind servant, receive God’s guidance. As we pray today, let’s ask God to direct leaders of our world, even though they may be blind and deaf to his direction.

Isaiah 42.18-20 – Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see! Who is blind but my servant, or deaf like my messenger whom I send? Who is blind like my dedicated one, or blind like the servant of the Lord? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.

Prayers for Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dear God, even though many world leaders appear to be both blind and deaf to your direction, we pray that you will lead them. For the sake of the helpless, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, please direct world leaders into the right paths.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Mississippi Taught Bobby Kennedy About Poverty – The toddler had no time for this white man in a fine dark suit. Robert Kennedy may have been a former attorney general and the brother of a slain president, but Annie White’s son was focused on the cornbread crumbs scattered on the floor of his dilapidated home in Cleveland, Miss.

Mr. Kennedy was in the Mississippi Delta, 50 years ago this week, for a Senate subcommittee examination of War on Poverty programs. While testifying before the panel, Marian Wright, a 27-year-old NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawyer, had sounded an alarm: The Delta was in crisis. The senator decided to see for himself.

What he saw on his widely publicized trip shocked a nation used to postwar abundance. Americans would be even more shocked to know that 50 years later, the Delta remains desperately poor. In the three counties Senator Kennedy visited, poverty rates for children younger than 18 still hover around 50 percent. Too many families there face a hard knot of problems: food deserts, failing schools, poor infrastructure, unhealthy populations, shrinking economies, the long shadow of segregation and discrimination.

If he returned to the Delta today, Mr. Kennedy would cheer the advances but be dismayed at how hard advocates must fight to maintain that limited progress. And his heart would break to see there are still so many children in the Delta, and across America, who, like Annie White’s boy, must grasp for every crumb.

Readings from Isaiah 42.1-4 for Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Since the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, the following verses have been accurately applied to him. However, in some way these verses can be prayed for all leaders, too. Jesus is the perfect model of what is prophesied here. Today, let’s pray for leaders who will strive to equal this picture.

Isaiah 42.1-4 – Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Prayers for Wednesday, April 22. 2017

Dear God, we ask for leaders who bring justice to the earth and for leaders who contend on behalf of the vulnerable. We ask that you direct leaders throughout the earth to establish justice in the earth.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, April 11, 2017

After the Missiles, Remember the Syrian Refugees – In his address to the nation after ordering strikes on Syria last week, President Donald Trump pointed to the failure of the international community to resolve the Syria conflict and, uncharacteristically for him, to the humanitarian catastrophe it has spawned.

“As a result,” he said, “the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

After years of working on refugee issues inside and outside the government, we were surprised to find ourselves agreeing with Mr. Trump on the link between years of relentless violence in Syria and the destabilizing refugee surge.

Unfortunately, even as the president increased United States involvement in this conflict — motivated, his aides say, by his personal revulsion at images of “beautiful babies” choked to death by some of the planet’s most heinous weapons — his administration continues to deny sanctuary in the United States to victims of the same war. Mr. Trump twice signed executive orders, currently blocked by federal courts, that would bar Syrian refugees from the country.

Readings from Isaiah 40.27-31 for Tuesday, April 11, 2017

When people are oppressed, the temptation is to believe they have been abandoned by God. In the midst of intense suffering, one author said, “Don’t write cheerful graffiti on the tomb of my sorrow. Isaiah 40.27 echoes the pain of suffering humanity.

Isaiah 40.27 – Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Isaiah answers the complain of oppressed people and encourages trust in God. As we pray this section of Isaiah, we can ask God to undergird people whose suffering is immense with his presence and sustaining power. People who pray this passage can ask God to intervene on behalf of refugees worldwide.

Isaiah 40.28-31 – Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Prayers for Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dear God, we ask that you intervene on behalf of the multitudes of people who have been displaced from their countries because of conflict. We pray that you give strength to the powerless and reveal your care for them.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, April 10, 2017

Egypt Declares State of Emergency, as Attacks Undercut Promise of Security – Rattling a country already wrestling with a faltering economy and deepening political malaise, two suicide bombings that killed 44 people at Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday raised the specter of increased sectarian bloodshed led by Islamic State militants.

The attacks constituted one of the deadliest days of violence against Christians in Egypt in decades and presented a challenge to the authority of the country’s leader, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who promptly declared a three-month state of emergency.

Readings from Isaiah 40.17-20 for Monday, April 10, 2017

Our world is full of desperate people. Consider the man, woman or child on the street of Syria, North Korea, South Sudan, Northern Nigeria, and Yemen. They live hand-to-mouth with little hope of change. They are innocent in a world of selfish, evil conflict. If you are praying these passages from Isaiah with me, please pray for the promise of these verses to be realized in the lives of the oppressed and vulnerable of our world.

Isaiah 40.17-18 – When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 20 . . . so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Prayers for Monday, April 10, 2017

Dear God, you are the only hope for all of humanity. Please change the circumstances of the oppressed and vulnerable in our world. Please direct world leaders to be vehicles of your care for all persons.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, April 7, 2017

Dozens of U.S. Missiles Hit Air Base in Syria – President Trump said Thursday night that the United States had carried out a missile strike in Syria in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack this week, which killed more than 80 civilians.

The Pentagon announced that 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired at Al Shayrat airfield in Syria. The missiles were aimed at Syrian fighter jets, hardened aircraft shelters, radar equipment, ammunition bunkers, sites for storing fuel and air defense systems.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Russian forces had been notified in advance of the strike. “Military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” he said. No Russian aircraft were at the base, military officials said.

“We are assessing the results of the strike,” Captain Davis added. “Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

The cruise missiles struck the airfield beginning around 8:40 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, and the strikes continued for three to four minutes.

Readings from Isaiah 40.12-14 for Friday, April 7, 2017

Can God deliver the vulnerable from the forces of our world’s powers? The poetry of Isaiah 40.12-13 describes God’s immense power. Verse 14 speaks of his justice.

Isaiah 40.12-14 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him? Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

The Judge of all the earth will do right. As we pray Isaiah 40, let’s ask God for his justice to be realized in the earth.

Prayers for Friday, April 7, 2017

Dear God, we ask that you bring your justice to bear in the earth.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trump’s View of Syria and Assad Altered After ‘Unacceptable’ Chemical Attack – President Trump warned on Wednesday that he would not tolerate the “heinous” chemical weapons attack in Syria, opening the door to a greater American role in protecting the population in a vicious civil war that he has always said the United States should avoid.

The president declined to offer any details about potential action. But he said his horror at the images of “innocent children, innocent babies” choked by poison gas in a rebel-held area of Syria had caused him to reassess his approach. Only days after the White House declared it would be “silly” to persist in trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Mr. Trump said, “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” the president declared at a news conference in the Rose Garden, referring to the “red line” that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had drawn before a 2013 poison-gas attack by Mr. Assad’s forces. Mr. Obama’s failure to strike Syria after that, Mr. Trump claimed, sowed the conditions for this new assault. The estimated death toll was reported to have exceeded 100.

Readings from Isaiah 40.9-11 for Thursday, April 6, 2017

Babylonian thinking constructs a world without God. Search the Internet for entertainment, sports, finance or political opinion. It is another way to illustrate the Babylonian spirit of power, beauty, strength, money, sex, and consumerism. These are the idols of our current world. God has an alternative to these idols. It may sound simplistic, but alignment to God’s will and to his principle of giving love in all instances is his strategy. Once again, the appeal to readers of this article is to align our lives with God’s will and to pray for the vulnerable.

Isaiah 40.9-11 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Prayers for Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dear God, please intervene on behalf of the multitudes who are injured by our current world’s system. Please help us to give love and only love in very situation.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad – One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday, inciting international outrage over the ever-increasing government impunity shown in the country’s six-year war.

Western leaders including President Trump blamed the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and called on its patrons, Russia and Iran, to prevent a recurrence of what many described as a war crime.

Dozens of people, including children, died — some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth — after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers. They said the toxic substance spread after warplanes dropped bombs in the early morning hours. Some rescue workers grew ill and collapsed from proximity to the dead.

Readings from Isaiah 40.6-8 for Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The forces of the world seem impenetrable and invincible. Not so! according to God. He sees the world forces as temporary as grass before the hot sun and a powerful wind. People who place their confidence in a world’s system that is built on consumerism and militarism do well to remember that they are but grass. As we pray this passage, let us pray for God’s word (his expressed will) to prevail.

Isaiah 40.6-8 A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Prayers for Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dear God, please help us know how vulnerable we actually are. May we cherish your word and align our lives with your plans and purposes.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trump Shifts Course on Egypt, Praising Its Authoritarian Leader – Ever since he seized power in a military takeover nearly four years ago, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt has been barred from the White House. But President Trump made clear on Monday that the period of ostracism was over as he hosted Mr. Sisi and pledged unstinting support for the autocratic ruler.

“We agree on so many things,” Mr. Trump said as he sat beside Mr. Sisi in the Oval Office. “I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.”

In that one moment, Mr. Trump underscored a fundamental shift in American foreign policy since he took office. While his predecessors considered authoritarians like Mr. Sisi to be distasteful and at times shied away from them, Mr. Trump signaled that he sees international relations through a transactional lens. If Egypt can be a partner in the battle against international terrorism, then in Mr. Trump’s calculation, that is more important to the United States than concerns over its brutal suppression of domestic dissent.

Readings from Isaiah 40.3-5 for Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How can comfort be given to a sinful, ruined people? The cause for encouragement is solely the activity of the Lord, his coming into the sphere of human activity. Our only hope is God’s breaking into human history. We cannot help ourselves, and there is no one else, so God himself must come.

John the Baptist used these verses from Isaiah to encourage repentance among his hearers. The way we prepare a super highway for God’s intervention is through repentance. Those who pray the prophets do well to repent – to change their mind and to align their lives with the will of God.

Isaiah 40.3-5 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Prayers for Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dear God, we seek to align our lives with your will. We pray to be completely united to your will and to give love and only love in every situation.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, April 3, 2017

A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health – “Look on the sunny side of life.”

“Turn your face toward the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you.”

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

“See the glass as half-full, not half-empty.”

Researchers are finding that thoughts like these, the hallmarks of people sometimes called “cockeyed optimists,” can do far more than raise one’s spirits. They may actually improve health and extend life.

There is no longer any doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. Studies have shown an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.

Readings from Isaiah 40.1-2 Monday, April 3, 2017

One hundred and fifty years passed between Isaiah 39 and Isaiah 40. The nation experienced defeat, political upheaval, and the deportion of the population to Babylon. There are nations today who have first hand knowledge of such pain.

The well known Old Testament scholar, Walter Bruggemann, has described Babylon as an entrenched world view. It involves free market consumerism and unbridled militarism. The Babylon mentality sets the limits of what is possible and what is good, what is to be feared and what is to be trusted. There is no doubt that this powerful ideology is such that it robs the human community of its humanness and reuces all of life to commodity. The super powers of the world, especially the United States, need to consider whether we are consumed with a Babylonian spirit.

Can there be life outside of the Babylonian ideology and is there a good-news offer for the distressed of the world? Isaiah 40 say, “Yes.” Praying people are called to take up God’s love for the oppressed and distressed of the world with these good-news promises.

Isaiah 40.1-2 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Prayers for Monday, April 3, 2017

Dear God, we repent of all of the ways that we are involved in consumerism and militarism, so that we further distress the oppressed of the earth. We pray for your activity on behalf of the multitudes who are vulnerable today.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 31, 2017

A Quarter of Syria’s Population Has Fled. What Does That Look Like? – The scale of Syria’s refugee crisis is dizzying.

As the war there stretches into a seventh year, more than five million citizens, nearly a quarter of Syria’s prewar population, have fled their country, seeking shelter mainly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the United Nations refugee agency said Thursday.

With no end to the war in sight, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, predicted that 480,000 more Syrians would become refugees in need of resettlement this year. That is as if the entire population of Sacramento abandoned the city — and the country — over the course of the next nine months.

Since the conflict began in 2011, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed.

Readings from Isaiah 35.3-4 for Friday, March 31, 2017

Someone may say, “God is too far, I cannot reach him.” This passage says, “You don’t have to reach God, he is coming to you.” If you study the life of Jesus, the majority of his miracles brought healing to infirmed people. Physical healing is one side of inner spiritual healing. This promise speaks of a personal God, who personally cares for humanity. God gives life to the desert and to people who need his care.

Isaiah 35.3-4 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

Prayer for Friday, March 31, 2017

Dear God, we pray for those who feel you are too far away and unapproachable. Please come to them and grant them your presence that will bring wholeness to their lives.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fleeing Boko Haram, Thousands Cling to a Road to Nowhere – Note, this is a very compelling and tragic article. If you have access to the New York Times, it is certainly worth the time it takes to read it.

More than 130,000 people have amassed along this desert highway outside Diffa, Niger — National Route 1. They now call its barren, sandy shoulders home.

All of them have been chased from their villages by Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that kidnaps and kills indiscriminately in a campaign of violence that has lasted eight years.

National Route 1 does not take them anywhere. It is not a path to a distant sanctuary, a better life or even a refugee camp. It is, quite literally, a road to nowhere. It ends abruptly, connecting to nothing but more desert.

Begun by a Chinese oil company, construction stopped two years ago after attacks by Boko Haram spiked. Its intended destination — oil fields near the border with Chad — is far away, about 80 miles beyond the choppy lip where the pavement suddenly cuts off, like an interrupted thought.

But along Nigeria’s blurry border with Niger, Boko Haram fighters are still raging. More than 200,000 people scattered by the violence have come seeking safety here in the Diffa region alone, with tens of thousands settling along National Route 1, a sleek, paved highway in a part of the country where roads are usually nothing more than skinny scratches in the sand.

Generosity abounds along the road. Oxfam International, an aid group, estimates 80 percent of the displaced people in the area around Diffa are being fed and sheltered by local communities, which even in peaceful times are among the continent’s poorest.

Readings from Isaiah 35.1-2 for Thursday, March 30, 2017

The wilderness and desert represents the total world: physical, social, and spiritual which human arrogance having destroyed and God in his grace can make bloom. Theologians speak of the “already-but-not-yet” aspect of God’s promises. On some level we can expect the kind of abundance pictured in these verses. However, their full realization waits for God’s ultimate redemption of the world and humankind.

People who pray the prophets have the option of praying the problem or praying the promises. Today, let’s pray the promise of God bringing fruitfulness to our world, as people align their lives with God’s will.

Isaiah 35.1-2 – The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Prayers for Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dear God, today we pray in hope for the multitudes who have been displaced from their land through war and oppression. We know you profoundly care for the vulnerable. Please give them a future and a hope.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Drought and War Heighten Threat of Not Just 1 Famine, but 4 – First the trees dried up and cracked apart.

Then the goats keeled over.

Then the water in the village well began to disappear, turning cloudy, then red, then slime-green, but the villagers kept drinking it. That was all they had.

Now on a hot, flat, stony plateau outside Baidoa, thousands of people pack into destitute camps, many clutching their stomachs, some defecating in the open, others already dead from a cholera epidemic.

“Even if you can get food, there is no water,” said one mother, Sangabo Moalin, who held her head with a left hand as thin as a leaf and spoke of her body “burning.”

Another famine is about to tighten its grip on Somalia. And it’s not the only crisis that aid agencies are scrambling to address. For the first time since anyone can remember, there is a very real possibility of four famines — in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen — breaking out at once, endangering more than 20 million lives.

Readings from Isaiah 33.14-16 for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

There is always a danger of treating God like a super hero or just a larger and stronger version of a human being. Isaiah does not make that mistake. God is a consuming fire and human beings cannot live in his presence, except by God’s grace. As we genuinely encounter God, that relationship will make us more ethical in our behavior.

As we humbly trust God’s direction, he will transform us and be for us a refuge.

Isaiah 33.14b-16b – “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?” He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, He who rejects unjust gain And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; He will dwell on the heights, His refuge will be the impregnable rock.

Prayers for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dear God, we are what we give out. Please bless the world with leaders who give righteousness, sincerity, and integrity to those they lead. Show your grace to the people of Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lacking E.M.T.s, an Aging Maine Turns to Immigrants – Jolly Ntirumenyerwa ran her fingers over the stethoscope that she had slung around her neck. It was a comforting connection to her career as a physician in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she worked in emergency medicine.

Her credentials did not transfer when she moved to the United States in 2012, and she could not work as a doctor. So, she took jobs as a health aide in an assisted living facility.

Now, thanks to an unusual program that is training immigrants to become emergency medical technicians, she is preparing to make better use of her medical background and, she hopes, work her way up to becoming a physician assistant if not, someday, a doctor.

Readings from Isaiah 33.1-8 for Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Isaiah never tires of his theme. If we trust our own human resources, craftiness, power and best thinking, we can expect disaster. If we rely on God, we can expect victory and peace. Please note, relying on God does not preclude our own efforts. One of my friends once said, “I can’t sit at home in my boxers, eating Cheetos, playing video games sitting on a bean-bag, and ask that God send me a job. I have to work at it, too.”

Trusting God is a settled attitude where we take God’s leadership and direction as the wisest Being of all. Why do we trust God? Look at the key words in the passage below. They are what is needed in our world today.

Isaiah 33.5-6 – The Lord is exalted, he dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness; he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

People are often tripped up by the phrase, “the fear of the Lord.” What is it? Deuteronomy 6.4-5 is the best description of a person who has “the fear of the Lord.” The fear of the Lord is nothing more nor less than loving God with all of our being.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Prayers for Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dear God, your command to love you with all our heart is the greatest offer of all. We thank you that the greatest Being of all invites us into a personal love relationship. We ask that your love and love for you flood our world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, March 27, 2017

Aleksei Navalny, Top Putin Critic, Arrested as Protests Flare in Russia – The Russian police arrested hundreds of people in nationwide anti-corruption protests on Sunday, including the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in Moscow, where thousands gathered for the biggest demonstration in five years against President Vladimir V. Putin.

The protest in the capital took the form of a synchronized walk along a major shopping street to avoid a ban on unsanctioned stationary gatherings. It was one of 99 similar rallies in cities and towns across the country — from Vladivostok in the far east to Kaliningrad in the west — according to the organizer, Mr. Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation.

In a statement on Sunday that reflected widespread wariness of the Russian leader in Washington, Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said: “Putin’s thugocracy is on full display. The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters. Free speech is what we’re all about and Americans expect our leaders to call out thugs who trample the basic human rights of speech, press, assembly and protest.”

Shortly after the senator’s statement, Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department in Washington, said the United States “strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday” and called for their immediate release. “Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” he added.

Readings from Isaiah 32.15-18 for Monday, March 27, 2017

Isaiah would have been at home in an AA meeting. He knew the truth of “hitting bottom” and that of the need for a spiritual experience. The preceding verses in Isaiah 32 speak of the “bottom” the nations hit, when they turned away from God and his direction for life.

Once people “hit bottom,” they are humble enough to surrender. When we surrender to the leadership of God, he is free to pour our his Spirit on us. The following verses tell us what we can look for when we surrender to God and live according to his direction for life.

Isaiah 32.15-18 – Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fertile field, And the fertile field is considered as a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness And righteousness will abide in the fertile field. And the work of righteousness will be peace, And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places . . .

Prayers for Monday, March 27, 2017

Dear God, you have revealed that like water and sunshine love is wholly non-resistant, self-giving, and self-adjusting. No resistance or opposition can keep it from being true to its nature and doing its best without expecting any return. Please grant us your Spirit, so we can give love and only love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 24, 2017

Why do we pray each day for God-centered, Spirit-led leaders? The following article is but one example.

Hosni Mubarak Is Freed, to Dismay of Many in Egypt – Six years after baying crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule.

Mr. Mubarak faced accusations of conspiring with the police to kill 239 protesters in Tahrir Square; of siphoning tens of millions of dollars from the state coffers; and of cutting off the country’s internet during the 2011 uprising, among other crimes. But what astonished Egyptians most was the sight of a man many had long feared, scowling in a courtroom cage.

Despite the severity of the charges, Mr. Mubarak remained defiant, insisting that it was he, not the Egyptian people, who had been wronged. His sons, Alaa and Gamal, joined him in the dock, accused of embezzling millions of dollars and overseeing a vast system of cronyism and corruption.

Reading from Isaiah 32.1-8 for Friday, March 24, 2017

Chapters 7-39 of Isaiah contrast two ways of behavior.   One is trusting human resources that lead to injustice, corruption, blindness and destruction. The other option is to trust in God that leads to justice, clarity, integrity and life.

Isaiah 32.1-2 – See, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

These are the kinds of leaders that we can pray for. We can ask God that he gives leaders spiritual clarity that comes from submission to God’s will. Refusal to submit is the surest prescription for an ultimate inability to discern any difference between good and evil.

Isaiah 32.8 – But those who are noble plan noble things, and by noble things they stand.

Noble people are those who are generous and large hearted. They are people that an all-wise God supplies their needs, and who can afford to be generous to others.

Prayers for Friday, March 24, 2017

Dear God, may we become perfectly loving, so we use all power for the good of each and all, and none of it for the injury of anyone. Please clothe us with power, as we are spiritually ready to be clothed with it, your power, the power that works by love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, March 23, 2017

Deadly Attack Near U.K. Parliament; Car Plows Victims on Westminster Bridge – A knife-wielding assailant driving a sport utility vehicle mowed down panicked pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside Parliament on Wednesday in a deadly assault, prompting the hasty evacuation of the prime minister and punctuating the threat of terrorism in Europe.

At least four people, including the assailant, were killed and at least 40 others injured in the confusing swirl of violence, which the police said they assumed had been “inspired by international terrorism.” It appeared to be the most serious such assault in London since the deadly subway bombings more than a decade ago.

Readings from Isaiah 30.19-22 for Thursday, March 23, 2017

These verses from Isaiah demonstrate what can be expected when God reveals his grace.

Isaiah 30.19-22 – Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images. You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, “Away with you!”

One of my best friends is a recovering drug addict. He tells the story of being rejected by his mother. She said, “If you don’t get off of my porch, I’m calling the police.” My friend often says that this was the both the best and the worst day of his life. His mother’s actions of tough love were the turning point in his long-term addiction. He entered treatment and because very serious about working the Twelve Steps. Over the past five years since that day, he has helped a large number of persons to sobriety. He is well employed and a leader at our church.

The above verses are like my friend’s experience. When society, drunk on it’s own self-will, hits bottom, God is waiting to give them life. When people reach a humble and teachable state of mind we are finally able to hear God’s whispered words of direction. We will freely throw away our idols – substitutes for God – relationships, security, power, money, body image, etc. They are no longer needed. We find there is truly a spiritual solution to our needs – God.

Prayers for Thursday, March 23, 2017

God, I offer myself to Thee To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love & Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always. (AA Third Step Prayer)

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Calling On a Few Good Men – Editorial by Thomas Friedman

Memo To: Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Dear Sirs, I am writing you today as the five adults with the most integrity in the Trump administration. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, you all served our nation as generals in battle. Pompeo, you graduated first in your class at West Point and served as a cavalry officer. Tillerson, you ran one of America’s largest companies.

I am writing you directly because I believe you are the last “few good men” who can stand up and reverse the moral rot that has infected the Trump administration from the top.

To begin, I ask those of you who honored our country as military officers how you would have reacted if your commanding officer had charged his predecessor with a high crime that violated his constitutional oath — and then a few weeks later this charge was exposed as false by the top military judge advocate?

And Secretary Tillerson, how would your former corporate board have reacted if a top executive at Exxon Mobil had accused a predecessor of a major act of malfeasance and the F.B.I. then told the board the claims were false?

Would you military men have simply said, “Sorry, I just do artillery” or “I’m just staying in my lane”? And Secretary Tillerson, would you only have said, “I just do diplomacy”?

(Space does not permit the printing of the entire article. Friedman is a highly respected journalist. If you get the chance, please read his article in its entirety in the New York Times.)

Reading from Isaiah 30.9-17 for Wednesday, March 22, 2017

All of Isaiah 30 is a picture of the unwillingness of people to trust God. Instead, they trust their own resources. In the passage below they refuse to trust God, but are willing to place their future security in horses. If you substitute “the latest military capabilities” for “horses” you will come to a more accurate picture of what was happening. This pictures how our own best thinking prevents us from responding as true children of God. The choice is ours to make on a daily basis. To rest in God or to choose our modern equivalent of “horses.”

Isaiah 30.15 – For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, “No! We will flee upon horses”— therefore you shall flee! and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”— therefore your pursuers shall be swift!

Prayers for Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dear God, please help us return to you in faith and quiet trust. Please reveal to us the foolishness of relying on our own best thinking. May we respond to your directions today.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, March 21, 2017

Trump’s Weary Defenders Face Fresh Worries – President Trump began Monday as he has started so many other presidential mornings — by unleashing a blistering Twitter attack on critics who suggested his 2016 campaign colluded with the Russians.

By the afternoon the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, had systematically demolished his arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president. Even a close ally of Mr. Trump, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, conceded that “a gray cloud” of suspicion now hung over the White House by the end of the day’s hearings.

The testimony of Mr. Comey and that of Adm. Michael S. Rogers, his National Security Agency counterpart, will most likely enervate and distract Mr. Trump’s administration for weeks, if not longer, overshadowing good news, like the impressive debut of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, on the first day of his confirmation hearings Monday.

Psalm 12 for Monday, March 21, 2017

Psalm 12 is a prayer for the Lord’s saving help in a time when wickedness is dominant in society. The world seems to be populated only with the wicked, who are everywhere.

Today’s headlines highlight what is happening in our government. However, I feel the Psalm can be applied across the board to all sectors of our population. My prayer is that readers of the blog will make prayer and prophecy (the speaking of God’s revealed word) their primary means of understanding and responding to the current situation of our world’s system.

Psalm 12.1-4Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind. They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own—who is our master?”

The prevalent wickedness is characterized in terms of what has happened to language in society. Language expresses character. Hypocrites, people with a double heart, lie and deceive. The arrogant put trust in their speech as the instrument of their power.

Psalm 12.5 “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”

Deceptive and self-confident speech is the advertisement of a conduct and character that ignore God and subject the common person to the fate of the selfish powerful among us. The poor and needy suffer; they are left without support or advocate.

God will act for the poor and needy. The word expresses the character and conduct of the Lord, just as surely as the talk of the wicked expresses their conduct. The Lord is a God who hears the poor and needy when they cry to him.

Psalm 12.6The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. You, O Lord, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever.

The faithfulness of God is contrasted with the false-speech of the wicked. As we learn God’s promises, we can fully rely on them in our praying. The purpose of Newspaper Prayers is to then see how God answers the prayers of his people worldwide.

Psalm 12.8 – On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind.

Verses 1-8 highlight how wickedness has penetrated society. Once again, that is our response must be to connect with God and his purposes, rather than to merely react with our own opinions.

Prayers for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dear God: Please rise up on behalf of the common person, who is at the mercy of the powerful. Please protect the vulnerable and guard them. Please hear their prayers and see the tears of hurting humanity worldwide. Please win the hearts of the arrogant, so that they will revere you and do your will.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 17, 2017

Tillerson Says No Negotiations With North Korea on Nuclear Program – Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.

Mr. Tillerson’s comments in Seoul, a day before he travels to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, explicitly rejected any return to the bargaining table in an effort to buy time by halting North Korea’s accelerating testing program, which the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on New Year’s Day was in the “final stages” of preparation for the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.

The secretary of state’s comments were the Trump administration’s first public hint at the options being considered, and made clear that none involved a negotiated settlement or waiting for the North Korean government to collapse.

“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” said Mr. Tillerson, a reference to the term used by the Obama administration to describe a policy of waiting out the North Koreans, while gradually ratcheting up sanctions and covert action.

Reading from Isaiah 30.8-17 for Friday, March 17, 2017

Key verses in this section are Isaiah 30.9-11. Isaiah writes about the nature of rebellion that ends in people who refuse to take direction from God. They refuse to hear the words of the prophet and choose to be ignorant of the views of the wisest and most loving being of all – God.

Isaiah 30.9-11For they are a rebellious people, faithless children, children who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see”; and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.

Prayers for Friday, March 17, 2017

I am old enough to remember bomb shelters in the backyards of my parent’s friends, listening to President Kennedy speak on the radio during the Cuban missile crisis, and having bomb drills in school. Praying people are essential at this time in history. The threat of nuclear war is a horrific possibility. May God’s praying people join in praying God’s word over the world events of our times.

Dear God, please help leaders throughout the world to hear your voice. May they be willing to take your instruction. May praying people align their lives with your plans and intercede on behalf of your best for the world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, March 16, 2017

Who Wins and Loses in Trump’s Proposed Budget – President Trump released a partial outline of his 2018 budget on Thursday, proposing billions of dollars in spending cuts to most government agencies to pay for large increases in military and homeland security spending, resulting in a 1.2 percent cut in discretionary spending over all.

The E.P.A. is among the hardest-hit agencies. The budget calls for the elimination of about 3,200 staff positions — over 20 percent of the department.

The government would cut back its regular contribution to the U.N. and would pay no more than 25 percent of the cost of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

President Trump wants to scale back on a number of job training programs, including those aimed at helping seniors, disadvantaged young people and unemployed Americans.

The budget makes significant cuts to the department’s spending, by eliminating $4.2 billion in community services programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The budget would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program, which funds local improvement efforts and anti-poverty programs, and cut funding for rental assistance and homeownership programs and affordable housing initiatives.

Readings from Isaiah Isaiah 29.9-14 for Thursday, March 16, 2017

There is no greater motivation to listen to God today than the thought that there may come a time when you will no longer be able to hear his direction for life. If we lose contact with God, we become like an airliner in the fog that has lost radio and radar contact.

Isaiah presents both the cause and the dilemma of the nation’s problem in Isaiah 29.13-14. He writes: “The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.”

A manipulative, pushy salesperson reveals the truth that self-interest is at the heart of his or her sales presentation. In the same way, if our self-interest in at the heart of our communication with God, we cannot expect to receive anything from the process of worship and prayer but more darkness in our soul.

Prayers for Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dear God, we ask that you cause us to be dead to the things that produce death. We ask that you grant us a repentance that allows us to become as little children, by surrender, by faith that works by love, love that produces obedience. We ask that you help us to walk in the ways you have ordered for us and that we accept your direction joyfully. May we be fully aligned with your purposes and plans for us. We pray this for ourselves and for the leaders of nations.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, March 15, 2017

G.O.P. Senators Suggest Changes for Health Care Bill Offered by House – A day after a harsh judgment by the Congressional Budget Office on the House plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, nervous Senate Republicans on Tuesday suggested changes to the bill.

They told Trump administration officials — including the health secretary, Tom Price — that they wanted to see lower insurance costs for poorer, older Americans and an increase in funding for states with high populations of hard-to-insure people. They said those changes would greatly improve the chances of Senate approval even though they might further alienate conservatives.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership, said Senate Republicans could take steps to make the bill “more helpful to people on the lower end.”

Readings from Isaiah 26.7-21 for Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Isaiah 26.7-9 The way of the righteous is level; O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul’s desire. My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

How do we best wait for the Lord? Rufus Moseley (Heavenly View) writes, “When we love the Lord well enough to keep his commandments and keep our heart and mind open on Jesus, we are sure to receive the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Father will manifest themselves and take up their abode with and within this person. The commandments of the Lord are not grievous but simply the leading, revealing, and ways of perfect love. Everything of Jesus is life, while everything contrary to him is death. As we yield and obey all the time, we are in the true worship and the true life all the time. Whatever we love, think about, and will do, we become like. God has made it so that his will concerning us is fulfilled as we believe in and feed upon Jesus.”

Prayers for Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dear God, you say “the way of the righteous is level.” Please level the playing field for the vulnerable of the earth. From the refuges throughout the world to the poor of our nation, we trust you to intercede for the neediest of all. We wait for you and earnestly seek you to put things right in our world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, March 14, 2017

‘Perfectly Normal’: Autism Though a Lens

Eli Gottlieb writes about the autism spectrum disorder. Mr. Gottlieb’s brother is severely autistic and resides in a facility for developmentally disabled persons. The subject of Gottlieb’s documentary (you can see the film in today’s New York Times) is a person who is a high functioning man on the spectrum. This is not the biggest piece of news today, but it greatly interests me because I have a grandson on the autism spectrum. Below are quotes from the article. I hope they induce you to read the entire article.

Of course there’s no way for those without autism to actually understand the autistic experience. I grew up with a severely autistic older brother named Joshua, and after observing him closely for more than 40 years, find his emotional and cognitive process as fundamentally mysterious as ever. The impenetrability of autism, with its seemingly endless variants and its essential “otherness,” is its hallmark. All this renders Jordan’s testimony that much more useful and intriguing. He is a reporter at a hinge-point of consciousness, able to inhabit his condition while describing it for us — whether we are “neurotypicals” or lodged somewhere on the spectrum — with remarkable precision and insight.

Another thing the two (Gotlieb’s brother and the subject of the article) have in common is their age, and as such, their membership in that most challenging of demographics for those with autism and developmental difficulties: adulthood. Eclipsed by the ballooning interest in (and apparently rising incidence of) autism in childhood, those like Jordan and my brother exist only in the underfunded shadows of the major studies, the breakthroughs in treatment, the national debates. A peculiar silence currently surrounds the population of adults with autism, living out their lives in homes and institutions.

Readings from Isaiah 26.1-6 for Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Isaiah 26.2-4 Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.

Passion for God’s character and a fixed disposition of trust is required to to experience the security that God desires for us. The person who does this has cast himself or herself upon God without any reservation.

To trust our ability partly and God partly is the surest prescription for anxiety and insecurity. If we live double-mindded (see James 1.6-8) fashion, we can expect to never experience God’s peace. Note, the Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” It indicates wholeness of life and well-being.

The issue of trust is the constant theme of Isaiah 7-39. The question for individuals and nations is whether we will trust God and align our lives with his purposes, or whether we will arrogantly seek our own best thinking.

Prayers for Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dear God, we pray today for children and adults with disabilities. By your grace may they experience your love in a tangible way that surpasses their cognitive abilities. May you reach the deep places of their lives and surround them with your love and provision. Please grant leaders in all aspects of society to provide care to these precious children of yours.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, March 13, 2017

Nigeria’s Battles With Boko Haram Scar the Land and Its People – From the sky, Borno State, the region where Boko Haram is most active, is a patchwork of fallow farmland, swaths of desert and a few swampy areas. Famine-like conditions are raging in the area, a region with a rich history of agriculture. Boko Haram has chased off all the farmers, and the militants themselves have fallen victim to food shortages.

Most farms are inoperable around here. Famine was declared in pockets of Borno State last year. Many communities are sealed off from safety as insurgents scatter from hide-outs in the forest, pushed out by recent military operations. Humanitarian groups face huge logistical challenges getting food and other supplies to people in need. Even roads the military says are safe now have been attacked by insurgents.

(Note, if you have access to the New York Times on the Internet, you will find striking photographs of a the suffering in this region of our world.)

Readings from Isaiah 25.1-12 for Monday, March 13, 2017

Isaiah 25.1 and 4 speak of God’s provision for his people. O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 4 For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.

Note the phrase, “You are my God.” It is as if singer of this song is saying, “I want a being like you for my God. I want to belong to one as powerful and faithful as you. You have shown me that you do truly belong to me, because you have not abandoned me to the oppressor, you have kept faith with me when I was so afraid you had forgotten me. You are my God.”

The tone of this passage is once again God’s attack on human pride and arrogance. God attacks pride for two reasons: First, it does not work. It disregards God and chooses to not follow his directions for life. Second, it harms other human beings. Human pride and human well-being are incompatible and God is committed to human well-being.

Prayers for Monday, March 13, 2017

Dear God, I pray for suffering people like those in the Borno State of Nigeria. Please be to them a refuge and a shelter from their enemies. I pray for leaders in Nigeria and around the world that their policies will reflect trust in you, your character and your ways.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 10, 2017

Tanning Industry, Taxed Under Obama, Cheers G.O.P. Health Bill – Mr. Obama’s signature health law, the Affordable Care Act, put a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services, and during his two terms, the federal government and states sought to deter the use of tanning beds by young people in particular, citing evidence that it causes skin cancer.

The tanning industry says the tax has helped force thousands of salons out of business. But now, the bill Republicans proposed this week to repeal the A.C.A. would abolish the tanning tax, along with an array of other taxes imposed to help finance expanded health insurance coverage.

Readings from Isaiah 24.1-6 for Friday, March 10, 2017

Chapter 24 summarizes God’s message to the nations. In arrogance and pride they have placed their confidence in their own ability to secure the future. Instead of trusting God, they have served their own self-interest. They have not followed God’s instructions for life.

God’s spiritual laws are to broken at our peril, just as disregarding his physical laws. We dismiss the law of gravity, jump from a building, and break a leg. We spurn God’s directions regarding greed, dishonesty, self-serving pleasure, etc. and break our lives. Even the earth suffers from the human violation of God’s directions. Isaiah 24.3-6 provides a sample of the entire chapter. The theme is that the world is under a curse, because they have broken God’s laws.

Isaiah 24.3-6 – The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled, and few people are left.

Prayers for Friday, March 10, 2017

Dear God, I agree with Rufus Moseley (Heavenly View) that if we want trouble, we should live like the selfish world lives and too little like Jesus lives. We invite Jesus to come within and to be real to us all the time and to be all in all. May we have real success, victory, joy and real life by meeting all evil with good and meeting everything in love.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, March 6, 2017

Comey Asks Justice Dept. to Reject Trump’s Wiretapping Claim – The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.

Cuomo, in Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem, Shows Support for Israel – He toured. He prayed. He visited an ancient tomb. He broke bread, cracked jokes and even wedged in some Albany arm-twisting. And he prompted flags to appear all over, even in the middle of cobblestone streets.

The purpose of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s breakneck 15-hour trip to Israel was an odd mash-up of showing emotional support — reassuring the Jewish population in the aftermath of a rash of anti-Semitic threats and acts of vandalism across New York State and nationwide — and promoting business ties.

Readings from Isaiah 19.19-25 for Monday, March 6, 2017

This passage from the Prophet Isaiah is full of wild hope. It pictures Israel, Assyria (think Iran and Iraq) and Egypt all united in serving God and benefiting one another. Only God can make this happen. Praying people should not only pray problems, we should pray hope. Please take time to read this passage today. Ask God to fuel your hope for the future that only God can give.

Prayers for Monday, March 6, 2017

Dear God, you promise “On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage'” (Isaiah 19.24-25). Help us who pray to fervently pray for this kind of peace to come to our world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 3, 2017 PART 2

Why 20 Million People Are on Brink of Famine in a ‘World of Plenty’ – In a world filled with excess food, 20 million people are on the brink of famine, including 1.4 million children at imminent risk of death. In the face of such grim numbers, a stark question confronts the world’s most powerful: Why in 2017 can’t they avert such a seemingly archaic and preventable catastrophe?

Why are people starving?

Mr. Guterres cited two reasons for the current crisis. First, he said, there is not enough money; the United Nations needs $5.6 billion to address the needs, most of it by the end of March. Barely 2 percent of that money is in hand, he said. Whether the United States, by far the biggest humanitarian donor in the world, will follow through on its commitments under President Trump remains unclear.

Second, all four countries facing the threat of famine are reeling from conflict, and in many instances, the leaders of warring parties are blocking aid workers from delivering relief where it is most needed.

Austerity? Not on This Saudi Itinerary – As part of a month long tour in Asia to promote economic ties, King Salman of Saudi Arabia arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday to great fanfare, accompanied, the news media said, by a retinue with a net worth in the billions of dollars, including about 1,500 people, among them 25 high-ranking princes, 10 ministers and more than 100 security personnel.

They arrived in six Boeing passenger jets and one Lockheed C-130 Hercules, a military transport aircraft carrying 506 tons of cargo, two Mercedes-Benz S600 limousines and two electric elevators for the king’s personal use. An Indonesian freight company told the Antara news agency that it employed 572 workers just to deal with the delegation’s luggage. The king, 81, used a golden-hued escalator to descend from a jet painted with the words “God Bless You.”

Readings from Isaiah 13-14 for Friday, March 3, 2017

I am writing another blog article today, after reading two chapters from Isaiah and two world news articles from the New York Times. Isaiah makes it clear that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. When Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19.30), I believe many “first-place-finishers” in life will be in last place when they face the justice of God.

Chapters 13 and 14 of Isaiah are not easy reading, but the reader can get the basic message. God is opposed to the proud, who use their position of strength to oppress the vulnerable of the earth. There is a sample of two verses from these chapter below.

Isaiah 13.11 – I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

Isaiah 14.13 and 15 – You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.

Prayers for Friday, March 3, 2017

Dear God, please give hope to the hopeless. Please answer for them Jesus’ great prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Please move upon world leaders. Please help them to acknowledge what John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) has clearly pointed out. “The frightful nature of pride is seen in the fact that it would prefer the world to be a desert in its own hands than a garden in the hands of someone else.”

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 3, 2017 PART 1

Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry – Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

His announcement, delivered at a terse news conference, came after a day of rapid-fire developments in a murky affair that has shadowed President Trump, jeopardized his closest aides and intensified pressure for a full inquiry into Moscow’s attempts to influence the election as well as the policies of the new administration.

26.2 Readings from Isaiah 12.1-6 for Friday, March 3, 2017

Isaiah 12 is a song of praise to God. It is a song of hope for a preferred future under the canopy of God’s love and grace. Isaiah 12.2 highlights the theme of the entire unit of thought from chapters 7-39. As you read this verse, notice how trusting God is our response to God’s love, wisdom and power. Isaiah said, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.”

Rufus Moseley (Heavenly View) shows the kind of attitudes and actions that open the door for the vision of chapter 12. “Whatever we really believe, we act upon. The person who believes in Jesus vitally is receptive and responsive to him, his Spirit, and way of life; and by being receptive and responsive, the way is open for Jesus to make him like himself. When we love the Lord well enough to keep his commandments and keep our heart and mind open on Jesus, we are sure to receive the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Father will manifest themselves and take up their abode with and within this person. Everything of Jesus is life, while everything contrary to him is death.

Prayers for Friday, March 3, 2017

Dear God, please draw us into a life of love with you where we are receptive and responsive to you, your Spirit and your way of life. May we discover the truth that Jesus is life.

Bob Spradling

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trump, in Optimistic Address, Asks Congress to End ‘Trivial Fights’ – President Trump, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, defended his tumultuous presidency on Tuesday and said he was eager to reach across party lines and put aside “trivial fights” to help ordinary Americans.

He called on Congress to work with him on overhauling health care, changing the tax code and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and military.

But he raised new questions about his policy priorities and how he plans to achieve them, especially on immigration.

Readings from Isaiah 11.1-9 for Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The book of Isaiah alternates between hope and judgment. It is God’s activity that produces hope. Isaiah 11.1-9 is a passage of hope. Verses 1-5 have been traditionally ascribed to Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophesy. Certainly, Jesus is the best exemplar of the passage. However, praying people can ask God to give leaders the character traits mentioned in the verses.

Our focal verse today is Isaiah 11.2-4a: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth . . .”

Prayers for Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dear God, we pray for leaders in our world. May you grant them to have your Spirit that gives them a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. May they lead with righteous judgments for the sake of the poor and defenseless of the earth.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending – President Trump put both political parties on notice Monday that he intends to slash spending on many of the federal government’s most politically sensitive programs — relating to education, the environment, science and poverty — to protect the economic security of retirees and to shift billions more to the armed forces.

Readings from Isaiah 10.5-19 for Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The theme of chapters 7-39 of Isaiah is that people are to trust God, rather than to arrogantly rely on their own resources. Isaiah 10.5-19 speaks of the role Assyria will play in God’s judgment of his own people, Israel. The words of verse 15 below remind us all of the foolishness of human pride before an all-wise and all-powerful Creator– God.

Isaiah 10.15 – Shall the ax vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood!

Prayers for Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dear God, please help us to combat our pride with a flood of positive attitudes and actions, given by your grace. Help us to replace wrong thinking with right thinking; embracing health instead of disease; thinking about you and your perfection, rather than your enemies and opposites. May we identify with your real power, glory, great peace, joy, and transforming hope.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, February 24, 2017

Stephen Bannon Reassures Conservatives Uneasy About Trump – When Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, appeared in public on Thursday for the first time since the president was sworn in, it was to deliver, in his own combative way, a message of soothing reassurance to the conservative activists gathered here for their annual assessment known as the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Do not believe the “corporatist globalist media” that was “crying and weeping” on election night and is still “dead wrong” about what the Trump administration is doing. Inside the White House, Mr. Bannon said, everything is going according to plan. The “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun.

Readings from Isaiah 10.1-4 for Friday, February 24, 2017

Isaiah consistently presents the contrast between pride, arrogance and reliance on human ability versus humble reliance on God and his wisdom. Isaiah demonstrates what happens when pride and arrogance reach their full manifestation. The result is the oppression of the helpless by those who should care for them.

Isaiah 10.1-2 highlights this problem. God speaks through his prophet, “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey.”

Throughout history there have been those in power, who are responsible for maintaining the laws of the country, who do so in such a way as to enrich themselves at the expense of the helpless. When persons begin to consciously deprive the helpless of their rights in order to oppress them, the lowest limits of cynicism and self-serving have been reached.

Prayers for February 24, 2017

Dear God, you have given us direction in Malachi 6.8. You tell us what is good and what you require of us. It is to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. Please allow people, from those who pray to those in positions of power, to live according to your revealed will.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rex Tillerson Arrives in Mexico Facing Twin Threats to Relations – The Trump administration calls the visit a step toward mutual understanding, a way to move the relationship forward.

But as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived in Mexico on Wednesday, twin threats hung over the frayed relationship between the two nations: President Trump’s new orders to round up and deport immigrants who are in the United States illegally, and a separate effort to take a hard look at all American aid to Mexico, possibly using it to pay for a border wall instead.

Newspapers here have described the Trump administration’s new deportation policies in apocalyptic terms, saying in some cases that they represented “war” on the millions of Mexicans in the United States.

But perhaps even more worrisome to Mexico is the threat to deport to millions of its citizens who, with settled lives and jobs in the United States, provide most of the nearly $25 billion in remittance payments to Mexican families every year.

Reading from Isaiah 9.8-21 for Thursday, February 23, 2017

The source of all sin, is the pride which exalts humanity above God, which makes God but a tool for the achievement of our plans and dreams. The arrogance of the people is expressed by response of the people to God’s judgment. In Isaiah 9.10 the prophet quotes the people and reveals the underlying arrogance and pride of their thoughts.

They said, “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place” (Isaiah 9.10). The pride of the people was that they could survive any disaster. In fact, they could rebuild with better materials than were previously available.

The result of arrogance is that the people are burdened by extremely ineffective leaders. Isaiah 9.16 states, “for those who led this people led them astray, and those who were led by them were left in confusion.”

The solution to the problem is to trust God. Who do you trust is the overriding theme of chapters 7-39 of the book of Isaiah.

Prayers for February 23, 2017

Dear God, we acknowledge our sin of pride which leads to unbelief, self-will and refusal to obey you. We ask you to help us to stay away from anything that keeps us from opening our spirits, souls, minds, bodies and lives to your good Spirit. We invite you to enter our lives, to abide and to reign. We trust that in you is infinite peace, undisturbed joy, and freedom from self effort and anxious care.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser – President Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday, picking a widely respected military strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the Iraq war in its darkest days.

Unlike Mr. Flynn, who served as a campaign adviser last year, General McMaster has no links to Mr. Trump and is not thought of as being as ideological as the man he will replace. A battle-tested veteran of both the Persian Gulf war and the second Iraq war, General McMaster is considered one of the military’s most independent-minded officers, sometimes at a cost to his own career.

Readings from Isaiah 8.11-9.1 for Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Isaiah 8.13-14 is the focal point today. It reads, “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. He will become a sanctuary . . .

What does it mean to regard God as “holy.” That which is holy is distinct from the common or ordinary. To regard God as holy is to demonstrate that he is “high and lifted up” (see Isaiah 6.1) in power and in character, as well as in his very nature and character. To fail to view him in this light is to make him appear helpless, indifferent, and unimportant. When we seek to solve the riddles of our times according to human explanations and means, we make God appear insignificant. That is the opposite of regarding him as holy.

People who pray the prophets are not swayed by the headlines. Rather, they are influenced by their knowledge of God and alignment with his purposes for their lives.

Prayers for February 21, 2017

Dear God, please help us to see you for exactly who you are. Please give us the willingness and ability to seek knowledge of you and alignment with your purposes in life. May leaders in all aspects of society regard you as holy. May profound regard for you extend to the nations of the world.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence – Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

Immigrant Protected Under Obama Program Now Fights His Arrest – More than two years ago, Daniel Ramirez Medina, an unauthorized immigrant, applied for a special program created under the Obama administration that would allow him to stay and work in the United States.

But on Friday morning, when federal immigration agents showed up at his home in Seattle to detain his father, they took Mr. Ramirez, 23, as well. His lawyers have now sued the federal government, arguing that he is being held in custody unconstitutionally, in an “unprecedented and unjustified” case.

Readings from Isaiah 9.1-7 for Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Isaiah 9.2 and 6 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 6 – For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Prayers for February 15, 2017

Dear God, we need the light of your direction. We also need the government of your kingdom in our personal and national lives. In your grace please grant this to us.

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Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser – Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Angry Town Hall Meetings on Health Care Law, and Few Answers – Michelle Roelandts had a question for her congressman: If the Affordable Care Act and its premium subsidies were repealed, what would happen when her daughter turns 26 this year and needs to get her own health insurance while attending law school?

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a durable Wisconsin Republican who has served in the House since 1979, had little to offer in response. “If I could give you an answer today, I would, but I can’t,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said at a town-hall-style meeting on Saturday, where about 70 people packed a room at the Pewaukee Public Library.

Ms. Roelandts’s question and others like it are being asked with increasing anger and urgency across the country, and Republicans have found themselves on the defensive — for all their fury aimed at repealing the law, so far they have not agreed on an alternative.

Reading from Isaiah 8.1-15 for Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Isaiah 8.11-13 are the key verses in this section. Isaiah writes, “For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.'”

Praying people need to intimately know both God’s nature and God’s will. What does it mean to fear the Lord? The “fear of the Lord” is best understood by the words of Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6.5).

People who love God are in the best position to represent his will in all of their dealings.

Prayer for February 14, 2017

Dear God, we ask you to help us to love you more. Please reveal your love for us in a very tangible way, so we can respond to you in love with our whole being. Please help the people who are praying the prophets and the headlines to pray from the position of knowing and doing your will. Please help those who have the responsibility of leading our government to operate out of love and trust in your guidance.

Bob Spradling

Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, February 13, 2017

Below is an article that appeared in Saturday’s edition of the New York Times. I feel the story is striking and worthy notice. Rosa Maria Ortega has been convicted of voting illegally in November’s election. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for her crime, leaving her children in the care of family members and costing taxpayers between 18,250 to 34,675 dollars annually (depending on the location of her prison) to punish her for the crime. The headlines and a few paragraphs from the story are below.

Illegal Voting Gets Texas Woman 8 Years in Prison, and Certain Deportation

Despite repeated statements by Republican political leaders that American elections are rife with illegal voting, credible reports of fraud have been hard to find and convictions even more rare.

That may help explain the unusually heavy penalty imposed on Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, a permanent resident and a mother of four who lives outside Dallas. On Thursday, a Fort Worth judge sentenced her to eight years in prison — and almost certainly deportation later — after she voted illegally in elections in 2012 and 2014.

The sentence for Ms. Ortega, who was brought to this country by her mother as an infant, “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said in a statement. Her lawyer called it an egregious overreaction, made to score political points, against someone who wrongly believed she was eligible to vote.

“She has a sixth-grade education. She didn’t know she wasn’t legal,” said Ms. Ortega’s lawyer, Clark Birdsall, who once oversaw voter fraud prosecutions in neighboring Dallas County. “She can own property; she can serve in the military; she can get a job; she can pay taxes. But she can’t vote, and she didn’t know that.”

Ms. Ortega was a registered Republican. “She voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the 2012 election. In 2014 she voted for our current attorney general, Ken Paxton,” Mr. Birdsall said. “And guess what? He’s the one responsible for prosecuting her.”

Reading from Isaiah 7.10-17 for Monday, February 13, 2017

The theme of Isaiah chapters 7-39 is the trust of God.

Isaiah 7.9b is a key verse. There Isaiah speaks God’s word to the nation’s leader, “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.”

Isaiah invites this leader to trust God by putting God to the test. God’s word to him was: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7.11).

Sadly, the leader responded with these words, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7.12).

To this Isaiah expressed tragic disapproval, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?” (Isaiah 7.13).

As we pray the front page of the newspaper and also read the prophet, Isaiah, the issue of trust is central. Do our prayer express trust in God? Are we asking God for local, state, national and international leaders to enable them to trust God’s direction? Let’s not rationalize our disbelief, as did the nation’s leader in Isaiah’s day. Let’s choose to deepen our relationship with God and pray in faith.

Prayers for Monday, February 13, 2017

Dear God, please deepen our relationship with you. Please reveal to us your character in such a way that we trust you in every aspect of our lives. We pray this for local, state, national, and international leaders, as well as for ourselves.

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Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, February 10, 2017

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss – A federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the United States from seven largely Muslim nations, a sweeping rebuke of the administration’s claim that the courts have no role as a check on the president.

The three-judge panel, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said the administration had shown “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States.

The ruling also rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that courts are powerless to review a president’s national security assessments. Judges have a crucial role to play in a constitutional democracy, the court said.

‘Bad Dude’? No, but Deported Anyway – By no standard of common sense or decency should Guadalupe García de Rayos have been a priority for deportation. Ms. Rayos, a 35-year-old mother of two, was arrested on Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Phoenix. On Thursday she was deported to Mexico, a country she left 21 years ago. Her devastated family, including her American-born children, remains in the United States.

President Trump persists in the absurd claim that America will be safe and great again only after an assault on “bad dudes” and “criminal aliens,” whom he has promised to arrest and remove by the millions.

But Ms. Rayos fits no such definition and was no threat, though she had been living in the United States illegally since she was 14. She had been known to the authorities since she was caught in a workplace raid in Phoenix in 2008. In the years since, she would check in regularly with immigration officials, who chose not to deport her, having more important things to do.

Reading from Isaiah 7.1-9 for Friday, February 10, 2017

Isaiah chapters 7-39 are united around the theme of trust. Shall we trust human wisdom and alliances, or shall we trust in God? That is the central question. Can God be trusted? Actually trusted?

John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) clearly writes, “Until a person or a nation is convinced of God’s complete trustworthiness, they cannot lay aside the lust for their own security and become God’s servant.”

Again Oswalt writes, “In every circumstance there are two perspectives, the human and the divine. It is not easy to gain the divine perspective. Yet, unless we seek it, we are always in danger of paying too much attention to the passings and paying too little attention to the significant.”

The last phrase of Isaiah 7.9 is the theme of the chapters 7-39. It well could be the theme for nations today, too. Isaiah writes, “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.”

Prayers for February 10, 2017

Dear God, thank you for revealing your character, plans and purposes to people. Please help individuals and nations return to a genuine trust in you. May the conversations and prayers of your followers express genuine trust in you each day.

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Headlines from the New York Times for Thursday, February 9, 2017

Supreme Court Nominee Calls Trump’s Attacks on Judiciary ‘Demoralizing’ – Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, privately expressed dismay on Wednesday over Mr. Trump’s increasingly aggressive attacks on the judiciary, calling the president’s criticism of independent judges “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”

She Showed Up Yearly to Meet Immigration Agents. Now They’re Deporting Her. – For eight years, Guadalupe García de Rayos had checked in at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office here, a requirement since she was caught using a fake Social Security number during a raid in 2008 at a water park where she worked.

Every year since then, she has walked in and out of the meetings after a brief review of her case and some questions.

But not this year.

On Wednesday, immigration agents arrested Ms. Rayos, 35, and began procedures to send her back to Mexico, a country she has not seen since she left it 21 years ago.

Readings from Isaiah 6.9-13 for Thursday, February 9, 2017

What happens to a person or a nation when the disease of pride and rebellion has gone so deeply that they will simply misperceive the truth of what they hear? There are few more tragic words than Isaiah 6.9-13. Isaiah is told that he will not be a successful preacher, whose words would lead to healing and health. Instead, his words will further confirm people in the blindness of their already established ways.

Isaiah 6.10 – Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”

God told Isaiah that his faithful presentation of the truth would not result in an admission of guilt and a turning to God by the people. Rather, it would bring about a more adamant refusal to recognize need.

What can heal except God’s truth? However, when people refuse the truth and hold tightly to their own best thinking, God permits them to experience the consequences of their own action. In this case we become less understanding than farm animals (see Isaiah 1.2-3).

Prayers for February 9, 2017

Dear God, we draw back in alarm from the serious words of Isaiah 6.9-13. We ask for mercy from you and pray that you soften our hearts. May individuals and nations be able to hear your instruction and follow it. We surrender our own best thinking today and ask you to show us what is the direction you desire for us take. Please grant us the grace to hear and do your will.

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Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trump Calls Hearing on Immigration Ban ‘Disgraceful’ – President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at the judicial branch for considering challenges to his executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, asserting that politically motivated judges had held a “disgraceful” federal appeals court hearing Tuesday on the matter.

“I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased,” Mr. Trump told a gathering of sheriffs and police chiefs in Washington. “But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.”

Joyous Africans Take to the Rails, With China’s Help – The 10:24 a.m. train out of Djibouti’s capital drew some of the biggest names in the Horn of Africa last month.

“It is indeed a historic moment, a pride for our nations and peoples,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia, shortly before the train — the first electric, transnational railway in Africa — headed toward Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. “This line will change the social and economic landscape of our two countries.”

But perhaps the biggest star of the day was China, which designed the system, supplied the trains and imported hundreds of engineers for the six years it took to plan and build the 466-mile line. And the $4 billion cost? Chinese banks provided nearly all the financing.

Reading from Isaiah 6.1-8 for Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If you are familiar with the grandeur of Isaiah 6.1-8, you may wonder that this passage presents a major question, “Why trust God?” On one hand, we are tempted with pride, pretense, and the idolization of human potential. On the other hand is the need for repentance, cleansing and ethical obedience. People in the second category focus on God’s trustworthiness and his capacity to save those who trust in him. Which one will it be?

Israel never stopped religious ceremony, but in Isaiah’s day it was clear they were largely reliant on human leadership and relegated God to a narrow compartment of religious activity. In an encounter with God, Isaiah realized that God can be trusted in every aspect of life. In fact, reliance on him is the only way to transform a nation from rebellion to usefulness for God’s purposes.

Isaiah experienced the holiness of God, as he heard heavenly creatures declare, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6.3).

John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) explains what it means for God to be holy. He writes: “Whatever the experience did for Isaiah, it convinced him that God alone is holy. Holiness is distinctness, the distinctness of the divine from all other things. God’s holiness is defined by his attitude toward ethical behavior. God’s laws were derived from what made God to be God. The entire nation will be holy to God, and they will manifest that special relationship through a particular species of ethical behavior.”

Prayer for February 8, 2017

Dear God, please help us to have a vision of you that transforms our willingness to trust you. Please forgive us for placing such an emphasis on human leadership, whether it is personal or national. May we conform our lives to the ethics you have demonstrated for us in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

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The Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1. I’m Pro-Life, and Pro-Refugee – Evangelical, Scott Arbeiter, is the president of World Relief. He writes: “Since 1980, three million refugees have been resettled in the United States. In that time not one has taken the life of an American in an act of terrorism. The conservative Cato Institute estimates that the likelihood of an individual American being killed in an act of terrorism committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year. Somehow it does not feel truly and fully pro-life to be unwilling to give up one-3.64 billionth of my security to make room for someone bombed out of their city, someone who is homeless, cold and unwelcomed.”

2. Fueled by Bribes, Somalia’s Election Seen as Milestone of Corruption – As we pray God’s word, we remember that God is God of the entire world. There are powerful, not-so-helpful forces at work in Somalia.

Here’s a quote: “But according to diplomats, the Emirates and Qatar are backing different candidates here in a rivalry over the Muslim Brotherhood, while Egypt and Ethiopia are supporting different candidates because of their duel over the Nile. And Sudan is supporting certain political figures to keep its access to Somali intelligence services, which also work with the C.I.A. That way, analysts said, Sudan could spy on what the Americans in Somalia were doing.”

Reading from Isaiah 5.18-25 for Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What is the result of a people’s refusal to live in obedience to God’s nature? This behavior belies an underlying belief that God is not really active in the world and that humans are better able to determine what is really right and wrong than God.

John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) provides insightful thoughts on this passage. He writes, “The people had been so intoxicated with the quest for pleasure that they had become insensitive to God’s workings in the world.”

The insensitivity of culture to God’s character and behavior leads a people to behave as Isaiah describes in 5.20-21. It is tragic that human reasoning is used to twist good into evil and darkness to light. A culture that is wise in its own eyes tragically substitutes mere human ability for the all-knowing wisdom of God.

Isaiah 5.20-21 – Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight!

Prayer for February 7, 2017

Dear God, in an ocean of difficulties and troubles, please give world leaders the insight to depend on you for solutions. Please give praying people the ability to connect with you for the sake of your creation. Please come to the aid of the helpless and the vulnerable of the earth.

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Headlines from the New York Times for Monday, February 6, 2017

  1. Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles – The backlash against a series of executive orders has President Trump and his top staff reconsidering their improvisational approach to governing, administration officials said.
  2. Turning the Tide Against Cholera – Two centuries ago, a global pandemic rose from the swamps of Bangladesh. Now researchers there may have found the tools to stop it.

Reading from Isaiah 5.1-17 for Monday, February 6, 2017

Chapter 5 ends the introduction to the book of Isaiah. The promised hopeful future that is presented at times in these chapters can only be realized as the people conquer their pervasive impulse to sin. Justice and righteousness is essential to a positive future for the nation.

The problem the people face is that their passion for pleasure has become uppermost and a passion for God, his truth and his ways has been squeezed out.

Isaiah 5.16 is a key verse, but I encourage readers to consider all seventeen of the verses today.

Verse 16 – But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.

Verse 16 is what makes God truly God, which sets him off as divine. What marks God as God is his essential justice and righteousness. These characteristics are what must eventually come to the forefront if the nation is to realize God’s designed future for it.

Prayer for February 6, 2017

Dear God, please help national leaders to know your will. Please help them hear from you and respond faithfully to your direction. May justice and righteousness direct our nation. Please enable people who claim allegiance to you live as your followers. As you show us the next right thing to do today, may we do it.

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Reading from Isaiah 4.2-6 on Friday, February 3, 2017

If you have been reading Isaiah along with me, you will notice that the text bounces from what seems like “good times” to doom. The “good times” of Isaiah 2.2-4 and 4.2-6 are what God intends for his people. The scenes of judgment are tragically the present reality of God’s people. The contrast between intention and reality is important for us today. We would do well to ask ourselves if we, personally, are living up to God’s intended plans for our lives.

In today’s reading we will focus on one word, “holy.” God’s holiness is characterized by justice and righteousness. God intends that we exercise justice with all people. His purposes for his people to live according to his directions for life (righteousness). See Isaiah and Leviticus for this thought.

Isaiah 4.3 – Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem.

Leviticus 19.2 – You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

Headlines from the New York Times on Friday, February 3, 2017

  1. Betsy DeVos, Pick for Secretary of Education, Is the Most Jeered – On Thursday, calls opposing Ms. DeVos so overwhelmed the Senate phone system that by the afternoon, offices were having trouble gaining access to their voice mail messages.
  2. Trump Has Provocative Words for Allies. Congress Does Damage Control – Senators are huddling in meetings or on embarrassing phone calls with ambassadors of major allies, assuring them that, yes, America is still their friend.

Prayer for February 3, 2017

Dear God, please help your praying people to align our lives with your intentions. May we live up to your words that you spoke to the prophet (Micah 6.8): He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

May your Holy Spirit give us the power to live in this manner, we pray.

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Thursday, February 2nd, Reading from Isaiah 3.8-4.1

This passage completes a theme that began with Isaiah 2.5. The basic thrust of the entire passage is to elevate human leadership over direction from God is to be done at our own peril. Isaiah says, “Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves” (Isaiah 3.9).

Historically, the Old Testament prophets take God’s side against the proud and powerful, who oppress the vulnerable of the land. As if we are listening to a prosecuting attorney, we hear God speak in Isaiah 3.13-15

God speaks through Isaiah: The Lord rises to argue his case; he stands to judge the peoples. 14 The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts (Isaiah 3.13-15).

John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) writes, “When government becomes corrupt it is usually those who are helpless who are hurt first and most often, especially if the leaders think of the people as their own preserve which they can use to their advantage. But God says that the people, especially the helpless, are his and asks with burning eyes how the rulers dare to treat his heritage as they do.”

God’s final answer is not judgment. The book of Isaiah alternates between judgment and redemption. In tomorrow’s article we will examine God’s desire to bless his people. However, God’s blessing is not on our own terms. God’s blessing comes after humility and repentance. It comes when his people cease to trust human leaders and connect with his divine guidance.

Headlines from two newspapers on Thursday, February 2, 2017

God is the God of the entire world and he has an interest in the world, not just the United States. One headline comes from an excellent website that collects information from Africa. I encourage readers to go there if they have not previously done so. The location is http://www.allafrica.com.

  • South Africa: Systemic Racism Behind South Africa’s Failure to Transform Its Economy – South Africa suffers from high levels of poverty, racism and inequality. This can be almost entirely attributed to centuries of conflict between white settlers and indigenous Africans. Apartheid reduced black Africans to the periphery of the economy. Many were condemned to landlessness and poverty.

Headlines from the New York Times.

  • Rex Tillerson Is Confirmed as Secretary of State Amid Record Opposition – Rex W. Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday in a 56-to-43 vote to become the nation’s 69th secretary of state just as serious strains have emerged with important international allies.

Prayer for February 2, 2017

Dear God, your word says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.3). We pray for the poor and vulnerable. We ask you that you move events in our world on their behalf. Please help leaders everywhere to hear from you about what is your plan and purposes for their leadership.

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Reading from Isaiah 3.1-7 on Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Verses 4-5 summarize the passage. It will be helpful for the reader to consider the entire passage.

Isaiah 3.4-5 – And I will make boys their princes, and babes shall rule over them. 5 The people will be oppressed, everyone by another and everyone by a neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the base to the honorable.

Leaders reflect the spiritual condition of the community. A sovereign God, not a sovereign man, holds the fate of a nation in his hands.

The picture is that of a courtroom. God is both the prosecuting attorney and the judge. He accuses the people of relying on human leadership rather than depending on his direction. As a result, the people who could give guidance and tell people what to do will be of a poor quality.

John Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) writes: “When a nation permits its rulers to believe that they rule in their own right and because of their own competence, that nation brings upon itself the official graft, self-serving and irresponsibility which result. Then, all types of authority fall into contempt and the natural inclinations of failed human beings are allowed to run free.”

Oswalt continues, “In place of great men, they are now ruled by incompetents. In place of all their glory, there will be shame and loss.”

The reason why we are praying at such a time as this is that God hear and answers prayers. God desires to hear our prayers and reverse our situation. Second Chronicles 7.14 presents a prescription for the healing of a nation.

2 Chronicles 7.14 – If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The Headlines from the New York Times on Wednesday, February 1, 2017

  1. Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – President Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, elevating a conservative in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia to succeed the late jurist.
  2. State Dept. Dissent Cable on Trump’s Ban Draws 1,000 Signatures – Within hours, a State Department dissent cable, asserting that President Trump’s executive order to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries would not make the nation safer. By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the letter had attracted around 1,000 signatures, State Department officials said, far more than any dissent cable in recent years.

Prayer for February 1, 2017

Dear God, please help your followers to humbly seek your leadership. Where we are wrong, please help us to turn from any wickedness. May those who pray be the first to be humble and to repent.

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Reading from Isaiah on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On a daily basis, reporters capture heated arguments, protests, Twitter messages, and more as our polarized country fights over solutions to the generally agreed upon problems of our economy, immigration, abortion, etc. Instead of dialogue, we have a war of words over extremely differing solutions. What is a praying person to do in the face of what we are currently experiencing? I strongly feel that we do not need to pray our opinions and political views. What is needed is an ability to humbly hear from God and, then, to pray what we hear.

Followers of my blog will notice that I have moved the readings from Isaiah to the top of the article. Why? The current headlines from newspapers are full of a continuation of the drama that characterized one of the most contentious election cycles our country has ever observed. G. K Chesterton goes to the heart of the problem in his book, “What’s Wrong with the World.” Chesterton was an English writer, poet, philosopher, journalist, orator, and lay theologian who lived from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. In his book Chesterton observes that “the whole difficulty in our public problems is that some men are aiming at cures which other men would regard as maladies; are offering ultimate conditions as states of health which others would uncompromisingly call states of disease.”

In two key Old Testament passages God instructs praying people to leave the noise of the crowd, so they can obtain a knowledge of God’s plans and purposes for the world. Those two passages are below.

Isaiah 62.6 – Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest.

Ezekiel 22.29-30 – The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the alien without redress. 30 And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.

The Ezekiel passage is particularly tragic. God looked for someone to get on the wall and could not find anyone willing spend the time and effort to do so. Readers of this blog can give our world a valuable gift. We can leave the noise of the crowd, get alone with God, and discover his will. My encouragement is for people to read the Old Testament prophets to discover God’s will and to the pray about them.

Tomorrow, the reading from Isaiah will be chapter two.

The Headlines from the New York Times on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

  1. Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him – President Trump fired an incumbent from the Obama administration and replaced her with a temporary head, prior to the confirmation of his proposed Attorney General, Mr. Sessions. These actions are the results of choices that have been made concerning President Trump’s immigration ban.
  2. In Ban on Migrants, Trump Supporters See a Promise Kept – The New York Times reports, “at home, a large portion of the electorate is behind the president. Mr. Trump’s supporters say that the promise of tougher immigration policies is one of the main reasons they voted for him.”

Prayer for January 31, 2017

Dear God, please draw praying people to a place where we can hear from you. May you help us remove ourselves from the noise of the crowd and our own opinions. Please help us to comprehend your purposes and plans for the times in which we live. Then, may we intercede with you on behalf of your will.

Preview of Isaiah Reading for Tomorrow

In tomorrow’s blog post we will return to a systematic reading of the prophet, Isaiah. In chapter two God brings his own people into the courtroom. He tells them that they have the leaders they deserve. They have abandoned God and have glorified human leadership. God’s judgment is that he has given them the result of their own choices.

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The Headlines from the New York Times, January 30, 2017

1. Travelers Stranded and Protests Swell Over Trump Order – The ban on immigration from Muslim countries and related stories dominated the news this weekend.

2. Growing Number of G.O.P. Lawmakers Criticize Trump’s Refugee Policy – Some Republican leaders criticized President Trump’s immigration declaration. For example, Senator John McCain stated that the ban on Muslims might provide a recruiting tool for the Islamic State.

3. Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration: What We Know and What We Don’t – At this point, there is considerable confusion about what to do with President Trump’s order on immigration.

Reading from Isaiah 2.6-11 on January 30, 2017

The entire second chapter of Isaiah presents a picture of a nation who has exalted human leadership to such an extent that it cannot hear from God. Isaiah 2.7-8 summarizes the situation.

Isaiah 2.7-8 – Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.

When Isaiah gave this prophesy Israel had known several years of peace and prosperity. They had become complacent and proud, no longer depending on God. Isaiah delivers God’s word that recognizes their prosperity, but also reveals how they have in a practical sense eliminated God from their lives.

If Isaiah had given the news media of his day “talking points,” they very well may have been these.

1. We cannot continue to live in rebellion against God and somehow expect good results.

2. What is the cause of our trouble? It is the exaltation of human leaders and not a humble trust in the leadership of God.

3. The question the nation faced was to either listen to God or listen to people who did not trust God, but who rather relied on their own resources.

Idols can take many forms, but ultimately they are substitutes for God. Whenever we attempt to secure life, prosperity and protection on our own terms, apart from God, we are worshiping an idol. It may be that the idol is nothing more than our own self-will, but it is without a doubt a very poor substitute for trusting the leadership of God.

Prayer for January 30, 2017

Dear God, we who are praying the newspaper today confess our need of you. We confess that we cannot live in rebellion and expect good results. Please help us pray-ers to align our lives with your will. You have created us to live in an intimate relationship with you. May we respond to this tremendous offer to live connected with you in a personal relationship.

You are the wisest Being of all. We are foolish if we don’t accept your leadership and direction. It is a profound perversion of our beliefs if we claim to be your friends and yet only follow the desires of our self-will. Help us to humble ourselves and silence our opinions before you and learn from you.

May the leaders of our country and leaders throughout the world hear from you. You have every ability to communicate your direction to them. We ask that you speak to them in a manner in which they can hear.

Thank you for your mercy. We pray for your grace and mercy to rule our hearts and lives today.

Bob Spradling

The New York Times on Friday, January 27th, 2017

  1. British leader pays Trump a visit – President Trump will host Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House today, and they are expected to discuss a possible free-trade agreement.
  2. Concerning the Wall with Mexico – To finance its construction, Mr. Trump appears to have embraced a House Republican proposal to impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods.
  3. As Migrants Strain Border Towns, Pressure Builds on Mexico to Act – Mexico has its own migration issues with hundreds of thousands coming from other Latin American nations and Haiti. Primarily church groups and charities are housing thousands of migrants that have entered the Mexican borders.

Reading from Isaiah 2.1-5 on January 27, 2017

Isaiah 2.1-5 presents a picture of what can be if God’s people return to him instead of seeking security and prosperity apart from being in a trusting relationship with God. Verse 2 is the focal verse for today’s reading.

Isaiah 2.4 – He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This verse helps us understand the causes and cures for conflict. What brings about wars and all of the lesser hatreds which lead up to war?  John N. Oswalt (Commentary on Isaiah) views the source as “unbridled self-aggrandizement.” He continues and writes, “When a person, or a nation, decides that he must supply his own needs and that he is the final judge both of what his legitimate needs are and how those needs may be met, the weaker are trampled and violence results.” This was the picture painted the first chapter of Isaiah. The warfare, the manipulative religion, the injustice, the posturing of the mighty were all the result of refusal to submit one’s desires to God.

What is the source of peace? First, we must recognize that God is the source of all good. The faith that leads to obedience will result in our needs being submitted to God’s judgment. People who live in submission and obedience to God discover this is the way to peace or well-being. When two persons are walking in this way they can know such peace together because both can know that their interests are being cared for by God.

Are these merely pretty words, but not practical direction for today’s problematic dynamics? I suggest that they are immensely practical. They were given to Isaiah from the wisest Being of all. He knows what works. May our prayers and actions line-up with God’s will and magnificent character.

Prayer for January 27, 2017

Dear God, please help us to embrace your leadership and direction for our lives. There are an overwhelming number of trouble spots in the world. Please help leaders hear from you about your solutions to the immense problems that face the world.

We pray for churches and charities that are tirelessly serving migrants in all parts of the earth. May you supply them with the resources to care for those they are serving. May you protect those in migrant camps worldwide.

Please help us to hear from you and to join with you to solve the root causes of the troubles that are facing our earth.

Please leave a comment or a prayer in the “comment” section of real-voices. Thank you.

Bob Spradling

The New York Times on Thursday, January 26, 2017

 Trump Blocks Syrian Refugees and Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built

 As Trump Orders Wall, Mexico’s President Considers Canceling U.S. Trip

 The Real Cost of Mr. Trump’s Wall

Reading the Prophet Isaiah on January 26, 2017

The Reading of Isaiah for today is Isaiah 1.22-23.

22 Your silver has become dross, your wine is mixed with water. 23 Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them. The comments below are from John N. Oswalt’s Commentary on Isaiah in the New International Commentary series.

The pure has become impure, the precious has become base. The ruling class, society’s “silver,” has become so perverted that they who are to promote order and obedience are themselves rebels. They who are entrusted with responsibility for justice are through their own greed actively promoting injustice.

Isaiah makes a connection between idolatry and social injustice. Social injustice is ultimately the result of refusal to entrust oneself to a fair and loving God. Whenever persons begin to believe that the cosmic order is basically uninterested in human welfare and that those who succeed are those who know best how to capture the cosmic forces for their own purposes (the underlying attitudes of idolatry), the relatively more helpless and vulnerable begin to be crushed.

Prayer for January 26, 2017

Dear God, I remind myself that 1 Peter 4.17, says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God . . .” As I pray for others, I must examine myself in the light of your word. I pray that you reveal to us the extent of our idol worship. We repent for the kind of unbelief that seeks prosperity and security independent of following your direction. We repent for the conviction that we must win, even if it means that vulnerable people lose. Please help us to see how we have forsaken the clear instructions you have given us to love one another just as you have loved us (John 13.34-35).

You tell us in Isaiah that there is hope for us. Please help us to respond positively to your word in Isaiah 1.18-20. 18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Please leave a comment or a prayer in the “comment” section of the blog. Also, please feel free to share this blog on your social media platforms. Thank you.

Bob Spradling

Wednesday, January 25th

The headlines from the New York Times today are:

 Trump Plans Mexican Wall and Sets Sights on Immigration

 Battle Advances, but Peril Abounds on Mosul’s Front Lines

 Trump Threatens Federal Intervention in Chicago, Citing ‘Carnage’

Reading the Prophet Isaiah on January 25, 2017

What does God require? Isaiah 1.16-17 gives the answer.

Isaiah 1.16-17 – Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Repentance is essential. It includes a change of attitude. Unless people accept their own responsibility, God’s grace cannot be applied to them.

Here is the concern that modern religion must consider as we read about ancient faith. If our religious exercises are manipulative, we are cheating ourselves. We are substituting a genuine relationship the greatest Being of all and replacing it with merely satisfying our own desires. A critical look at our religious practices is crucial for today. “Religious ceremony that tends to put God in the past, to become magical, to be man-centered and man-pleasing, to make God familiar, and to blur his moral demands, is a positive threat to the kind of relationship with God that Isaiah and the other prophets knew was possible” (John Oswalt, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah).

Prayer for January 25, 2017

Dear God, please grant us an inward look. Please help us to see ourselves, just as you see us. Please help us align our lives with your will. May we on an individual basis and on a national scale learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the helpless and pray for those who are most vulnerable. May our individual actions and public policy reflect your character.

Please leave a comment or a prayer in the comments section below.

Bob Spradling

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The headlines from the New York Times today are:

 Trump Revives Keystone Oil Pipeline That Obama Blocked

 Debt Is Projected to Rise by $8.6 Trillion Over 10 Years

 Global News: Malnutrition Wiping Out Children in Northern Nigeria, Aid Workers Say

Reading the Prophet Isaiah on January 24, 2017

The verses for today are Isaiah 1.4-9

Isaiah 1.4 – Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the Lord, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged!

The people of God in Isaiah’s day attempted to hold two contradictory positions with regard to God. (a) They sought a relationship with God, and (b) they sought to control their own future, to secure their own prosperity, and oppressed weaker people in the process. Isaiah describes this behavior as sin, iniquity, evil, forsaking the Lord and despising the Holy One of Israel.

Verses 5-9 picture the results of being estranged from God, because of the above two positions with regard to God. Please note, God is not like a small-minded individual who punishes people because he is “having a bad day.” God’s laws function like the law of gravity. The person who jumps from a tall building should not expect to escape the law of gravity unharmed. The nations who forsake God and who create atmospheres of oppression should not expect prosperity to continue unabated. God’s laws are instituted by the wisest Being of all. He knows what works and if we choose another path, it is to our peril.

Verses 5-6 use the disease model. If a country is experiencing disaster after disaster, it should look for a cure, just as a sick person seeks medical help. Verses 7-9 describe the destruction of war. In both instances God’s people should ask: “What are these signs telling us about our spiritual condition? To what extent have we abandoned God and his direction for life.”

Prayer for January 24, 2017

Dear God, we praying people repent for attempting to secure our own prosperity at the expense of others. We repent that we have failed to align our lives with the guidance you have given for generations. We ask that you help us seek a cure for our world by deepening our relationship with you and by coming into alignment with your principles for life.

Please leave a comment or a prayer of your own in the comment section of the blog.

Bob Spradling

Monday, January 23, 2016

The Paper on Monday, January 23, 2016

Today’s Headlines from the New York Times

 Trump’s First Cabinet: The Whitest and Most Male Since Reagan’s

 Trump Revives Ban on Foreign Aid for Abortion Counseling

 Mike Pompeo Is Confirmed as C.I.A. Director

Reading Isaiah 1 on January 23, 2016

Chapter one of Isaiah is full of significant information about how God views the world. Today’s focus is on Isaiah 1.2-3. The text is below.

Isaiah 1.2-3 – Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. God’s complaint is that his people do not know as much as farm animals. Animals know their master, but God’s children neither know nor understand his will or his ways.

Prayer for January 23, 2016

Frank Laubach was a very influential Christian leader several generations ago. You can find articles about Frank Laubach in elsewhere in this blog. Dr. Laubach called on millions of Americans to pray short “flash” prayers on behalf of leaders.

He asked them to pray like this: “Lord, please help President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill to hear what is your will.” He also included similar “flash” or very short prayers for other world leaders.

Many times today, try praying like this: “Lord, please help President Trump and all of ourleaders in Washington to hear what is your will.” What if one million people prayed like this today?

Frequently in this blog, I will quote First Peter 4.17. It says, “For it is time for judgment tobegin with the household of God . . .” As we pray for governmental leaders, let’s remember that the people who are praying need prayer, too.

Please feel free to leave the prayer you have prayed in the comment section of real-voices.

Bob Spradling

The Beginning of “Newspaper Prayers”– Frank Terrell– A Call to Prayer

Frank Terrell is 83 years old and has been married for 51 years. He retired following a successful career in real estate. In the early 1990s, Jeff Black, then pastor of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, asked Frank to lead a group of praying men. In 2017 Frank continues his ministry of prayer. After 9/11, Frank and I met each morning for prayer at St. Andrew’s for many months. It makes sense that Frank would give me a call when he felt there was another call to collective prayer.

This summer Frank told me about what he feels God has called him to do. This is the message Frank believes God has given him. He has printed business cards that read:

A word from God: “MY POWER MUST BE MADE MANIFEST IN THE EARTH TODAY.” Here is how: “MY CHILDREN ARE TO PRAY OVER THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER DAILY.”

On the back of the card are these words:

A CALL TO PRAYER: Are you upset with the state of the world? Then change it. PRAY!

Frank explained to me the reason for reading and praying the paper. We read the paper to see how God is answering our prayers. As people pray, it will be reflected in the events we read in the newspaper. Frank is part of a generation that does not use social media, so I am helping him by including his passion for prayer in the real-voices blog.

In addition to Frank’s very specific call to prayer, I am asking people to consider a daily reading of the Old Testament prophets. I feel that it is not enough to pray personal impressions that are generated by the daily news. To effectively pray we must align our prayers with the revealed will of God.

Why read the Old Testament prophets? The prophets always stood outside of culture and spoke the will of God. As we pray we need to be in touch with God’s will. That is the only effective way to pray. Jesus gave us this promise concerning prayer, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15.7). If we abide in Jesus’ words, we will align our lives and prayers with his will. Clearly, this is the best kind of praying we can do for our city, state, nation and world.

Both Frank Terrell and I invite you to spend time daily reading the news from a source of your choice and informing your prayers with a reading from the Old Testament prophets. I will begin my reading with the prophet, Isaiah. I hope you will join me there. Each day, I will post what was read in both the Bible and in the New York Times– the news source I have chosen.

I will also post a brief prayer about what was read from the Bible and the paper.

Please join Frank and me in this endeavor. Also, please post a prayer or impression from the prophets of your own.