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TYPHOON YOLANDA - FROM THE HOPE THAT IS IN ME (1 Peter 3:15)
Steven Ray Bragg
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"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." (Romans 8:26-28)
My mother, when I was young, loved jigsaw puzzles. You identified the puzzle by the picture on the box it came in. She would clear off a table and begin. I was very young then and watched mostly. Some of her puzzles were 5000 pieces. When I came home from school, I would see how much she had completed. I loved to watch the progress as the picture unfolded. Sometimes I had the great joy of helping.
There always seemed to be those oddly shaped pieces that look like nothing; unidentifiable. We would set them off to the side and try to place them here and there usually with many failures. And then you would try it in a certain place, and it would fit! Ah, we would say, that's where it goes; that's how it fits.
Hang on to that thought "Ah, that's how it fits!"
I love the promises of God, well at least the good ones.
My mother had good and bad promises for me. Sometimes she would promise that if I continue I will get the paddle. That promise was usually accompanied with 1-2-3. As I grew older, she would promise that as soon as you do your homework you can go out and play. Mom's promises were meant for my good. They helped me grow to be a good and productive man.
Romans 8:26-28 are two of my favorite promises. The first promise is God always knows my heart. His Spirit lives in me. The Spirit of God always knows what I need even when I don't. My son seems to want to eat sweets or junk food just before dinner is to be served. My wife denies him the sweets knowing his hunger needs nourishment not sugar. She knows his needs even when he does not or when he wrongly understands his needs.
The second promise is God will causes everything (both good and bad) to work together for my good because I love Him and He loves me.
In 2006, God spoke to my heart that I would serve Him in the Philippines. As soon as I knew that I was ready to go, but God was not ready to send me yet. He still needed to get me ready. Like with my son God knew my heart and knew I needed nourishment to grow not instant gratification. God was to send me through many trails that would build my character and His message that He would bring through me to the Filipinos. God needed to add more pieces to the picture of my life. I did not have all the pieces in place for my life that I would need to serve in the Philippines. The picture on the box of my life was missionary and pastor serving in the Philippines.
Adding More Pieces
Once I knew I was going to be a missionary in the Philippines, one of my questions to God was Lord they are very poor there, how can I help them and what message will I bring them.
About a year later I lost a very good paying position with a company that went out of business. I became unemployed for two years. The first year I used all my savings and what little assets I had to stay afloat and feed my family. The second year I lived sometimes day to day to feed my family. My wife and son went to live in the Philippines. She lived with her family because I was afraid I could not feed them. Finally, even the unemployment and part-time earnings were gone. I packed what little food I had in the cupboards and prepared to live out of my car. That night I went to use my last $10 to by a hamburger. As I was going into the restaurant, a man was begging near the door. I wanted to give him something, but this was my last $10 and I needed to eat. I said to the Lord that I wanted to feed him, but I had only enough for myself. I ordered a hamburger, and it came to $5. I had enough money to feed us both. I ran to the door praying the man was still there. The man was there. I said to him are you hungry, and he said yes. I used my last $5 to buy him a hamburger.
I remember very well my thoughts as I drove away after eating. I prayed Lord, please continue to feed that man. I'm not afraid for myself because you always feed me. I said Lord you are faithful to me, thank you!
The next day there was an unexpected check in my mail box and soon after I had a job and the Lord opened the doors for me and my family to serve in the Philippines.
Like the puzzle piece that is hard to fit. My puzzle piece of no job fit in my life. I said Ah, GOD IS FAITHFUL! That was my lesson and my present message.
Numerous trails and persecutions have come upon us here in the Philippines. I always stand without fear because GOD IS FAITHFUL! Always as the trial unfolds I look for my Ah moment, and I see how this fits in my life, this ministry, and in the advancement of God's Church and the salvation of His people. My message to the Filipinos and you are not to fear GOD IS FAITHFUL. He will use everything for our good because we love Him and He loves us.
Countless Ah moments are coming. Stand firm, God loves you; GOD IS FAITHFUL!
Broken World - Broken Lives
Many people want to blame God for disasters like Typhoon Yolanda or sickness or death or heartache and sorrow.
The truth is we live in a broken world, and we have broken lives. The world and our lives are broken because we have rejected God; we have sinned. God made the world perfect with no death or any corruption. In fact, God enjoyed communing with Adam and Eve in the cool evening of the Garden of Eden. However, even with all God's love in a perfect creation, Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They wanted to be "like God." When they rejected God they rejected His life for them and His perfect goodness; His perfect creation. As a result, death, disease, and sorrow entered our world. Likewise, our lives are broken because we have rebelled against God. We reject God and want to be our own God. Our rebelliousness produces heartache, sorrow, destruction of our lives and families. And yet, we blame God.
But God promises that, in spite of our broken world and broken lives, God will work through it all to produce our good if we love Him. Thank you Lord!
Looking Forward My Final Ah Moment!
For those who love God, He is putting the pieces of our lives together. As time passes, I see the picture of my life is coming into focus. The picture on my box is to be conformed to the image of my Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul said we see now dimly as God sees, but in the end once we are face to face with God we will see clearly. At the time of judgment, I want to look back on my life and see it clearly. I want see how all the joys and sorrows, blessing of triumph and tears of defeat, heartaches and sorrows, typhoons and disasters fit into the goodness of my life that God has promised. I'm sure I will say Ah, thank you Lord! I hope He will say well done my son. All the pieces fit. Now you are all I created you to be. Enter into perfect life everlasting.
Post Script - Ah Moments
As we bring relief and help, through His Church, to the remote areas of the Philippines because of Typhoon Yolanda, we hear over and over again "no one has ever helped us before." People are seeing the love of our God in action. People are coming to know the Lord that may never have known him except through this disaster.
The Philippines church as a whole is rising up to help their neighbors. The church and its people are becoming God's Church. The church is maturing and growing. Multitudes are coming to church for the first time and hearing our Lord's Gospel of salvation and love for them.
God is faithful to work through all things in order to accomplish saving us and loving us. AH, GOD IS FAITHFUL! Amen
Pastor Steve Bragg
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