• Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20

    Praise God in the Storm:

    How to Experience Peace and Gratitude Amidst Adversity

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    Part Two: Living God’s Word 

    Applying 2 Chronicles 20 to everyday life

    Last month, we started Part 1 of our Bible Study series on 2 Chronicles 20 titled “Confronting a Crisis with God-given Confidence”, where we analyzed the biblical account of King Jehoshaphat of Judah’s triumph over a triple enemy threat through God’s divine intervention and his trusting of the Lord.

    Aware that he was unable to ensure the survival of his people by his own strength, Jehoshaphat fasted and sought the Lord and encouraged the rest of Judah to do so. The reassurance and encouragement they received from God gave Jehoshaphat and his people tremendous peace, God-given confidence, and faith to face their enemy on the battlefield, whilst praising Him in advance for a victory unseen, yet promised by God.

    Trials and tribulations are unfortunately a certainty in this world (John 16:33). However, we do not need to live in fear and worry when confronted with challenging circumstances. Instead, we can do what Jehoshaphat and the Judeans did and be encouraged by God’s promises of deliverance, which will increase our faith and bring us tremendous peace, independent of how our current situation appears.

    In Part 2 of our Bible Study, we want to explore how we can apply the lessons of 2 Chronicles 20 to our own lives; in particular, how we can praise God in the storm, experience peace amidst adversity, and show gratitude for the victories that He gives us.

    Seek God in Times of Times of Trouble

    As we stated in our introduction, we all have trials and tribulations to contend with. Jehoshaphat’s adversity came in the form of a military threat from the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites. Today, our “ites” may take the form of sickness, financial issues, unemployment, fertility problems, or a family feud, just to name a few.

    When such problems arise, it is perfectly normal to feel afraid and worried: Fear was also Jehoshaphat’s initial reaction after receiving the intelligence that the enemy triune was about to strike.

    However, we need to remember that we have a Sovereign God, whom we can call on for help in our time of need. Our strength and abilities are finite, but God’s power and might are infinite.

    Therefore, like Jehoshaphat, we must determinedly push our fears aside, take our eyes of our current trouble, and instead, lift our eyes to God and seek Him (2 Chronicles 20:3). In His presence, we can present our petitions to Him.

    How do we seek God’s presence?

    We can do this by praying and fasting, both of which we will now look at more closely.

    Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

    The Power of Prayer

    Prayer is an essential practice of a believer’s walk with God. It is a communication with our Father that is simultaneously an act of worship. By reverently seeking God and expressing our needs, sharing our worries, and giving our thanks, we are acknowledging that He is our Provider, our Healer, and our Shepherd, who guides us through the hills and valleys of life.

    Prayer gives us peace when we are anxious and fortifies us with strength when confronted with trials. Praying also helps us to know God on a deeper level, which assists us in aligning His will to our lives. It invites the Holy Spirit to intercede in our daily decisions, as well as comfort us when we need support.

    Prayer involves not only us talking, but also listening for the answers that God provides to our prayer requests. For that reason, it is always useful to have a writing pad and a pen handy, when praying.

    As we can see in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, prayer instigates miracles. Not only, did Jehoshaphat and the people of Judea receive consolation from God in response to the threat upon their lives, but God promised them that He would fight their enemies for them and prevail.

    Of course, God can work miracles even when we don’t pray. However, it is evident that many biblical miracles are a direct result of prayer. For example, in John 11:41-42, Jesus prayed to His Father at Lazarus’ tomb and the latter was consequently resurrected. In Daniel 6:19-22, God not only saved Daniel from being eaten by lions, but King Darius of Babylon issued a royal decree that his people should honor God Daniel 6:25-27.

    There is no doubt that there is power in prayer – Jesus confirms this  in Matthew 18:18-20:

    Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 

    For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

    God loves it when we talk to Him through prayer. You don’t need to mechanically recite some rote-learned text or be anxious about saying “the right thing”. Instead, God wants us to talk to Him from the heart with thanksgiving:

    „Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

    Philippians 4:6

    Just like you talk confidently and trustingly to your biological father, in the same way you can talk to God. After all, He is our spiritual Father!

    Additionally, we can take Jehoshaphat’s prayer to God in 2 Chronicles 20:5-12 as inspiration for how we can structure our own prayers. We examined Jehoshaphat’s prayer in Part 1 of our Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20, however here is a short break-down of it:

    1. Acknowledgement of God’s Sovereign power

    2. Remind God of His help in the past

    3. God’s presence is holy and a place where you’re confident He will answer your prayers 

    4. Express your needs to God

    5. Thank God in advance for His help and vindication

    6. Worship God with praise and thanksgiving, while you wait for His response.

    Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

    The Question About Fasting

    Fasting is a practice, which can propagate revelation, instill humility, and forge a deeper relationship with God. In 2 Chronicles 20:3, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a nation-wide feast in Judah before seeking God’s help in prayer. Consequently, Jehoshaphat and his people received God’s promise of victory from Judah’s enemies, which fortified the Judean’s faith.

    Despite the testimony of 2 Chronicles 20 and other biblical accounts, fasting remains a topic that some Christians remain unsure about. Therefore, let’s begin by defining what fasting is.

    What is Fasting?

    Fasting is a temporary abstinence from food or something we particularly enjoy doing, in order to take the focus of ourselves and instead, place our attention on God.

    Whereas we eat food out of hunger, we convert that physical hunger into a spiritual hunger that promotes spiritual growth and deepens our relationship with God. Fasting is a personal sacrifice that expresses our heartfelt subservience and reverence for our Lord.

    It is designed to stretch us, and at the same time, bring revelation of God’s workings in our lives. Additionally, fasting shows God how much we need Him and that we trust Him first and foremost.

    Why Do Christians Fast?

    Christians fast for many reasons. Some fast regularly as part of their faith practice, others fast when seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Acts 13:2-3), or when they plead for God’s intervention, such as Jehoshaphat and the Judeans did in 2 Chronicles 20:3. Others fast for healing (2 Samuel 12:16-17) or as an act of repentance (Jonah 3:3-5), and much more.

    Fasting also helps you to unbind yourself from the factors that tie you to this world; therefore, some believers fast in order to break spiritual bonds in their lives such as addiction, pornography, or illness.

    Fasting in Preparation for the Bridegroom to Return

    In Luke 5:33-39, Jesus tells the Pharisees a parable about fasting in the form of a wedding where He is the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is present, the wedding guests honor Him with merrymaking. You cannot expect the guests to fast during a celebration! In this way, we have experienced the ministry of Jesus on earth and have rejoiced in His presence.

    However, the Bridegroom must go away to prepare a place for us (John 14:3), but will return for His bride. In Hebrew, the word for bride is “Kallah”, and is referring to the Bride of Christ, which is the church, of which Jesus is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

    We as believers are the Church – we are the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11.2)!

    Therefore, in the same way a bride waits longingly for her groom and prepares herself for his return, so too, do we spiritually prepare ourselves in joyous expectation for Jesus’ return to earth by fasting.

    Do Christians Have to Fast?

    So, now that we have established what fasting is, the next question is, “Do l have to fast as a believer of Christ?”

    What is important to remember is that God loves us unconditionally. His love for you is not based on how much you read your Bible, how often you pray, or whether you choose to fast or not. He loves you because you are His child, and there is nothing that you can do or can’t do that will cause Him to take that love away from you (Romans 8:38-39).

    God wants us to live an abundant life (John 10:10). For that reason, He has provided us with teachings and guidelines in the form of the Bible, that are designed to give us joy, promote productivity, give us spiritual victory, and deepen our relationship with Him. Fasting is one of those teachings that God encourages us to do in order to experience all this and more.

    For that reason, Jesus preached on the topic of fasting in Matthew 6:16-18 by using the conjunction “when” you fast, instead of “if” you fast.

    Therefore, if you haven’t tried fasting before, it is worth trying it, for what you gain from it exceeds the temporary discomfort of abstinence.

    What if Health Issues Prevent Me from Fasting?

    If you’re unable to abstain from food due to health reasons, you can still fast by renouncing something temporarily which distracts you from spending time with God, such as social media or watching TV.

    How long you fast for is something you should ask God in prayer, especially if it is food related. You don’t want to harm your body by depriving it too long of nourishment,  especially fluids. Fasting also doesn’t need to be for the duration of an entire day/days: You can choose to fast for a few hours in the mornings for a few days, which is akin to missing out on a meal.

    Are There Different Types of Fasts?

    There are different types of fasts one can do which are biblical based. If you’re interested in learning more about them, this article should prove quite useful for you and also entails some great tips on how to fast.

    Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

    Step Out in Faith

    As part of His assurance of victory against the upcoming enemy invasion, God declared to Jehoshaphat and his people that they would not be participating in the battle themselves. Rather, God would be fighting for them (2 Chronicles 20:17).

    However, in order to see this promise materialize, the Judeans still needed to stand on the battlefield and face their enemy. This required them to step out in faith – literally – and march to the end of the valley at the Ascent of Ziz, where the battle was to take place. It must have been a difficult task for a skilled army to step onto a battlefield without the intention of warring – most likely they weren’t even carrying weapons. However, God kept His promise and gave the Judeans victory without them losing a single drop of blood (2 Chronicles 20:24).

    2 Corinthians 5:7 states the importance of putting our faith in God over that which is tangible or adheres to human logic:

    “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

    Hebrews 11:1 also defines faith as a conviction that is based on our trust in God, rather than what we can see:

    “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

    Stepping out in faith when we don’t know the outcome of a situation is certainly not an easy thing to do, but it is a heart attitude that instigates a victorious Christian life. For when we stop relying on our own capabilities, on other people, and even on institutions, and instead trust God, we can be confident that He is solving our problems and taking care of what matters most to us, which frees us to live a peaceful, joyful, and fulfilled life.

    There are times when we do step out in faith and suddenly become afraid and lose our confidence in God – that is human nature. However, rest assured, when those times occur, God is always there to catch us.

    That’s what Jesus did for Peter when he stepped out of a boat during a storm and walked on water towards Jesus in Matthew 14:28-29. Suddenly intimidated by the strong winds, Peter began to sink and called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Jesus immediately responded by stretching out His hand and catching him.

    How can you step out in faith? By recognizing what fears you, and handing it over to God (1 Peter 5:7). Having done that, surrender the outcome to Him and trust that He will turn whatever is against you and make it work out for your good (Romans 8:28). And in the meantime, live your life and enjoy the daily blessings that God gives you: your family, enjoying a laugh with friends, the smell of freshly mown grass, or that first morning cup of freshly brewed coffee!

    Therefore, take an example from Jehoshaphat and the Judeans and step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see how your situation is going to work out; instead, trust that God already has a plan for you that He will bring to fruition, for He is the only One, who can make the impossible, possible (Matthew 19:26)!

    Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

    Worship While You Wait

    In a Bible Study group l attended once, a lady was asked what she does after she prays.

    “I wait”, she answered.

    This response resonated with me. I don’t know about you, but sometimes l get caught up in my pray petitions: I keep praying and asking and thanking God, however, l don’t sit back and expectantly watch out for Him to answer my prayers.

    Since applying this wisdom into my own prayer practices, l have not only developed patience in trusting God’s timing over my own, but l have also experienced another facet of my relationship with God: That He encourages me, consoles me, and teaches me to rely on Him in that interim period between my petitions and their manifestations.

    Furthermore, in order to deepen my relationship with God in my waiting period, l take inspiration from Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah by worshiping and praising Him:

    “Then Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”

    2 Chronicles 20:18-19

    How do l worship and praise God? I put on worship music and sing and dance loudly around my home. I even march around clapping my hands and praising God verbally for all that He has done and will do, just like l can imagine how Jehoshaphat and his people did on the battlefield:

    When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendor, as they went before the army, saying,

    ‘Give thanks to the Lord,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.’”

    2 Chronicles 20:21

    If you want to find peace and deepen your reliance on God with the outcome and timing of your prayers, I suggest that you try worshiping Him while you wait. It is also proves to be a powerful ignition to set supernatural events in motion. When the Judeans started worshiping God on the battlefield, the triune enemy turned on themselves and destroyed each other!

    „As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the Ammonites and Moab attacked the inhabitants of Mount Seir, destroying them utterly; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.”

    2 Chronicles 20:22-23

    Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

    God Fights Your Battles

    When confronted with a difficult situation, we often go into combat mode.

    Our battle mindset is initiated by fear, which turns into worry. In response, we retreat into our mental war room to strategize how we are going to solve our problem. Our minds grind and groan under the stress of testing out possible scenarios, all of which are unpredictable in their outcome, due to our subjective and limited understanding of the situation.

    Once we have settled upon what we believe to be the best possible tactic, we plunge into a course of action in the desperate hope that our plotting and planning will work out.

    However, what if l told you that God has promised us that He will fight our battles for us?

    What if l told you, that He encourages us – nay, commands us – to rest, while He takes on that which has come against us?

    Look at what Exodus 14:14 states:

    “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.”

    I have chosen the AMPC version specifically, as it illustrates beautifully how God assures us that we can be at peace and rest, while He fights for us. This means, that we can let go of worry and fear, and say goodbye to the mental carousel of planning and plotting that keeps us up at night.

    Instead, we can enjoy a peaceful, worry-free life, being confident in God that He is working in our situation and is offering a solution, which is better than anything we could have ever dreamed of achieving with our own finite capabilities.

    The people of Judah experienced this promise from God in 2 Chronicles 20:17:

    “This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

    What a relief for the Judeans to know that not only was their survival assured, but God was going to fight their enemy on their behalf without any fear of bloodshed or loss of life! How at loss for words they must have felt, and how grateful!

    Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

    Go Get Your Blessings

    When the people of Judah arrived to the place where their enemy had fallen, there awaited them “livestock in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more” 2 Chronicles 20:25. In fact, there were so many spoils to be taken, that the Judeans needed 3 days to move the entire loot back to Jerusalem!

    In the same way, God is preparing blessings for us; however, we need to do our part and go get them.

    In the Judean’s case, this meant literally stepping out in faith onto a battle they were instructed to not participate in. In our case, it may mean starting that side business from home, asking that girl to marry you, or answering a call to ministry that God has laid on your heart.

    God get your blessings!

    Keep Honoring God After The Victory

    After God has answered our call for help, it is important that we keep on honoring Him.

    Firstly, we must remember to thank God for all that He has made possible. In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed 10 lepers on His way to Jerusalem, however only one of them returned to thank Him.

    Let us not be like the 9, who didn’t offer their gratitude!

    Judah knew the importance of giving continual thanks. After they had claimed their war booty, Jehoshaphat and the entire nation entered Jerusalem with musical fanfare, and headed straight to the temple to show further gratitude to the Lord for His help and victory.

    Secondly, we need to keep remembering God’s past acts of goodness, even after our immediate threat has passed. If we don’t, we can forget the mercy and might of God and return to worrying and becoming fearful when the next challenge arises, which it unfortunately inevitably will.  We might also start to rely on our own abilities instead of seeking the One whose abilities supersede ours, which can lead to unwise decisions and unwanted consequences.

    Jehoshaphat experienced this for himself in 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, when he attempted another ungodly alliance with Ahab through his son and successor, King Ahaziah of Israel. The two entered a partnership to build ships for trade in Tarshish. Fortunately, Jehoshaphat heeded the advice of the prophet Eliezer, and he withdrew from the agreement, for God destroyed all of the ships.

    The Israelites who entered into the land of Canaan knew the importance of remembering God’s previous miracles and acts of provision. After God had taken them safely across the Jordan river, they collected 12 stones from the waters to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. On the Canaan side of the Jordan river, in Gilgal, the Israelites set up these 12 stones as a memorial for future generations to remember how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and the Jordan river for them to cross into the Promised Land, as well as serve as a constant reminder of His power and might.

    So, how can we remember God’s past acts of goodness and provision?

    In our family, we keep a “Miracle Book”, which is a journal where we record all the acts of goodness that God has done in our lives. For further suggestions, click here to read an article we wrote on this topic.

    You can also set up your own memorial stones by collecting stones from the beach or the forest and placing them on your windowsill or any other visible place in your home.

    Photo by Lisa Zoe on Unsplash

    We hope you enjoyed reading Part 2 of our Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20, and that it gave you some revelation on how to apply the biblical lessons of this chapter into your everyday lives.

    Next month, we will be posting our third and final part of our Bible Study, where we delve even deeper into the biblical themes discussed in Parts One and Two for private or group study purposes.

    So, stay tuned for that!

    If, in the meantime, you haven’t yet read Part 1 of our Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20,  you can read it here.

    Stay safe and blessed!

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and Faith Love Life Designs. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

    Sources:

    christianity.com, “What Is the Power of Prayer?”, Heather Riggleman.

    churchofjesuschrist.org, “10 Meaningful Benefits of Prayer”

    desiringgod.org, “Why Do Christians Fast?”, John Piper.

    justdisciple.com, “Top 15 Questions on Christian Fasting – Answered”, Nadia Thomas.

    soveryblessed.com, “9 Bible Verses on Fasting”, Becky.

    justdisciple.com, “Types of Christian Fasting and What’s Right for You”, Julia Oates.

    worthbeyondrubies.com, “Jesus the Bridegroom and the Ancient Jewish Wedding”, Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira.

    bloggersforthekingdom.com, “3 Powerful Ways to Step Out in Faith When God Nudges You”, LeeAnn.

    abarim-publications.com, “Meunites meaning“

    biblicalarchaeology.org, “Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible?”

    enduringword.com, “2 Chronicles 20 – Jehoshaphat’s Victory”

    biblicaltraining.org, “Meunites”

    desiringgod.org“What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?”, John Piper.

    bible.org, “Lesson 7: The Man Who Won a War Without Fighting (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”

    gotquestions.org, “Who was the Asaph mentioned in the Book of Psalms?”

    studylight.org, “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible – 2 Chronicles 20”

    thelampstand.com., “Tarshish, Cornwall, and Tin and Gold Trade in the Ancient World”

    bible.org, “Lesson 4: Confidence in The Crisis (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”

    christianity.com, “Matthew Henry Bible Commentary (complete)”

    forgodsfame.org“The Prayer of Jehoshaphat”, Tim Bell.

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20

    Confronting a Crisis with God-given Peace and Confidence

    Part 1: Understanding God’s Word

    Bible Commentary on 2 Chronicles 20

    When l first gave my life to the Lord, one of my mentor’s told me about the victory of King Jehoshaphat against a triple enemy attack on his kingdom of Judah.

    After reading the chapter myself, what resonated with me was the heart attitude that Jehoshaphat displayed in seeking the Lord despite his personal fears, as well as entreating his people to trust Him as well. Jehoshaphat’s praise of God on the battlefield taught me the importance of thanking God in advance for His victories and to always step out in faith, even when the presence of trouble and strife are determined to convince you of defeat.

    Additionally, the peace that Jehoshaphat and the Judeans experienced during this crisis gave me revelation that God is our calm during the storms of life. We can have the peace that Jesus offers us in the face of adversity (John 14:27), if we stop trying to fight with our own finite strength, and instead, let God fight for us with His infinite power.

    Lastly and most importantly, this biblical chapter taught me that God declares promises to His people and He keeps these promises – and more. God promised the people of Judah victory over the triune of enemies that were on the march to destroy them, and He delivered this promise to them, as well as blessing them with the rich spoils of their defeated enemies.

    We hope that the following analysis of 2 Chronicles 20 will encourage you to seek God when trouble arises, to trust Him with the outcome of your situation and to thank Him in advance for a favorable outcome.

    We also pray that you receive a revelation of the peace that Jesus offers us, secure in the knowledge that God keeps His promises of victory and blessings, even in the darkest of situations.

    Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

    An Unexpected Military Assault Threatens the Future of Judah

    (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)

    2 Kings 20 begins with King Jehoshaphat, the ruler of Judah, receiving disturbing intelligence: the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites, who occupy territories to the west and south-west of Judah respectively, have formed a military coalition against Jehoshaphat and his people. In fact, they are already in the vicinity of Hazazon-tamar, having crossed the Dead Sea from Edom, and are ready to embark in battle against Judah.

    The Moabites and the Ammonites derived from the union of Lot with his two daughters (Genesis 19:37-38). The Meunites were the descendants of Meunim and occupied territory to the south-east of the Dead Sea on the eastern border of Edom. Though not Edomites, they were commonly identified as belonging to the latter, due to their cordial relations with each other.

    Map of Ancient Israel and Judah courtesy of bible-history.com

    Why this triune chose Judah as their target is unknown; however, the fact that they could creep up on Judah certainly indicates that the surrounding 10 tribes, who Jehoshaphat had helped in requiring Ramoth-Gilead, had betrayed their friendship to the Judean king and allowed this terrible threesome safe passage through their territories, in order that they may arrive unchallenged in Judah.

    Perhaps the reason for the neighboring nation’s betrayal was Jehoshaphat’s alliance through marriage to King Ahab of Israel in the north. Ahab and more so his wife, Jezebel, were infamous for their cruel leadership and idol worship. Jehoshaphat was essentially feared amongst his neighbors (2 Chronicles 17:10), however maybe entering into a closer association with Ahab had lessened the surrounding nation’s respect for him, and as a result, they grew bold in their attempts to destroy the Judean King, as they doubted whether God’s favor was still upon him. What is certain though, is that other tribes had joined the military axis to aid in the defeat of Judah (Psalm 83:6-8).

    Whatever the reason, the people of Judah are facing an unexpected crisis through a triple enemy threat. How they chose to respond will determine their survival.

    Seeking God’s Presence Amidst Fear

    (2 Chronicles 20:3-4)

    When Jehoshaphat receives the information that not only one army, but three armies and their auxiliaries are literally on his doorstop ready to attack, he is naturally afraid.

    Jehoshaphat’s fear may have been intensified due to the following reasons:

    •   He barely survived a battle to claim Ramoth-Gilead in which Ahab died, and is consequently aware of his own mortality.
    • Jehoshaphat is shocked that God allowed Judah to be threatened after he obediently implemented national reforms throughout the nation to bring the people back to God (2 Chronicles 19:4-11).

    Jehoshaphat’s initial reaction of fear is natural, especially as the threat to his kingdom is a complete sucker punch. However, what he does next is instrumental in determining the survival of Judah – he seeks God.

    Jehoshaphat deliberately turns his mind away from the imminent danger he is in, and instead, gives God his full attention and consideration – not only with his mind, but with his heart. Instead of seeking the counsel of his military advisors on how best to retaliate to the inevitable battle, he will ask for help from the Almighty Himself. His enemies may have formed an alliance against him, but Jehoshaphat knows that the most formidable ally he has is God.

    So great is Jehoshaphat’s determination in hearing from God, that he summons the entire nation of Judah together to seek God’s presence through prayer and fasting as a united front. As this crisis is one that involves all Judeans, it is only right that all residents of the kingdom should be involved in asking for God’s help. Having the people pray and fast together would also reinforce the spiritual teachings and reforms he had previously introduced in 2 Chronicles 19:4-11.

    Jehoshaphat’s request for a national appeal to God was unusual for a King to make in ancient times: The people would have been more accustomed to being summoned to mobilize themselves for war and not be summoned for the purpose of  prayer and fasting.

    This act demonstrates Jehoshaphat’s recognition of his limited human capabilities, as well as his humility and faith in seeking the One who has the divine power to deliver Judah from their enemies. Instead of feeling indignant or frustrated that God allowed this situation to occur, Jehoshaphat is going to approach God with sincerity, thanks and praise, which we will read in the upcoming verses.

    Pray First, Act Later

    (2 Chronicles 20: 5-12)

    We have established that Jehoshaphat’s recognition of Judah’s peril leads him to seek God before he takes any action. Therefore, instead of organizing his army, he organizes a time of national prayer and fasting in Jerusalem.

    The whole of Judah assembles in the temple to pray, in an area which some scholars believe to have been the women’s court. Although priests were the only ones permitted to burn incense and perform other sacramental duties, as a King, Jehoshaphat could pray and preach.

    Jehoshaphat’s prayer can be divided into 6 parts:

    1. Acknowledgement of God’s sovereign power (2 Chronicles 20:6)

    The Moabites, Ammonites, and surrounding nations such as the Philistines worshiped local deities. Jehoshaphat begins his prayer by giving praise to God and His almighty power, and acknowledges His supremacy over all other gods and nations, as well as His absolute sovereignty as the ruler of heaven and earth.

    2. Reminding God of His help in the past (2 Chronicles 20:7)

    Jehoshaphat reminds God of His help in freeing the Israelites from their enemies in the past, and His promise that Abraham’s descendants will continue to inherit the land He has given them. If God has helped His people before, Jehoshaphat is confident that He will help them again in their current hour of need.

    3. The temple is holy and a place where God answers prayers   (2 Chronicles 20:8-9)

    The temple grounds in Jerusalem have borne witness to many petitions and answered prayers in the past. King Solomon for example gave a prayer and dedication to the temple on the very same spot where Jehoshaphat is standing now (2 Chronicles 6:12-42), and God responded to him (2 Chronicles 7:1).

    Jehoshaphat wants to remind God that His people built the temple at His bequest as a place to not only worship Him, but to seek refuge and help in their times of need. As God answered the prayers of their predecessors, Jehoshaphat is  confident that God will answer Judah’s prayers in this holy place now.

    4. Jehoshaphat pleads vindication at the injustice of his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:10-11)

    When the Israelites entered the Promised Land after wandering 40 years in the desert, God forbade them from invading the territories of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (Deuteronomy 2:8-9, Deuteronomy 2:19). Israel obeyed God and left these nations in peace.

    Now Jehoshaphat is reminding God of Israel’s former obedience and how it would be unjust of the enemy triune to be allowed to conquer them and take away the land, which God had promised would always be in their possession.

    5. Jehoshaphat expresses public humility and Judah’s need for God (2 Chronicles 20:12)

    As a typical ancient King of the Near East, Jehoshaphat is looked up to and viewed as a role model and source of inspiration by his people. Maintaining a public image as a fearless, formidable leader was imperative in those times for upholding the respect of their allies and arousing fear in their enemies. It was also politically advantageous for a king to always present his most courageous, positive side to his people.

    However, Jehoshaphat openly and publicly admits his fear in this last part of his appeal to God. Although he is a king and is expected to have a solution to their predicament, he is not ashamed to confess, that this time, he doesn’t know what to do. Jehoshaphat’s fear that God might not answer if he doesn’t go all in with this prayer is greater than what his people think of him.

    Though Jehoshaphat doesn’t know how to save his nation, he knows that God and God alone can deliver them from this crisis. Therefore, all of Judah will look to God and put their faith and trust in Him for a favorable outcome.

    6. Worship God while you wait (2 Chronicles 20:13, 2 Chronicles 20:18-19)

    After Jehoshaphat finishes praying, the gathered assembly wait for God to answer, including the women and children. It is not certain how long they have to wait, but it appears that God answers the people quite promptly.

    Even after God replies to their petition, the people of Judah worship Him as they wait for the manifestation of His promises, which we will read about in the upcoming sections.

    Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    God Commands Judah to Trust Him and Not Fight

    (2 Chronicles 20:13-17)

    God answers Jehoshaphat’s prayer through Jahaziel, who is one of the sons of Asaph, a guild of Levites assigned to sing in the tabernacle choir. It is not certain whether Jahaziel is a validated prophet, nor why he is chosen amongst those gathered to speak, yet the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he relays a heartening, yet unexpected response from God.

    Firstly, God consoles His people that the battle they are about to experience belongs to Him, not to them. Therefore, they should not fear.

    Secondly, God gives the Judeans precise instructions to go down to the battle on the morrow and even reveals the exact location of the enemy, who will come up by the ascent of Ziz and position themselves at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel.

    Thirdly, the army of Judah will not fight in this battle: Instead, God informs them that they are to joyfully bear witness to the victory that He will bring to them, for His glory, the next day. All they need to do is stand still and trust that He is with them.

    This last command is certainly encouraging, albeit, unusual. Jehoshaphat has a significant army (2 Chronicles 17:12-19), and yet they will not be required to fight. Furthermore, instead of remaining in Jerusalem and having God relay the good news to them after the battle is over, the Judean army is required to mobilize and position themselves on the battlefield with the sole intention of getting a front row seat to the showdown between God and the enemy coalition. This act of participation is necessary from Judah to seal a faith partnership with God.  

    Judah Thanks God for Their Victory Before the Battle Even Begins

    (2 Chronicles 20:18-21)

    As we read earlier, Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah bow their heads and fall to the ground in thanks at the encouraging answer to their prayers. Additionally some of the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Kohen raise their voices in praise to God.

    This reaction is expected, but what l love about this section of 2 Chronicles 20 is that Jehoshaphat and his people continue to give thanks and praise God for His promise of victory – even right up to the moment before the battle begins.

    Trust and belief are always established before gratitude: The Judeans display this by waking up early on the morning of the battle and executing the commands that God had spoken through Jahaziel the day before. There is no mention of weaponry in this section, for their weapons are faith and Jehoshaphat’s reminder of God’s promises to them.

    Jehoshaphat consults his people regarding the delegation of the singers and worshipers for the battle, thus proving his hitherto wise sovereignty. He understands that this current crisis not only affects him directly, but also his people. For that reason, it is only fair that they should have a say in who gets to praise and worship God on the battlefield, especially as deep faith is required to march out before their army and thereby expose themselves blatantly to the enemy lines.

    Once they’re in sight of their adversaries, the people of Judah sing and give God praise clad in priestly robes: The promise of victory is enough for them to rejoice and give thanks, for they already believe. This act of praise may indeed be an unusual tactic to embrace, however it empathizes Jehoshaphat’s reliance on God, his eagerness to please Him (Psalm 51:16-17), as well as his desire to motivate their own soldiers. It also doesn’t hurt that their opponents would also get confused by unarmed singing and dancing civilians!

    Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

    God Makes the Enemy Coalition Turn Upon Themselves

    (2 Chronicles 20:22-24)

    As the singers lead the Judean army into battle, God simultaneously sets ambushes on the enemy coalition of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir.

    Confusion arises in the enemy ranks, and the Ammonites and Moabites turn against the Meunites, suspecting betrayal. After the men of Mount Seir are slain, the Ammonites and Moabites turn on each other. Not one member of the three tribes survive.

    Imagine the incredulity and amazement from the Israelites when they reach the enemy camp and see the multitude of fallen soldiers! God has won the battle for Judah without them having to engage in warfare themselves. He has kept His promise of victory! Hallelujah!

    Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

    God Rewards Judah For their Reliance on Him

    (2 Chronicles 20:25)

    As if a victory against their enemy isn’t enough, God continues to richly reward the nation of Judah for their reliance on Him in their time of peril.

    With the enemy camp compromised and their possessions lying around, the Judeans help themselves to the spoils. In fact, there are so many goodies to divide up, such as cattle, precious gems, garments and more, that the victors need three days to gather everything and take home!

    Thank God In All Circumstances Not Just In Emergencies

    (2 Chronicles 20:26-30)

    On the fourth day after the battle, the nation of Judah assembles in the Valley of Beracah, which becomes known as the Valley of the Blessing after the blessings they give the Lord for His deliverance from their enemies.

    The Judeans continue with their thanks and praise as they enter Jerusalem with joy in their hearts and songs bursting from their lips. Accompanied by harps, lyres, and trumpets, the enter the temple and continue to bless the Lord.

    This outward expression of thanks displays the importance that the Judeans lay in not only acknowledging public acts of mercy with public gratitude, but also provides an excellent example of how giving thanks to God in all circumstances is important to them – not only in their time of need, but also as well in their moment of victory (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

    Giving God praise and glory for His mercy and grace also shows the surrounding nations on whom the Judeans lean on and trust in for support. With such a formidable divine ally, the neighbors who may have supported the enemy coalition earlier in the chapter or may still have aggressive intentions towards Judah now hold her in reverential fear and consequently leave her in peace.

    Break Bad Behavioral Patterns By Constantly Renewing Your Mind and Refusing to Compromise

    (2 Chronicles 20:31-37)

    Despite God’s undisputed help and victory over their enemies, Jehoshaphat and his people are still vulnerable to falling into old patterns of bad behavior and compromising their beliefs.

    Although they bore witness to God’s miraculous intervention, there remain those amongst the people of Judah, who are still not prepared to wholeheartedly follow God. Thus despite the national reforms he made in 2 Chronicles 19:4-11, Jehoshaphat compromises with the people by tolerating the practice of idol worship in his land.

    He also slips back into the old habit of making unholy alliances like the one he made with Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18.

    Jehoshaphat enters into a trade alliance with Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, who has succeeded his father as King of Israel after the latter’s untimely death (2 Chronicles 18:28-34). They aim to build ships in Ezion-geber, to sail to Tarshish, which was a pivotal trading city for iron, tin, and gold (Ezekiel 27:12).

    However, this time, Jehoshaphat withdraws from the alliance. God sends a prophet by the name of Eliezer, who declares that God will destroy Ahaziah’s and Jehoshaphat’s endeavors.

    This warning is enough to renew Jehoshaphat’s mind of the previous mercy and goodness of God, recall to him the guilt he experienced during his first alliance with Ahab, and to place fear in him of God and His consequential wrath if he doesn’t end this agreement. It’s a good thing that he does withdraw, as God destroys the ships designated for Tarshish.

    We hope you have enjoyed reading Part 1 of our Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20.

    If you would like to learn how you can integrate the lessons of this chapter into your own life and experience peace and godly confidence even in the midst of trouble, then join us next month for “Part 2 – Living God’s Word – How to Confront a Crisis with God’s Peace and Confidence”.

    To be informed on the publication of Part 2, as well as other posts we publish, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter. Additionally, we regularly provide our subscribers with offers and free gifts, so that’s definitely something to look forward to!

    Stay safe and blessed, and we look forward to have you join us for Part 2 of our Bible Study!

    In Christ,

    Madeline

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and Faith Love Life Designs. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

    Sources:

    abarim-publications.com, “Meunites meaning“

    biblicalarchaeology.org, “Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible?”

    enduringword.com, “2 Chronicles 20 – Jehoshaphat’s Victory”

    biblicaltraining.org, “Meunites”

    desiringgod.org, “What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?”, John Piper.

    bible.org, “Lesson 7: The Man Who Won a War Without Fighting (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”

    gotquestions.org, “Who was the Asaph mentioned in the Book of Psalms?”

    studylight.org, “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible – 2 Chronicles 20”

    thelampstand.com., “Tarshish, Cornwall, and Tin and Gold Trade in the Ancient World”

    bible.org, “Lesson 4: Confidence in The Crisis (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”

    christianity.com, “Matthew Henry Bible Commentary (complete)”

    forgodsfame.org, “The Prayer of Jehoshaphat”, Tim Bell.

  • Articles

    5 lies that keep us from spiritual growth

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    I’ve been a born-again Christian for 12 years. During this time, I’ve learnt a lot about the Lord and have been blessed by revelation of His ways, experienced His grace when l didn’t deserve it, and encountered His unconditional love.

    Attaining such knowledge hasn’t always been easy though: At times it required the Lord to test me and refine me of impurities that were hard for me to let go of. However, l am grateful for the challenges that God allowed me to endure, as it enabled me to grow spiritually.

    That being said, there have been obstacles to my spiritual growth. Some of these have occurred from trying to navigate a Christian life amidst superficial societal expectations, coupled with the pressures of living the COVID-19 life; others have originated from my own inner doubts and insecurities.

    These stumbling blocks are lies that l believed for a long time, which made me think that God wasn’t for me, and that contrary to what the Bible says, He didn’t love me, because l didn’t deserve it. Consequently, such thoughts held me captive and made me miserable.

    In the last year, God has been revealing Himself to me through numerous means – His Word, songs, as well as words of encouragement from friends and family. These revelations have helped me realize that the viewpoints l previously held are in fact not true.

    The following are 5 of the lies which had personally kept me from growing in the Lord in the past. In sharing these, l hope that my experiences will help free you of the untruths that are hindering you from maturing spiritually.

    1. I’m not a “good” Christian

    I am a perfectionist, and as part of my all-or-nothing character l want to be a “good Christian”, who reads her Bible, spends time with God in prayer, and worships Him through praise and song – daily.

    This self-expectation used to put me under a lot of pressure. Consequently, if l couldn’t keep up with my daily “God time” l would condemn myself. Additionally, l felt guilty of not being spiritual enough to approach God and felt unworthy of presenting Him with my prayer petitions.

    However, God doesn’t love us in proportion to how much time we spend with Him and His Word, how much we pray, or even how many good deeds we do. God loves us because He is love (1 John 4:8) – it is simply who He is.

    Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read the Bible and spend time in prayer and praise: The more we know about God and His ways, the more revelation we will have of Him, which will lead to greater intimacy with Him and give us victory in our daily lives.

    What is important to remember is that God loves us for who we are, not what we do. For that reason, He sent His precious Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.

    2. God has favorites

    l used to look at Christian influencers on social media and see their posts about the new house they had bought, the exotic locations they visited, or the dream job they had. The carefree lifestyle they presented made me feel that God was favoring them and that they were doing something l wasn’t to deserve such great blessings.

    However, in Romans 2:11 it states that God does not show favoritism. Even David, who was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) was not granted the task of building the Lord’s Temple; rather, God blessed his son Solomon with the honor.

    In the past year, God has been showering my husband and l with blessings: provision, job opportunities, favor, inner peace, and more. Through such acts of His grace, God has taught me two things:

    1) God gives customized blessings to meet our individual needs, in accordance to the current chapter in our lives

    2) We should always be grateful for what He gives (1 Thessalonians 5:18), regardless of our circumstances.

    God does not have favorites. If we compare our blessings with others, we risk falling into a bottomless pit of self-doubt and envy, which prevents us from growing spiritually.

    3. Other Christians don’t like me

    I get along well with the women in my church, however any attempts l make to connect with them outside of our place of worship are constantly rejected. Since church services have stopped due to lockdown, l have not heard from any of my female acquaintances, which leaves me feeling like a social outcast.

    God has been showing me through the love and encouragement of my husband and my non-Christian friends, that l am a kind person and a loyal friend. Through Christian therapy, l am learning that l’m not deficient or unworthy if others don’t desire my company: The issue lies with them, not necessarily with me.

    Additionally, God has brought two amazing women into my life through our love of writing. They live on the opposite sides of the world in Canada, but we are close to each other’s hearts.

    Most importantly, God is encouraging me to grow spiritually by forgiving those who are not for me, and to have sympathy and pray for the issues that the ladies in my church are enduring in their own lives.

    4. God doesn’t want to heal me

    The previous year has been especially difficult for my mental health. I am in recovery from burnout and chronic depression; however, the global pandemic and its consequences have negatively affected my mental state further.

    One of my biggest prayers is for healing from my mental torment. So, when God allows me to keep on suffering, and thereby miss out on the joys of life, l begin to doubt whether He will heal me at all.

    However, God is Jehovah Rapha – The God who heals. In His Word, God assures us that He hears our cries, and promises to heal us (2 Kings 20:5). God keeps His promises, because that is who He is (Numbers 23:19). When that healing will occur, we can only trust Him and leave it up to His perfect timing.

    5. Satan rules the world

    With 2020 exposing the injustice, discord, and tragedies of the world through the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, political deceit, as well as natural and personal disasters, is it consequential to say that the world is ruled by the orchestrator of darkness – Satan?

    And if so, why does God allow this?

    First of all, we need to remember that we live in a broken world. Self-interest, greed, and the pursuit of materialistic gain have resulted in the world suffering at the hands of man’s poor stewardship of the earth’s resources and lack of love for his fellow brother.

    However, regardless of what we as mankind do to the world and to each other, God has the final say over the events and outcomes of this earthly plain. In Isaiah 40:21-26, the prophet describes how God is the One who created the earth, including the heavens and the stars. He raises rulers and He can also bring them down again, for no one is His equal. He rules the world!

    Indeed it is true, that Satan is an enemy to man, whose goal is to “kill, lie, and destroy” (John 10:10). However, he is no match for God!

    If this is the case then, why is there so much evil on earth?

    Jesus warned us in the Book of John that our lives would not be free of trouble of adversity. However, He also said that He has conquered the world (John 16:33). Similarly, God promises in Romans 8:28 that He makes all things work out for good.

    Therefore, whatever trials and tribulations you personally face or witness happening around the world, know that God sees what is meant for evil and is turning it around for our good!

    When a broken world threatens to compromise our faith, and our own mind becomes a battlefield that feeds us lies and nurtures self-doubt, God’s Word is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

    How good then, that we serve a God who is not only our Father, but our Teacher, Friend, and Comforter, who love us and guides us from faith to faith and from glory to glory, in His name!

    About the author:

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and Faith Love Life Designs. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Devotionals

    When the Needy Help Others

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

    Philippians 2:3-4 (NRSV)

    Thought of the Day:

    Each of us has needs, and yet simultaneously, we all have gifts that can benefit others. By practising giving and receiving, we balance out social and economic inequities, encourage others, and provide hope for a better future.

    In the past week or so, many of us in the northern hemisphere have experienced thunderous storms, heavy snowfall, and glacial temperatures. Here in Germany, where my husband Solomon and l live, it has also been the same.

    The other day, Solomon went out to clear a snow path on the sidewalk for the footfall that passes by our house. However, this task proved to be a rather difficult one. The unexpected snowstorms and drastic drop in temperature had resulted in about 20cm of hard and soft snow, with a layer of black ice underneath. As spreading salt over snow is only allowed in extreme cases in Germany, Solomon had to crush through the snow and ice layers with his scraper in order to reach the cobbled path below.

    With much exertion and plenty of patience, Solomon started to slowly carve a path through the white freezing mass. As he leaned back on his shovel and took a brief rest, a man passed him by. He was dressed inadequately for the weather and looked gaunt. The man offered to shovel snow in Solomon’s stead and fulfilled his intentions with great gusto and a cheerful spirit.

    Whilst the unknown helper shoveled snow, he and my husband struck up an amicable conversation. Upon hearing that the man was homeless, Solomon’s heart was grieved. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the onslaught of a harsh winter, many homeless people are in dire need of shelter and provision. And yet this stranger had not approached Solomon with the hope of receiving, but rather with a heart intent on giving. My husband was greatly touched that this kind individual had taken the focus off his own troubles in order to offer his assistance.

    Working together, the two men finished their snowy task.  In return for his kindness, Solomon gave the homeless man a gift, which he accepted with thanks, before bidding him farewell.

    Afterwards, Solomon ruminated on the lesson, which God had shown him through this experience – that help can come in the most unexpected of ways, and we should be open to receiving it without bias or judgement. Furthermore, every one of us has God-given gifts, which we can use to lift each other up, and thereby provide someone who is broken and lost with hope for a better tomorrow.

    Prayer:

    Merciful Father, we thank You for the sacrifice of Your precious Son Jesus, and we receive the gift of His Salvation with thankful hearts. As you taught us to receive from You, help us to receive from others without judging the situation or the giver.

    Furthermore, show us Lord, where we can use the gifts You give us to provide hope to the hopeless, encourage the defeated, and bring those who are trapped in the darkness into the light of Your love and mercy.

    In Jesus’ name,

    Amen.

    Delve Deeper:

    GIVE

    Take a piece of paper and a pen and draw a line down the middle of your page.

    In the left column, list down your talents, characteristics, and qualities that make you the wonderful person you are. In the right column, write down 1 way that you can use your listed talents and qualities to help someone you know, your community, or even a complete stranger. For example, if you enjoy communicating with others, you could undergo online training to become a volunteer digital counselor. If you are a gifted handyman, you could offer to help your neighbors with any repairs they need in their homes. If you have more free time due to lockdown, why not write letters to the residents of your local nursing home and thereby help them feel less isolated?

    You’ll quickly see that God has equipped you with more than enough skills and a generous heart to make a positive difference in someone else’s life!

    RECEIVE

    Additionally, write down the areas in your life where you are overwhelmed e.g. with your health or trying to parent your children during lockdown. If you’re completely honest with yourself, could you really do with some help in dealing with this situation?

    If so, write down the names of three people whom you trust with your problem. Then, ring them up and share your burden with them. You’ll feel so much better for it, and God may even provide them with revelation of your situation, which will help you!

    Too many times, a desire for self-independence, guilt, and even shame prevents us from admitting to others and even to ourselves that we need help. But you don’t need to condemn yourself. Even Jesus, who was the Son of God, was totally dependent on His Father. If Jesus could ask God for help during His time on earth, then what is stopping us from asking Him for help as well?

    Not only do we need to learn how to give – we also need to learn how to receive!

    Blog banner photo: Filip Mroz on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    Who are „Corona People“ anyway?

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    “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.”

    Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)

    Thought of the Day:

    During these unprecedented pandemic times, the love of God that resides in us needs to shine like a beacon through the darkness of fear and doubt, and offer encouragement and hope to others.

    My husband Solomon and l have been collectively living in Germany for over 20 years. I am British and Solomon is Nigerian. Despite our acclimatization to the German culture and language, we enjoy connecting with our cultural and linguistic roots when the opportunity arises. 

    A few months ago, in the period between the first and second national lockdown, Solomon ran into an old friend from Nigeria in the nearby city of Essen. The friend declared that he was now a pastor of a church for African ex-pats, and consequently invited my husband to attend their upcoming church service that Sunday.

    Solomon’s happy anticipation of home-grown worship and fellowship was very much realized that Sunday. After the church service, Solomon walked to the main train station with a couple of African men from the church. They maintained social distancing and had their masks on their persons.

    As they were chattering and exchanging pleasantries, a lady walked past them and yelled, “Hey, Corona people!”

    The group was struck dumb by this unprovoked verbal attack. One young man in particular was very upset.

    “Why are we being randomly targeted as harbingers of the COVID-19 virus?” he asked the others dumbfounded. “Why be unnecessary cruel during such unprecedented times, when we all are suffering? And, who are “Corona people” anyway?”

    Instead of expressing their own hurt, Solomon and the others comforted the young man. They assured him that the lady was probably feeling the stress of the Corona pandemic and was thereby projecting her fears and anxieties on them. They reminded each other that as believers of Christ they should forgive this lady, just as Christ forgave them their transgressions.

    The fellowship of these men, at first carefree, had turned earnest, and they were grateful for the spiritual support they could provide each other under both happy and serious circumstances.

    As they parted ways, the group expressed a wish that the lady would be able to experience the same peace and freedom that they did, by putting their faith in the Lord.

    Prayer:

    Almighty Father, we do not know why mankind has been struck down with the COVID-19 virus, but we do know that You make all things good with Your perfect timing.

    Until then, we will be comforted in the knowledge that Your grace goes before us, and we will shine with Your love, so that we may be a light to others and encourage our fellow brethren in this dark world.

    In Jesus’ name,

    Amen.

    Delve Deeper:

    This entire experience was a reminder for Solomon of how imperative it is that we as Christians continue to be a light for others during these unprecedented times.

    Where fear and anxiety reign in people’s hearts, where prejudice and postulation override common sense and sympathy, God’s love needs to be a beacon that cuts through the darkness to offer revelation and encouragement – not only to those who do not know God, but also to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Articles

    18 New Year Scriptures to encourage you and give you hope in 2021

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    2020 is a year that many of us bade a cheerful farewell to.

    The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus took away a normalcy that many of us had previously taken for granted, caused serious financial and socio-economic disruption, and challenged our hope for the future.

    That advent of every new year is marked noticeably by a renewal of hope for a better future, a motivation to change, and a desire for new beginnings. Making New Year’s resolutions, like starting that new diet or taking up a new hobby, are just a few of the habits and mindsets that lay testimony to this.

    However, with the arrival of 2021, our need for consolation that this year is going to be better than last year is more apparent than ever.

    For that reason, we at Jacob’s Ladder have compiled a list of 18 Scriptures that we believe will encourage you and give you hope in 2021.

    Note: Our Bible reference of choice is the NRSV, unless otherwise stated.

    Isaiah 43:19–“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.”

    1. Isaiah 43:19–“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.”

    A desert or wilderness is a landscape that has long been exposed to unruly desolation. It can be associated with circumstances in our lives where we have experienced defeat, felt hopelessness, or endured failure. 

    However, where we see only a hopeless situation, God sees potential for change. He can reverse any arid landscape and cause waters to flow through it, returning dead vegetation to life and giving it a new beginning. 

    In 2021, God is going to revive situations in your life you assumed to be dead and re-open doors of opportunity and favor for you!

    (Photo by sgcdesignco on Unsplash)

    2. Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

    From before we were in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), God knew us and had a good plan for our lives. This plan includes living a fulfilled life with eager anticipation for the future. 

    At times, through prayer and revelation, we may be blessed to gain an insight into what God’s plans for our individual lives may entail. However, for the most part, God does not reveal His intentions for us, so that we may continue to trust and rely on Him, and give Him glory, instead of giving ourselves credit for life’s victories.

    What is important to remember is that God keeps His promises. Therefore, regardless of what adversity we may encounter, may it be a global pandemic, financial struggles, or health issues – God’s promise of provision, direction, and hope that He declares in Jeremiah 29:11 will prevail over everything else.  

    3. Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

    With the dawn of each new day, there is so much that we can be grateful to God for. First and foremost, He allowed us to wake up and be alive to see another day! This is a day that He has scheduled into your life timeline, and He has great and wonderful plans as to how you should spend it. 

    Your hope for a better future starts TODAY – with this day that the Lord has given you. 

    Therefore, instead of envisioning how much better things could be when this pandemic is over, or that you can start to enjoy life only after you have finished paying your bills, enjoy this day – with all its ups and downs – and appreciate the blessings that God has allowed you to experience in it.

    2 Corinthians 5:17– “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

    4. 2 Corinthians 5:17– “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

    Once you have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the old version of you is gone and instead, you have a new beginning as a Child of God. 

    As an extension, the earthly values, societal pressures, fear, and worry which used to oppress you are rendered insignificant in comparison to the values that God wishes His children to abide under, such as to love one another (1 John 4:7), to abide in peace (John 14:27) and to trust Him and rest whilst He fights our battles for us (Exodus 14:14).

    (Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash)

    5. Philippians 3:13-14 –“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

    The imagery presented in this Scripture of our lifespan being compared to running a race is an apt way of encouraging us to stop looking at the past and instead, focus our attention on God’s promises for the future.

    Although 2020 was a difficult year for us, let us refuse to dwell in the past, and instead, ask God to direct our path towards reaching the goals He has set before us for 2021, which should include loving and helping others, and claiming His blessings over our lives.

    6. Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

    This is such a beautiful Bible verse, as it claims the source of our strength and power – Jesus Christ.

    Through the grace of Jesus, which we receive by faith, we are infused with an eternal source of energy, which He uses to charge us and rejuvenate us with.

    Consequently, when we are confronted with a situation that would otherwise overwhelm us, we can instead rely on the power of Jesus Christ and be confident of victory through the assurance that comes from being backed up by the divine majesty of Christ.

    Although the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may have followed us into 2021, know that you can face them and other challenges that may come your way with a fully charged battery pack of Christ’s power!

    Proverbs 23:18 – “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

    7. Proverbs 23:18 – “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

    When it comes to an assurance of hope for the future, there are few Bible verses that claim God’s promises on this subject more than this one.

    I love this Scripture as it evokes an expectation of good things to come. I hope that it evokes in you an expectation for the good things that God has planned for you for 2021.

    (Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash)

    8. Psalm 20:4 – “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”

    May the desires of our hearts be not of superficial or fleshly pursuits, but rather, may they be in accordance with the desires of God and that He may fulfill these plans for each and every one of us in 2021.

    9. Isaiah 40:31 – “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.”

    Did you know that when an eagle encounters a storm, it determinedly flies into it? It uses the tempest to mount itself upward until it reaches the heights above the storm where the sun is.

    The Hebrew translation for “mount up” is alah, which means “to go up over a boundary or to ascend.” Just as the eagle is equipped with the strength to ascend in triumph over the storm, so too, does God give strength to us when we seek Him, which enables us to triumph over our adversities.

    Isaiah 65:17 – “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

    10. Isaiah 65:17 – “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

    In Genesis 1:1 it states that in the beginning, “God created the heavens and the earth.” God was pleased with His creation and deemed it “good”.

    However, since the fall of Adam and Eve and their forced exit from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, earth has become an increasingly broken place, with one of the consequences being the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus.

    In Isaiah 65:17, God promises that He will create new heavens and a new earth – He is making a clean slate. This doesn’t mean that He will annihilate our current existence, but it does mean that our Father is a God of new beginnings and that He will additionally heal us from the pain of the past.

    (Photo by Vijay Sutrave on Unsplash)

     11. Job 8:7 (CEV) – “Your future will be brighter by far than your past.”

    What an encouraging Bible verse! 

    God keeps His promises, therefore we can enter 2021 with confidence, knowing that God will make this year better than the previous one. 

    Watch with wonder how God will take the small beginnings you made last year – at work, with new relationships, with health, and with your finances – and increase them exponentially. 

    Troubles that previously burdened you will have no effect on you, long-standing ailments and illnesses will be healed, and broken relationships will be repaired in Jesus’ name!

    Just keep believing and keep walking in faith!

    12. Ezekiel 36:26 – “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

    Have you noticed that the heart of man, in general, has become progressively colder, self-centered, and full of malice and hate?

    In 2020, we experienced significant displays of these characteristics through the outbreaks of racial protest as a reaction to racial discrimination, racial profiling, and police violence. 

    Even our kids did not go through 2020 unscathed from discrimination and hate. Statistics from last year reveal that more kids around the world were falling prey to cyberbullying and the numbers are rising. 

    Is this truly the way we want to interact with each other?

    Is this the kind of 2021 we want to experience as a global entity?

    It doesn’t have to be. In Ezekiel 36:26, God offers to replace the cold and unyielding hearts of anyone who wishes to enter into a relationship with Him and to replace it with a cleansed and changed heart that is filled with the Spirit of God. 

    Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

    13. Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

     This is such a comforting Bible verse as it not only declares God’s everlasting love for us, but also His endless outpouring of mercy.

    No matter how things were in the past for you in 2020, this is a new year, with fresh mercies that God provides you with every morning to confidently approach each day’s challenges, adventures, and discoveries.

    (Photo by Chris Liu-Beers on Unsplash)

    14. Romans 8:31 – “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

    In this Bible verse, the contrasting prepositions of “for” and “against” give a wonderful illustration of how God is always on our side and fights on our behalf. 

    Therefore, we need not become anxious or worry when a situation appears to be “against” us, as there is no power, person, or circumstance that is mightier than our Father who is “for” us!

    15.  Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

    A friend once told me, that if she were to reject God and instead be completely self-reliant on making her way through life, she would not last even one day. Her life is fulfilled, she is full of peace and wisdom, and is a blessing to others as a result of her admitting that she needs God in her life. She trusts God with all her heart.

    In the same way, God will guide your life in 2021, open doors that others have closed, give you spiritual revelation, and enable you to live a life of peace and joy, if you choose to put your trust in Him and not in yourself.

    Psalm 40:3 – “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

    16. Psalm 40:3 – “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

    I love this Bible verse as it proclaims the joy, relief, and gratitude that the psalmist King David experiences after being delivered from a bleak, unbearable situation, which he describes as a “desolate pit, a miry bog” (Psalm 40:2).

    Instead of leaving David to his miserable fate, God “set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). In response to being freed and in gratitude for the new beginning he has been gifted, David opens his mouth in praise to God.

    In 2021, God will also deliver you from the burdens, pain, and despair that weighed you down last year. When He does so, be like David, and audibly show God your gratitude by thanking Him and praising Him for His goodness and mercy! 

    When people see how God has rescued you from situations where a human solution was not possible, and you give Him all the glory for your deliverance, others will see that and also put their trust in God.

    ( Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash)

    17. Ephesians 4:22-24 – “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

    The advent of a new year is a prime opportunity to renew yourself – to focus on new priorities, think more positively about yourself and others, and to gain a new perspective in your spiritual life, and become more intimate with God.

    This year, make it a priority to focus less on what the world deems as important, and instead, aim to spend more time with God and His Word in order that you may grow spiritually, experience revelation, and be a blessing to others.

    18. Matthew 7:7 – “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

    This final Bible verse in our list summarizes with three verbs how we can greet 2021 with encouragement, hope, and faith in new beginnings:

    Ask:  God is not a fictitious figure who resides in Heaven on a golden throne, nor is He a cold-hearted harbinger of justice to hapless sinners on earth. God loves us and wishes to have a relationship with us. Just like a father loves a child, and will do anything to provide for him, so does God loves us and wish to look after us. 

    Therefore, do not be afraid to reverently ask God when you need His help. In Hebrews 4:16 it states that we can “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    Seek: It’s a life-changing decision to enter a relationship with God, but it doesn’t end there. In order to spiritually grow and mature, we need to keep on seeking God’s face. This means, spending time in His Word, allotting time every day to just sit quietly and be in His presence and pray and worship Him. 

    The more time you spend in seeking God, the more intimate you will grow in your relationship with Him, which also includes hearing His voice better and trusting His ways over your own. If you do all this, you will have such revelation of His purpose over your life and He will lead you on paths of blessings and growth that you never deemed possible!

    Knock: When we knock on a door, we are intentionally arousing the attention of the person on the other side, in order that he or she may open it. Knocking implies an earnest request to seek communication and an expectation that new possibilities are “literally” opening up for us.

    In the same way, when God brings new opportunities our way in 2021, let us be open to receive them. It may require coming out of our comfort zone, it may be a bit scary, or even demand that we learn new skills or change our priorities. However, our lives will be all the more richer for it. 

    In fact, let us be proactive and work together with God to make the dreams and goals He has put on our hearts a reality this year. Start that online shop you’ve been meaning to open, form the online women’s church group that God has put on your heart. Donate to that charity you’ve been meaning to send money to. 

    Your boldness in being open to new opportunities will not only benefit you but will additionally help make this world a better place for everyone. So, start knocking! 

    If you found our selection of 18 New Year Bible verses encouraging, we have created a digital set of these Scriptures for you to download and print. They are available from our Etsy Shop “Faith Love Life Designs”.

    Set of 18 printable New Year Bible verse cards

    Use these Bible verse cards for Bible study purposes, for memorizing Scripture, or to supplement your Bible journaling. They also make great inserts for greeting cards, books, packages, as well as serving as bookmarks. You can also stick these Scripture cards on your fridge, mirrors, frames, etc. around your home for additional encouragement.

    Our Bible verse cards are a great aid to help you study the Word of God.

    To shop our set of 18 New Year Bible verse cards, click here.


    Our 18 New Year Bible verse cards are also available in travel size.

    Set of 18 printable New Year Bible verse cards – travel size

    We hope you enjoyed reading our article and are feeling encouraged and hopeful for what God will be doing in your life in 2021. 

    If you would like to receive more motivating Christian content from us, feel free to sign up to our email list (on the right-hand sidebar) and be notified when we upload our latest posts. Additionally, we will be providing our subscribers with offers and free gifts, so that’s definitely something to look forward to!

    From all of us at Jacob’s Ladder, we wish you a wonderful 2021 full of God’s peace, mercy, and love. 

    Stay safe and blessed,

    Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog

    To shop our selection of Christian printable art, scriptures, prayers, and more, visit our Etsy shop at faithlovelifedesigns.etsy.com.

    Sources:

    christianity.com, “Does Jeremiah 29:11 Have Meaning for Us Today?”, Glory Dy.

    charismamag.com, “The Isaiah 43:19 Solution for Your Hopeless Situation”, Joyce Meyer.

    dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com, “What Does Psalm 118:24 Mean?”

    bibleref.com, “2 Corinthians 5:17 Parallel Verses“

    biblehub.com, “Philippians 3:13-14“

    studylight.org, “Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Philippians 4:13”

    spiritmeat.net, “The Power of Expectation – Proverbs 23:18”

    bestirrednotshaken.com, “Studying Psalm 20:4 – Our Heart’s Desire and Accomplishing Our Plans“

    gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to mount up with wings like eagles?”

    sermonwriter.com, “Biblical Commentary Isaiah 65:17-25”, Richard Niell Donovan.

    desiringgod.org, “Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles”, John Piper.

    studylight.org, “Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary Job 8:7“

    comparitech.com, “Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2020”, Sam Cook.

    dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com, “What Does Ezekiel 36:26 Mean?”

    thefellowship.site, “God is For Us – Romans 8:31-34”

    biblehub.com,  “Psalm 40:3“

    desiringgod.org, “Put on the New Person”, John Piper.

  • Articles

    5 Creative ways to remember God’s goodness in 2020

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    I guess it’s safe to say that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years we have had to face, not only as individuals but as a global entity.

    What with dealing with daily infection updates, feeling anxiety about the future, and adapting to the COVID lifestyle in general, we can easily overlook the times that God has blessed us with His goodness, mercy, and even miracles during this year.

    King David wrote in Psalm 23:5 (NRSV) that the Lord “prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” David knew that God’s goodness was always present, even amidst adversity and strife. By penning Psalm 23, David ensured a creative way of reminding himself of this important truth.

    Therefore, as the year draws to a close, here are five creative ways that we, too, can remember God’s goodness in 2020.

    1. Start a Gratitude Journal

    “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:18

    We don’t need to wait until the New Year arrives to start keeping a journal, especially one where we can record our gratitude as a response to God’s mercy and grace in our lives.

    A gratitude journal is a great way of recording daily acts of God’s goodness, that can otherwise go unnoticed amidst the hectic and challenges of our current, pandemic lifestyle.

    By reading regularly over our entries, we can gain revelation of just how much God showed us His love and provision this year in ways we didn’t perceive at the time.

    Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

    2. Make a Miracle Jar

    “He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

    Deuteronomy 10:21

    My husband and l like to use a Miracle Jar to remember the times that God brought us extraordinary favor and provision – divine miracles – that we could never conceive as humanly possibly.

    We take a large glass jar and write down all of God’s miracles that we experience on pieces of paper and store them in the jar. Then, as a family, we regularly read each slip of paper aloud and give thanks for each wonderous act of God’s goodness.

    Having our Miracle Jar has made my husband and l aware of just how much God intervened on our behalf in 2020, when we didn’t see a way out of situations in our own strength.

    You may ask what the difference is between a Gratitude Journal and a Miracle Jar?

    We record daily acts of God’s goodness in our Gratitude journal e.g. restful sleep, the encouraging conversations with people we met that day, or that God left that last jar of pesto on the supermarket shelf for me when l really wanted pesto!

    In our Miracle Jar, we have recorded acts of blessings such as financial provision, healing from sickness and pain, successful exam results, and more.

    Photo by Naganath Chiluveru on Unsplash

    3. Keep a Prayer journal

    “Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

    Philippians 4:6

    Keeping a prayer journal not only helps you keep track of your prayer lists and requests, it is also a wonderful way to remember God’s blessed responses to your petitions.

    I personally like to dedicate a double page in my prayer journal for each spiritual request. On the left-hand side of the double page l write down the date, who l am praying for, and what their needs are. Sometimes, l even write a formal prayer that l can read out loud during my quiet time with the Lord.

    When God provides an answer to my prayer, l record His response on the right-hand side of the double page, including the date when my prayer was answered.

    Being able to see my written prayer petitions and how God answered them on the same page makes it easier for me to read over former entries and appreciate how God heard me in my time of need and answered my prayers.

    It also encourages me that God will answer my remaining prayers, which motivates me to keep on praying until l see a change!

    Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

    4. Keep God’s Word as a visual reminder

    “..but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
        and on His law they meditate day and night.

    Psalm 1:2

    The most effective way to remember the blessings and favor that God promises us in His Word is to keep Scripture constantly before us as a visual reminder.

    To help you achieve this, print the Bible verses that speak the most to you about God’s goodness, frame them, and hang them in your home as wall art.

    Alternatively, you can cut out your favorite Bible verses and paste them in a Scripture scrapbook or write them out by hand.

    Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is that we read our chosen Bible verses regularly to remind ourselves of God’s love and mercy towards us.

    Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

    5. Be a Living Reminder For Others

    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 

    In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

    Matthew 5:14-16

    What better way to remember all the ways that God came through for you this year, than by showing the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to others?

    If God has blessed you with mobility and health, then consider helping your elderly or sick neighbors by offering to do their shopping for them. Ring a friend, who is experiencing difficulty as a consequence of the COVID-19 and let them know you’re there for them. If you see a homeless person on the streets, why not buy them a cup of coffee or a sandwich?

    You can even get your kids involved by encouraging them to write letters to the inhabitants of senior citizen homes, which will help them feel less isolated.

    In such unprecedented times, there are many who desperately need to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Shine His light that lives within you and illuminate this dark and broken world!

    Although 2020 is a year that most of us are happy to put behind us, let us not forget that this has also been a year where God has shown us some of His biggest blessings and has provided for us in ways that seemed otherwise impossible.

    Like the Israelites, who in Joshua 4:1-7 set up 12 memorial stones from the River Jordan as a unique reminder of God’s provision and favor during their greatest period of adversity, so too, can we remember that God is always good, and that neither a virus, nor the associated adversity arising from it can keep us away from His love, nor can it prevent us from receiving His goodness and mercy!

  • Articles

    3 Prayers to Refresh Your Weary Soul Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    When news of the global spread of the COVID-19 virus broke at the beginning of this year, l was concerned. Though human civilization has been subjected to numerous epidemics and pandemics throughout history, it still came as a shock to me that we would experience the spread of a virus in such vast proportions in our lifetime. I’m sure you can all relate with me.


    2020 has been the year that has taught us how to act and react. It started with living the lockdown life and progressed into the summer months, with travel restrictions, mandatory testing, and increased infection rates as a consequence of summer tourism.


    Now, for those like me who live in the northern hemisphere, the winter season is approaching and with it, a growing trepidation of the effects of the Coronavirus on the population during the colder months.


    After ten months of living the COVID-19 life, l for one, have become weary. I’m tired of feeling anxious for my health and that of my loved ones, l’m desperate for church fellowship, and l yearn for some semblance of normalcy again.


    I need a refresher, a pick-me-up. I need to know that l can lay down my weary soul and find rest and comfort. And the only One l know, who can provide me with all of that is God.


    Spending time with Him in His word, talking to Him through prayer and supplication is the Balm of Gilead that l need to feel strengthened and renewed.


    If your soul too, is weary and down-trodden from the effects and consequences of the COVID-19 virus, l hope that the following three prayers inspired by the Bible verses Matthew 11:28 (NRSV), Psalm 23:1-3, and Isaiah 40:31 ease your tired soul and refresh you with renewed energy and strength.

    God offers rest to the weary

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give
    you rest.”
    Matthew 11:28


    This Bible verse gives me so much comfort. It means that when l tense up about COVID regulations and worn down by anxiety about the future, l can take my burdens to God and He will give me rest.


    If you, like me, are in dire need of rest, l hope that the following prayer encourages you to cast your burdens on God and rest in His presence:



    God refreshes our souls

    “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    He leads me beside quiet waters,
    He refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
    for His name’s sake.”
    Psalm 23:1-3

    In this psalm, King David draws a parallel from his own experience of tending his father’s flock, to describe how God is his personal shepherd, who provides for him, establishes his path, and offers his soul rest and refreshment.


    God is indeed the good shepherd who will always prioritize the well-being of us, His sheep.


    If you too, like me, need God to guide you to rest in His presence and refresh your soul, l hope that the following prayer encourages you:




    God renews our strength

    “But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”
    Isaiah 40:31

    I don’t know why the world has been afflicted by the COVID-19 virus, but l do know that my hope lies in God to heal those infected, and to provide a vaccine and even a cure against future Coronavirus pandemics.


    How God will do this, l don’t know, but just having hope in Him and believing in His goodness and mercy renews my strength to keep dealing with restrictions, social distancing, and regular testing, because l know that God is working in our current global situation.


    I hope that the following prayer fills you with hope and that you experience a renewal of God’s strength:




    God sees the toll that this current pandemic is having upon us. Therefore, while He sorts out this global situation with His perfect timing, let us answer His call to comfort us; let us rest our weary souls in His loving embrace and be refreshed and restored by His mercy and spiritual power.

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Devotionals

    A Second Chance through Forgiveness

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
    Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

    Thought of the Day:

    Forgiveness and understanding forms a bridge that promotes peace with our fellow man and undoes the damage caused by adversity.

    A few months ago, l had a memorable encounter with a lady, who taught me the value of second chances through her act of forgiveness.


    I had just left a doctor’s appointment and decided to pop into a shop, which was adjacent to the doctor’s office. When l am in public places, l always have headphones on, as l suffer from social anxiety and am particularly sensitive to noise. However, as l had removed my headphones for my doctor’s appointment, l didn’t think it was worth donning them to make a quick purchase.


    I was perusing some items on a shelf, when an unexpectedly loud cry made me literally jump in the air. I clutched my chest and felt my heart beating a staccato rhythm underneath my ribcage.


    l turned around slowly to uncover the source of the noise: A mother was standing near me with a 3-year old girl in a stroller. The toddler was upset, which was evident through her loud cries and failing limbs, complete with tightly clenched fists.


    I felt sorry for the girl, as well as for her mother, the latter who was visibly at a loss as to how to soothe her child. l fervently hoped that the lady hadn’t noticed my involuntary reflex towards her child’s outburst. Unfortunately, she had.


    “You don’t need to behave so distastefully towards us!” she barked at me. “My goodness, she is only a child!”


    I was so embarrassed. I turned to the lady and tried to explain my predicament and how I felt no animosity towards her baby.


    Oh, why didn’t l just put on my headphones? l lamented to myself.


    Still offended, the lady stormed out of the shop. l felt just awful. I was about to look for the lady outside, when she suddenly reappeared.


    “I apologize,” she said gently. “I’ve had a hard day with my girl. I heard you when you said you had health problems, and l felt sorry for you. I had to come back and tell you that.”


    “No, it is me, who should apologize!” l exclaimed with relief. “Raising a child is hard, and l so admire you! I wanted to find you and tell you that!”


    We spent the next 30 minutes talking, and I was grateful for the second chance this lady gave me to make amends by forgiving me.


    This experience was an important reminder for me that God forgave us for our sins through the blood sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ; His gift of Salvation is our second chance at eternal righteousness with our heavenly Father. Thank You, Lord!

    Prayer:

    Thank You for forgiving us for our sins and offering us a second chance at eternal life through Your gift of Salvation. Help us to forgive others like You forgave us. Amen.

    This devotional was published on PresbyCan Devotionals on the 3rd of September 2020.

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Personal testimonies

    Black and White Notes – A Poem About Interracial Friendships

    “If you want to play beautiful music, you must play the black and white notes together.”

    Richard Nixon

    This quote from Richard Nixon inspired me to write a poem about my three closest friends, who happen to be Caucasian.

    Black and White Notes

    By Madeline Kalu

    The first hesitant notes of a new composition,

    Fingers running over scales, wrists relaxing,

    Our individual melodies harmonize with each other,

    Humoresque comments synchronized by chords of mirth and laughter,

    Royal excitement of sharing adventures in a foreign land.

    A song is created, a rhythm is established,

    Tapas evenings and girly chats,

    You perform your Friday dance with allegro,

    A weekend salute with a Bombay orignal.

    We attend the Queen Bee’s court and deeply dig the groove,

    And spend lazy summer evenings enjoying Hạ Long Bay.

    I share makeup tricks with you in Antwerp,

    We honor the fallen soldiers at the Menin Gate,

    You teach me new songs in Brussels, Berlin, Liverpool, and Dover.

    As l waltz barefoot on moonlit cobbled stones across the Grand-Place,

    You hold my shoes,

    And compose melodies that make me laugh and inspire me to create.

    We bear the brunt of life’s elegies together:

    The pain of losing loved ones to cancer,

    The fear of missing out on life’s opportunities,

    The fight to be free of our demons,

    The yearning of what it would be like to be happy.

    You make up the major chords and l the minor ones,

    You are the white notes – l am the black,

    Together, we create a symphony that has been playing for many years.

    Our arrangement does not see skin color,

    It does not judge or remember past mistakes.

    Instead, our music is an expression of our respect and acceptance,

    We live our friendship with rubato – with freedom.