NCFI Cares: A Friend with You in the Fire

I am sure many of you are familiar with the popular modern worship song by Hillsong United entitled “Another in the Fire” (2019).  The opening lyrics are:

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire

Another way when the walls are closing in

And when I look at the space between

Where I used to be and this reckoning

I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire

Standing next to me

Hillsong United

The title and major phrase refers to the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace. They had been placed in the furnace for refusing to bow down and worship the idol of Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3). Our favorite passage is Nebuchadnezzar proclaiming, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” How we rejoice with the miracle and stand firm on the promise that we will never be alone.

I love celebrating the miracle, but I also am thankful for the love and support of friends. There are three friends who were willing to die for the Lord together. I am sure there was much prayer and praising going on PRIOR to their big push into the furnace. Especially when the guards were immediately incinerated when the door was opened (Daniel 3:22).  What scripture doesn’t tell us, is what was Daniel doing? Since prayer was an integral part of his relationship with God, we can be confident that Daniel was praying for his friends. I imagine his prayer was for his friends to maintain their faith, not give in to pressure, and have courage in the face of certain death.

We have the assurance of Jesus staying faithful, even when we are wavering in our faith. Some of the ways Jesus encourages us is through our faithful friends; and He uses us to encourage our friends when they are experiencing “times of fire”.   

The Psalms were a prayer book during Daniel’s time and is a prayer book for us today. Search the Psalms for a phrase, section, or entire Psalm that you can use to pray for a friend, colleague or patient “in the fire” of life.

Find the song by Hillsong United here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmNc0L7Ac5c

NCFI Cares: Three Gifts of Nurses

They entered the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Matthew 2:11

This is a wonderful time of year. We celebrate the miracle of the birth of Christ more than two thousand years ago. We ponder the magnificent events with shepherds, angels, and wisemen. The incredible wisemen followed the Christmas star that led them to Jesus, the future King of the Jews.  Upon their arrival they bowed in worship honoring this glorious infant. 

The treasures they carried on their journey were valuable and perfect for the Son of God. The gold, a gift for kings, recognized Jesus as King of Kings. The gift of frankincense, a substance burned as incense during worship, acknowledged Christ’ divinity as God. Myrrh used to prepare bodies for burial, indicated Jesus’ humanity and preparation for His future suffering. The gifts were significant for worshipping the Christ, as well as expensive and practical.

As Christian nurses we honor the King of Kings, Holy Son of God and Savior through previous gifts:

  • The vastness of our knowledge, skills, and experience, as well as our economic gains represents our gift of gold. We generous bring this regal gift to the King of King, who rules our nursing practice.
  • Our daily nursing care, inspired and sanctified by the Holy Spirt, is given as a fragrant offering and represents our gift of frankincense.
  • Our work among the suffering, the marginalized, the underrepresented, and poor represent our gift of myrrh. As Christ surrendered to the suffering, we surrender to care for humanity.

This Christmas season, take a few moments to reflect on these precious gifts given in truth and faith to our Lord. Our gifts in nursing are no less precious, practical, and priceless. The most mundane or disliked treatment is a fragrant offering to the Holy One. Our caring hands comfort the hurt and suffering of whom The Savior is kindred to; and, all our work points to the future reign of the King of Kings.

We Three Kings (with lyrics)

NCFI Cares: The Power of Intercessory Prayer

Amazement seized them all, and they glorified God

Luke 4:26

In Luke 5:17-20, we read about the determination of a man’s friends to bring him to Jesus. The man is paralyzed, and his friends are trying to bring him to Jesus for healing. Jesus is in a house, but there are too many people. Everyone is crowded around the doors and windows and the friends are unable to bring the man to Jesus. They do not give up. Instead, they climb on the roof, cut out a large hole, and lower the paralyzed man into the house to Jesus. Jesus heals the man of his sins and his paralysis.

            What has struck me as amazing is the determination of the man’s friends. I wonder how far they carried him? Was it down the road? across town? or through the countryside. Just, so that their friend could possibly be healed?  Also, when they were confronted with obstacles to seeing Jesus, they climbed to the roof (carrying the man), cut a large hole in the roof (large enough for the man to fit through), and then lowered the man into where Jesus was sitting. These are strong, determined friends.

            Yet, the friends’ determination wasn’t just physical strength needed for the journey, nor creating an access to Jesus. Their determination is also in their faith. They believed that Jesus would heal their friend! They didn’t doubt, nor sway in their determination. Their belief was so assured that they overcame all obstacles.

            Jesus took notice, Jesus seeing their (friends) faith, he healed their friend. Notice, it was not the man’s faith, nor his determination. Instead, Jesus saw the friends’ faith. This is the power of intercessory prayer—belief. Belief that God can do anything for our friends, our families, and for our patients. The person we pray for doesn’t need to believe. We believe for them and are determined to show them Jesus.

            When we are determined in prayer and belief, we witness the hand of God touch lives.  Amazingly, the man was forgiven and healed, and the crowd was amazed and glorified God. So much was accomplished. All because of the determination and faith of a few friends.

            Here is a challenge—commit to pray for one person every day for 30 days and see all that God does through your faith and determination.

NCFI Cares: Doing Good to Our Faith Family

While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Galatians 6:10

As nurses and midwives, we have been doing a tremendous amount of good during the pandemic: long hours and multiple shifts, too many patients who are very ill, increased time away from family, and others.  In Galatians 6:10, Paul instructs us to continue to do good to all people, especially those of the family of faith!  I love this reminder. Our priority in doing good is towards our fellow Christians, brothers and sisters of the faith. 

Some of suggested ways of “doing good” to one another are found in the previous verses:

-gently restore someone discovered in sin (verse 1)

-carry one another’s burdens (verse 2)

-don’t compare one’s work with someone else’s (verse 4)

-share personal instruction from the word with others (verse 6)

I would add to Paul’s teachings and say the “doing good” we can all do for our Christian family is prayer. We are living with a prayer crisis for our brothers and sisters of faith in Afghanistan. The world is praying for the Afghan and non-Afghan people who are innocently caught up in a power struggle and political war. But, how many people of the world added to their prayers, specific concerns for the Christian Church? Only fellow believers. Our hearts and spirits ache for our brothers and sisters, who are threatened and persecuted for their faith. Simple things we take for granted: attending worship, fellowshipping with other believers, and owning a Bible.

Yes, we are hurt and devastated by the atrocities to our family members of the faith. However, we can pray longer, harder, and more purposefully. Let’s follow the 1st Century believers who fervently prayed for Peter in prison, knowing the prayer of righteous person has great effectiveness. (Acts 12:5; James 5:16).

NCFI Cares: Blessings & Arrows—How to pray on the run.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

In an article published in the USA NCF journal, Journal of Christian Nursing, author Marsha Fowler shares 2 simple prayer styles.  “In the crazy-busy days of nursing care, forms of prayer that are crisp and concise can sustain, nourish, and center us.”

The first one is based upon a Jewish tradition of 100 blessings. At first it sounds overwhelming to think of praying or thinking of a 100 of anything, let alone something specific like 100 blessings.  Instead, the idea is to point out various blessings to the Lord related to our pleasurable experiences. The prayer begins with the words, “Blessed are you, O Lord, who _____________ (fill in the blank). Amen.”

A few examples may be:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, who cares for my family. Amen.”

“Blessed are you, O Lord, who gave me a physical body to work. Amen.”

I would encourage you to start with simple and obvious blessings, like the examples. The idea is once you get started your heart and spirit will open up to bless the Lord for all he has provided.

The second simple prayer discussed by Fowler is arrow prayers. These prayers are “very short, a phrase or a sentence only, usually taken from Scripture, often from the Psalms.” A few examples, might be:

 “Lord gives me strength and protects me; You are my deliverer.” (Psalms 118:14)

“Oh, God of hope, fill me with all joy and peace.” (Romans 15:13).

Inserted in each of these arrow prayers is the personal pronoun, me/my to remind and emphasize how the Lord is an intimate provider of all we need.  Next time you are too exhausted or stressed to pray, start sending blessings to God; or repeat an arrow prayer focused on bringing the truth of Scripture with the reality of God to your spirit.

In addition, we can teach these simple prayer techniques to our patients, who may be too ill or anxious to pray, or are unfamiliar with praying. 

“Arrow prayers remind us that God is near, that help is at hand, that we are cared for no matter the trials and demands for the day.”

Fowler, M.D. Prayer from the Cauldron, JCN/January-March, 2021 p. 13-14

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Available for FREE!

CARES II Front Cover

Yes! It is true. There is a second compilation of NCFI CARES Devotions is available.

NCFI celebrates the publication of the second compilation of NCFI Cares devotions entitled CARES II: Reflections of Nurses. The Lord’s timing cannot go unnoticed. For, as the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus Pandemic, stress for nurses and midwives is at an all-time high. As the heart and hands of health care it is important that each individual nurse feels assured as vital member body of Christ and the global nursing profession. Christian nurses need encouragement, support, and prayers to persevere and stand firm in their faith.

The reflections are written by diverse authors from around the world that inspire peace, strength, and hope amidst the challenges of Christian nursing. They include practical advice on staying calm, responding to conflict, and rekindling our joy while opening our hearts to how Jesus can guide our nursing practice. Whether you work in the hospital, clinic, university, or ministry, all Christian nurses will be encouraged professionally and personally. Each reflection begins with a central scripture and a brief teaching or insight. Unique to CARES II is the inclusion of an accompanying passage of scripture, reflective question, and a simple prayer.  They can be used for a personal prayer/devotional time or part of connecting a nursing fellowship groups.

CARES II is published in a bilingual English/Spanish book and an English only book. For a FREE PDF download visit the NCFI CARES webpage.

Or purchase from Amazon: English OR the bilingual English/Spanish

Be sure to check out Nurses Christian Fellowship International (NCFI) website for more information about the ministry to nurses around the world. https://ncfi.org/

NCFI Cares: The Lord’s Presence: A Two-Fold Response to Despair

…the LORD was not in the wind…the LORD was not in the earthquake…the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12

After Elijah received divine nourishment from the pre-incarnate Christ, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights to a cave in the mountain Horeb. There he slept. The Lord awakened Elijah with the question, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Elijah once again explains his zealous service. This time, the Lord provided a two-fold response.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by (1 Kings 19:11).

 First, the LORD sent a powerful wind that caused landslides, earthquake, and fire. God was not in these powerful events. The presence of the LORD was in the soft whisper. Elijah covered his face recognizing the whisper as holy and divine. Bible scholars state the reason for the extreme weather events prior to the soft whisper, was to remind Elijah that God’s work is most often in the unseen things – like a changed heart.

            Then, the LORD provided Elijah with specific directions for his next steps in ministry.

“Go back the way you came…anoint Hazael king over Syria…anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to take your place as prophet.” (1 Kings 19:15-16)

The Lord was clear to Elijah. He was not done. In fact, my personal thought is the Lord had a sense of humor by saying “Go back the way you came….”. Repeatedly the Lord has asked Elijah, “Why are you here?” This time, the Lord just sent him back into the ministry. Elijah’s sacrifice and work has not been in vain. There is a future prophet to mentor and 7000 faithful followers needing a leader.

As we conclude our time with Elijah, the Lord has the same two-fold response for us who are weary and are saying “It’s enough.”

First, God is with us! We have the Holy Spirit within us. He speaks as a soft whisper that we will recognize. We don’t need to hide in a cave to hear His voice. We can just open the Scriptures and hear His voice. During the most challenging and difficult time of Elijah’s ministry, the Lord reached out with a personal, intimate voice. Himself. Thus, we are assured that out of our suffering comes a deeper intimacy with Christ. A connecting that fills us with joy, grace, and peace (Romans 15:13).

Furthermore, don’t become discouraged when we do not witness the fruit of our ministry.  God may not eradicate COVID, poverty, nor suffering; God is moving in the hearts of people to achieve a faithful following. Listen for the soft whisper of the Holy Spirit who is working within our clinics and communities. (John 6:37).

Finally, God is not done with us! No matter how discouraged, depressed, or exhausted you may be, you still have work to do! Your ministry is not over. Opening our heart to the work God has called us to will extinguish those arrows of doubt and despair. (Ephesians 6:16)

For further study: Two Articles by J. H. Keathly III

15. The Crisis of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-14) https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14

16. The Restoration of Elijah 1 Kings 19:4-18, Keathly III,  J. H. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

NCFI Cares: Divine Nourishment

“Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)

Last time we discussed how we need rest and rejuvenation to recover from spiritual and physical exhaustion.  Elijah not only slept under the broom tree, but he also received nourishment from Heaven. This was no ordinary angel that ministered to Elijah. Biblical scholars teach that the “angel of the Lord” in this passage is the pre-incarnate Christ. The Eternal Word personally provided Elijah with the following divine nourishment. (1)

  • God’s love and grace.
    • Elijah was assured of God’s love and grace even when he tried to run from his presence.
  • God’s abiding presence.
    • In our lowest point of feeling of depression, rejection, and failure, God does not abandon us.
  • God’s strength
    • The meal the Angel of the Lord prepared energized Elijah to travel 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
  • God’s assurance of His plan and our work.
    • God was not done with Elijah and would provide for his next mission.

Yet those who wait for the Lord,

Will gain new strength;

You will mount up with wings like eagles,

You will run and not get tired,

You will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31 personalized with You)

Our divine nourishment is find in the Angel of the Lord/Jesus Christ (Phi 4:19).

(1) The Restoration of Elijah 1 Kings 19:4-18, Keathly III,  J. H. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

NCFI Cares: Strategies for Rest

So he ate and drank and lay down again (1 Kings 19:6)

As Elijah rested under the broom tree, he received rest and nourishment. Many times, when we think of “rest” we think of vacations or going on holiday. Travel may not be possible due to restrictions or personal schedules, and there may be difficulties with taking a holiday, an extended weekend, or even an extra day off from work.  In addition, many nurses have kids and spouses home for remote working or virtual learning. Now more than ever, we need to be creative with finding rest.

Here are some tips for Power doses of individual rest:

  • 2 minute break while working

            A friend of mine recently discussed how a quick “bathroom break” during a busy nursing shift can be a well-deserved moment to regroup. Sounds hilarious at first, but if you are overwhelmed with the needs of patients, family, and staff, a quick bathroom break is an opportunity to breath and repeat scripture. If you think this only applies to nurses, many moms of young children tell me a “bathroom break” gives them time to themselves amidst the crying and demanding needs of babies and toddlers.

  • A few hours

            Connect with your spouse or a friend to coordinate a few hours of rest and relaxation. For example, you may take the morning and go for a walk while your spouse or friend watches the kids, does the laundry, etc. Then, switch. I would encourage making this a weekly activity, even if it is only for 2 hours. Don’t fall into the trap of grocery shopping, or household stuff during your rest time—that is NOT rest.

  • Do something different for rest.

If you normally exercise, then take the time and read a book, or vice versa. Mixing up our activities can help our over-worked brains and bodies reframe events into relaxation. This can be a time to try a new hobby or activity.

What we do with our rest time is just as important as the rest. In our culture of constantly being connected via phone, it is challenging to “rest” from social media, messaging, and notifications. Stop or mute “notifications” from popping-up on the phone. This is an important reminder. Rest includes putting the phone aside.

One Bible commentator stated, “How interesting. God remembers that we are frail. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. He is mindful that we possess material bodies that must be cared for, often, before the spiritual part can function (Ps. 103:14).”

NCFI Cares: Resting Under the Broom Tree

And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.

1 Kings 19:5

After Elijah’s depleting work as a prophet, prayer warrior, mentor, and marathon runner, we find him sleeping under a broom tree. Let’s sit with Elijah and reflect on how he became so exhausted.

Even though all Elijah’s activities were directed by God, they had left him spiritually depleted and vulnerable leaving him open to a spiritual attack from the Devil.  Thus, when Jezebel threatened his life, he doubted God’s protection and went running for his life.

We also can become vulnerable in ministry. As we continue to do God’s work in nursing, ministry, universities, and clinics, we risk becoming weary and tired. This is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic when the stress and workload is extraordinary! In a previous devotion, we discussed the inordinate amount of home, work, and personal stress most of us are experiencing. Like Elijah, we are vulnerable to the Devil’s arrows in his quiver that bring fear, anxiety, depression, and others (Ephesians 6:16)

As we continue to sit with Elijah under the broom tree, we also notice he is alone. Remember, he left his servant back in Beersheba and then traveled all day to collapse in despair under the broom tree. Similar to Elijah, many of us are isolated from our support systems. The shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of covid has caused many of us to be isolated from family, friends, colleagues, and church family.

Many of us are trying to stay connected through online church, What’sApp Bible studies, and virtual prayer meetings; yet they are not the same as in-person connections. We were not made to be alone. God created us to live in community. We need to not only stay in community through technologies; we also need have extra time for prayer, worship, and fellowship. This is a time when we need one another more than ever.

Exhaustion does not mean an end to the Lord’s work. Instead, it means a time to rest, regroup and find nourishment. Take some time to reflect on what has brought you to despair and exhaustion. Are you like Elijah, exhausted from the Lord’s work? Alone in ministry and/or in faith? In the next devotion, we will explore strategies for resting.