JANUARY 4, 2023

Dear Friends,

By lunchtime on Tuesday, just about everyone had heard the news.

With 5:58 left to play in the first quarter during the Monday night football game, the Cincinnati Bengals were driving, hoping to retake the lead from the Buffalo Bills. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had just completed a pass to receiver Tee Higgins who was tackled by Bills safety Damar Hamlin. It was a clean, hard hit. Both players got up. And then Damar wobbled and dropped to the turf.

And everything stopped. For the next nine minutes, players took a knee while medical personnel rushed to the field to attend to Hamlin, applying CPR to restart his heart. He was transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he remains in ICU. Reports today have mentioned “signs of improvement,” although there is great concern over the length of time Hamlin’s heart did not beat.

The game was over at that point. No one was going to back on the field to play a game wondering if a friend and teammate was alive or dead. Everyone packed up and went home, leaving the analysts on ESPN with the unenviable job of processing in real time what had just happened with very few details available.

Anyone who was watching the game felt the urge to do something. We waited for some report that things were going to be okay. We looked for any reason to hope.

And the players, the broadcasters, and thousands of people on social media did what we almost instinctively do in moments like these. They prayed. Within minutes, #prayfordamar was trending on Twitter.Praying what powerless, helpless men and women do in the face of tragic circumstances. Even those who live as if there is no higher power cry out into the night sky, hoping there might be Someone or Something who will hear them and intervene. Someone or Something who is good and kind and powerful. Someone or Something who cares about their anguish.

It is the rare atheist who will face significant turbulence on an airplane and not instinctively say “Oh Dear God, help!”

The Bible says that deep inside, every human being knows there is a God. According to Romans 1, each of us is actively suppressing what we know is true. The idea that there is a God who created us and who as a result has authority over our lives does not sit well with us. It deals a blow to our pride. That’s why our subconscious mind works overtime to try to ignore or disregard or deny the reality of deity. We recognize that if there is a God and if we accountable to Him, then our life is not our own. We’re not in charge. We can’t live by our own rules and do our own thing.

But along comes a heart attack or turbulence or a tornado or you name it, and we’re instantly overcome by the realization that no matter how smart or rich or strong we might be, there is always something or someone smarter or richer or stronger than we are. We aren’t sovereign over our circumstances. And when that reality hits us, our soul wakes up and says “I need to pray.”

Whatever happens with Damar Hamlin, most of those who were driven to their knees or who were asking for prayer for him on social media on Monday night will be back to ignoring God fairly soon, if they’re not already there tonight. They will go right back to actively suppressing the knowledge of the truth until the next time something jars them out of their complacency. Until the next time their soul says “I need to pray.”

Jesus taught His followers – us – to make regular prayer a practice. A habit. A daily discipline. He told us not to wait for a calamity to cry out. We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16). To bring every concern and request to Him (Philippians 4:6). To “pray in the Spirit at all times” (Ephesians 6:18). If we’re going to be praying for daily bread, we’re going to have to be people who pray each day.

As we being a new year, take a few minutes to ask yourself what your prayer life looks like in between the storms. Don’t wait for adversity to prompt you to pray.

And just in case you didn’t see it, check out this powerful moment from yesterday when former NFL quarterback turned sportscaster Dan Orlovsky offered a prayer for Damar Hamlin and his family.We’re off to a busy new year at Redeemer. If you’d like to see what’s happening in the coming months, click here and downloa a copy of our spring calendar. Lots of dates to circle on your own calendars!

Here’s a look at some of what’s happening in January.

Students. It’s time for the first game night of 2023!

And the Roots Student Ministry meetings will start up again this Sunday (Parents, note the meeting for you on Sunday at 6:00 pm). Speaking of things starting up again, our small groups will be back in business next week. If you’re not part of a small group, it’s time to make a new resolution! Check out a group and get yourself planted.
For those of you who have been visiting Redeemer and would like to find out more about what it means to be a member of our church, we have just the thing for you. It all happens next weekend. If you’d like to join us or to find out more, contact Pastor Matt Gurney at mattgurney77@gmail.comBeginning this Sunday, our Gospel Zone times for elementary aged kids will be happening on Sunday mornings every other week during our worship services. Men, our monthly First Tuesday gatherings will start up in February. Add this to your calendar now and plan to attend. There are rumors that goulash might be back on the menu…We have a big weekend planned for students in early February. Get these dates blocked out now!And there’s so much more ahead. A weekly men’s Bible study group, the Women’s Spring study groups, our men’s Spring retreat, a Couples Night Out event – again, download the calendar and check it all out!

We’ve come to the climax of the story in our study of John’s gospel. The arrest of Jesus in the garden on the Mount of Olives is the beginning of His final hours prior to His crucifixion. It’s a dramatic scene found in John 18 that we’ll explore this Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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