What is Important

If there is one thing to be said of the current circumstances it is the fact that it reveals what is important and what is not.  Do possessions dispel social distancing?  After all, we have a lot of things, many are useful and some more for entertainment and recreation.  How about wealth?  Can money be relied upon to avoid the corona-virus? Can it buy serenity in chaotic and trying times?  What about silver and gold?  Does it maintain a sense of security in an unstable and potentially volatile market?  Social media, the cyber connection, does it bring everybody and everything together to calm anxiety, uncertainty, despair, loneliness, and truly meets the basic needs of people, except for that personal touch need?  It does make one think.

So, what is my point?  The point is as a believer on this earth I am still human and I still deal with life, the good and the bad, the rewards and the challenges, with the shifting culture and the interruptions in one’s routine of daily living.  As a believer, I am not alone, I have God the Father, Jesus the Son, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and I have the Word of God.  These are precious intangible gifts of God’s mercy and grace (the written Bible being the exception, but its promises are intangible realities).  The question is in the interconnection of being human and yet spiritually alive; how does one discern what is important?  It is easy to make a quick list and establish the line of what is or is not important using our mental conscience and comprehension, but does that truly guide us in defining what is important?

As I look into God’s Word, specifically in Proverbs, there is guidance for every believer to gain insight into what is important.  Proverbs 2:1-6 reads, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  What is important?  Having God’s knowledge, wisdom, and understanding which teaches us the fear of the Lord.  From that foundation God will define in our hearts and lives what truly is important not just for eternity but living our daily human lives.  During this crazy time pray for wisdom to know and even do what is important.


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Singing Together

Sundays are just not the same, I figure that maybe you have the same feeling about Sundays.  I am very thankful for what we are able to do with technology to help encourage and strengthen the church, but it just is not the same.  As I have thought about it one of the biggest reasons is you, you and your families not able to be in the building together for worship.  What I miss most is the singing and praising God together and yes even those uncontrollable “meet and greet” sessions.  But to get back to the main topic, I enjoy the singing on Sundays, there is something about lifting words of praise and adoration to a holy God through song with brothers and sisters in Christ is encouraging.  It is a Biblical thing to do, Hebrews 10:24-5 reminds us of why, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (HCSB) As for now we are not habitually staying away from worship meetings because we want to, don’t get hung up there.  But did you hear “promote love and good works” and “encouraging one another”?  That is why we meet and worship!  We look to another scripture to see how.  Colossians 3:16 tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (CSB) God laid out what our worship gatherings are to be, a time of teaching and admonishing!  But note this, it says it is done through singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with gratitude in our hearts.  A grateful group of believers gathering and lifting voices to God in praise is the way God wraps His tender arms around the body of Christ and listens to and inhabits our praise.  Isn’t that beautiful, it makes me want to sing with brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Is it about perfect notes?  Absolutely not! but it is about perfected hearts in Jesus practicing for eternal worship in heaven.  

Even though we can’t gather with each other in the present, go ahead and sing a refrain of “How Great Thou Art”, or “How Great is Our God” knowing that possibly another believer is singing too, all to the glory of God.  We all look forward to the worship gatherings where the church lifts its collective voice in grateful praise to the Lord once again.  In the meantime, be blessed and keep singing!


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What A Friend

“A friend loves at all times,

and a brother is born for a difficult time”

Proverbs 17:17

 

“One with many friends may be harmed,

but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother”

Proverbs 18:24

 

“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of

an enemy are excessive.”

Proverbs 27:6

 

“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for His friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

John 15:13-14

 

Social distancing is not conducive to staying connected to friends and family, unless of course they live with you.  Sometimes being alone has its gratifying moments, but many times a good friend helps bring comfort, a laugh, a confidant, and most of all encouragement.  Our walk through several Proverbs verses helps us see the importance and value of a good friend.  A friend is one who genuinely loves you as they say, “warts and all” because they know you and have chosen to love you as a friend regardless.  You can have a lot of “surface friends” maybe called significant acquaintances who you interact with, maybe share coffee with, but they are not like the one who loves and walks with you no matter what.  If a brother is born for a difficult time, there can be a friend who is even who stays closer than a brother.  A true friend may tell you some things that are difficult to hear, but you will listen because you know that they love you and genuinely speak them for your well-being.  Enemies disguised as well-doers are much more interested in themselves than you although they may offer all types of accolade.  Having a good friend or two is truly a blessing from God.

There is one friend that exceeds all potential expectations of any other friend.  This is the friend who chose to lay down His life for you.  What earthly friend is there that you have that willingly gave His very life blood while hanging on a cross, beaten bruised despised by men for you?  In fact, is there any other man who has lived or is living who could actually and satisfactorily pay the price you owed for your sin?  There is only one that I know of and that is Jesus Christ the Lord! Jesus is the friend who loves at all times, Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, Jesus is the friend who is always trustworthy.  Current earthly friends are a blessing, but Jesus is our eternal faithful friend.

When I was a little boy Sunday School I first learned a song that went like this:

My best friend is Jesus,

Love Him, Love Him,

My best friend is Jesus,

Love Him.

It is a simple song, but let me ask you this who is your best friend?  My best friend is Jesus and I love Him.


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chairo

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!”Philippians 4:4

Have you ever stopped and considered why you should rejoice in the Lord always?  After all, not everything that goes on is a cause for rejoicing.  That is true, but in that statement is where we find the answer as to why we can rejoice regardless of the situation and/or circumstance.  Most of the time that is how we determine whether we can “rejoice in the Lord” or not.  I mean take the present circumstances the corona virus is wreaking all kinds of havoc through trial, challenge, heartbreak, anxiety, fear and the like.  How do you rejoice in that?

The word rejoice is a translation of the Greek word chairo.  It means to enjoy a state of gladness, happiness or well-being.  You may scratch your head at the moment thinking, ‘doesn’t that indicate rejoicing is in reference to your circumstances?’  At first glance, I would have to agree that is what it looks like.  But look again at the instruction, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  Do you see the key component in the verse?  It is the Lord, the verse does not say rejoice in your circumstance, or enjoy a state of gladness regarding the corona virus, it says rejoice in the Lord.  This is a wonderful characteristic of being in relationship with Jesus Christ, that regardless of the situations or circumstances in life, enjoyable or difficult, stressful or peaceful, good or bad we know “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10) Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is where we have incredible joy that gives us the reason to “rejoice in the Lord always” no matter what is going on around us.

People need encouragement, especially during a time like this.  The encouragement we can share is how to have hope in despair, peace in the storm, and the grace to endure.  For the believer this comes from rejoicing always in the Lord, because He is the one who has control over the circumstances, He truly is the victory we have over the stuff of this temporary and contrary life.

So, as scripture says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  Let your mind, attitude, and spirit say in your life today, I trust in Jesus so I can rejoice in the Lord!


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Call to Pray

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” – Mt. 5:7

The corona virus permeating the world can and does bring death to people.  They say that the peak of infections of people and the number of deaths is yet to come.  It is a somber thing to think about and certainly we pray for God’s mercy and grace to be with people across the world.

It is becoming much more obvious that there is a second group of people who are strongly impacted by the virus as well.    It is the first responders, firemen, paramedics, EMT’s, police officers and medical staffs, doctors, nurses, lab techs, nursing assistants, housekeepers all that serve people in close quarters to help save lives while their own lives are in danger of contracting the disease and  a few paying with their lives.    Many must work under self-quarantines, not being able to be with their own families due to the risk, there are long hours, lack of protective gear and supplies.  On top of that they must serve as surrogate families for many that are in the hospital and I would venture to say that some who are believers serve as spiritual comforters as well.  These people are the mercy givers in this time of crisis.

They need God’s rich mercy and grace, strength and endurance, comfort and care to continue being the Great Physician’s instruments in this crisis.  Let’s pray together, seeking our Father’s merciful provision for these public servants wherever they  are across the world.  Pray for protection physically, pray for stamina, pray for mental and emotional comfort and peace, pray for their families who walk with them through this time, pray that God enables them to have the necessary protective gear to remain healthy, most importantly pray that God would draw first responders to Himself and that they would find hope in Jesus.

I call for you to pray all day today as you can.

There are many other needs and concerns that we can pray for as well.    Keep in prayer students K-12, their families as they deal with challenges and finances, and teachers as they attempt to stay connected with students and do online teaching.  Remember these as well.

Our God is able, and He will hear the prayer of His people. Let’s pray trusting God for His mercy and grace.

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April Fools

It was while we were living in Utah years ago. I received a call from a woman stating that she was a nurse at the Debbie’s Dr. office and that she needed to get a message to Debbie.  Deb wasn’t at the house so the nurse asked if I would take a message for her, I said sure.  She then proceeded to tell me that the test had come back positive and Deb was pregnant.  There was silence and being fairly confident this was an error, I said I would pass it along.  It so happened that Debbie was standing next to the co-conspirator as they together laughed and said ‘April Fools’!  All has been forgiven and we still have only two children.  Kind of a crazy day to observe if you ask me.  

The Bible addresses fools.  Unlike the pranks and jokes people may pull on others this is more serious.  In Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 the Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God.’  They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good.”  This is a very sad description of a fool, the one who says there is no God.  This is not a reference to a simpleton who may speak in ignorance, but someone who chooses to be ignorant, closing off their mind to God’s wisdom and truth.

The Hebrew word means an “…irresponsible gesture of defiance.” (D. Kidner, p 79) In the New Testament Paul in Romans 1 says that these are the ones who profess to be wise but ignoring all of creation became fools in their acknowledgement of God. To not acknowledge or believe in God constitutes foolishness.  As wise as atheist and agnostics may think they are they’re simply fools condemned in their unbelief.  It is foolishness to reject God, His Word, His love, and His salvation of mankind through Jesus Christ.

The world wants to turn this fact around and say that those who believe in God, go to church, follow Jesus are the fools.  Paul dealt with this type of thinking as he confronted some of the people in the Corinthian church.  They were taking pride in their own knowledge and experience ridiculing other believers as less because they did not have “their experience”.  They even intimated that the apostles and Paul were foolish.  Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 4:10-13, “We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ!  We are weak but you are strong!  You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  Up to the present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; we labor, working with our own hands.  When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously.  Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage.” Basically, Paul was saying God’s way is not the world’s way.  So even the religious pious adherents of a form of godliness see the genuine believer as foolish.  Regardless of their thinking, I would rather be like Christ, and follow Paul’s example to the glory of God then be seen as wise in the world’s eye.

Hearing 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached” we quickly can say if I am a fool for believing in the cross of Christ then so be it!  
1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.”

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Keeping Fit!

Gyms, rec centers, exercise rooms all closed for social distancing.  Some people have exercise equipment at home, and for the most part people can still get outside and walk or run.  There are ways to keep exercising and stay fit even when some of the exercise routines we have are disrupted.  The goal is to be fit.  It takes flexibility in schedule, adjustment of routine and perseverance but it can be done.

How about keeping fit spiritually?  The church buildings are closed, those small groups can’t meet, our regular routine for keeping spiritually fit is disrupted.  Yet people have a Bible at home, and knees will bend anywhere (unless you have bad knees) so we maintain the essential framework for staying spiritually fit.  People then get creative with Zoom meetings to pull a group together for Bible study and encouragement.  The old adage seems to take on new life – ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’!

The question is are we prioritizing keeping fit spiritually?  It doesn’t do any good to have a room of workout equipment, treadmills, or even the ‘Mirror’, if it is never used.  So, it is with our spiritual well-being, if we are not regularly reading God’s Word, we are not regularly praying, if we are not regularly worshiping God through praise, adoration and even song (yes, you can sing and worship by yourself), then we will be spiritually unfit.

Other factors may become obstacles to staying spiritually fit.  The first one is sin, if we have sin in our heart it breaks our relationship with the Father, Jesus, and fellow believers.  Hebrews 12:1-2a reminds us, “Therefore, since w have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus…”  Do regular examinations on your sin situation, if you repent and confess your sin to the Lord, he forgives and restores!  Don’t let sin keep you from being spiritually fit!

The second potential obstacle relates to the last part of the verse we just quoted and that is keeping your eyes on the right goal, or pursuit.  If you want to stay spiritually fit you have to keep your eyes on Jesus.  If we look elsewhere and focus on the wrong thing, or worries and anxieties rather than Jesus, then you won’t be able to keep spiritually fit.  Keep looking forward to Jesus and the promises of God, because as Luke 9:62 says, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”  To stay spiritually  fit we must keep our eyes forward and on Jesus.

The third potential obstacle is getting involved in things that take away from practicing spiritual disciplines.  2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer.”  Paul’s point is if you are going to be committed to following Jesus then you don’t bury yourself in things that keep you from being focused and active in staying spiritually fit and focused on Jesus and His plans and purposes.

During this time when the normal routines are disrupted be more diligent in staying spiritually fit!


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Weary and Burdened?

Are you getting tired of it all?  I mean it is like this continuous dark cloud hanging over everything, every day.  Will there actually be a time when things will be normal?  Families are attempting to multitask like never before, kids are beginning to figure out this isn’t just an extended spring break.  How will this shutting down of most of America affect finances?  Who has the corona virus?  Will I get it if I venture to the store for groceries?  I miss church activities; I miss encouragement from brothers and sisters in Christ.  I know I am not alone, but I feel alone.  I know God is in control, I trust Him, but I am growing weary.

Do you feel like that?  Maybe you don’t feel like that and that is good.  But to be transparent it does become wearisome to me.  There is help and it comes from Jesus, that’s right from Jesus, listen to what He says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  What does Jesus tell us in His call to come to Him for rest?

First, we must take our weariness and burdens to Him.  Sometimes we think we must carry our load by ourselves or we’re going to disappoint someone or ourselves.  Sometimes we are ashamed of our inability to carry or handle the load.  I’m a believer I should be able to handle this!  We must set pride aside and come to Jesus with all of it.

Second, we must take up Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him.  The yoke we often try to carry is over weighted with things like sin, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, other people’s problems, relationship issues, unmet expectations, physical exhaustion, it is complicated by the web of culture and society, add to that, corona virus!  We must take off that yoke and take up Jesus yoke and learn how to carry His yoke.  I used to backpack.  How well you did on the trail was contingent upon your pack and how much weight you carried in it.  But it wasn’t just the weight, it was how it was distributed in the pack and how the pack was adjusted to your shoulders and hips.  Extra unneeded gear, and ill fitted packs made things miserable.  So, you go to the experienced backpacker and he helps you take out unneeded gear, adjust all the straps and belts and it is like a completely different load.  That is why we come to Jesus to learn what is unneeded and adjust how we carry His yoke because He is lowly and humble in heart.  He is simple and practical and gives us a totally different understanding of trust through simplicity and humility.

Third, by coming to Jesus and taking up His yoke we will find rest for our souls.  Focusing on Jesus, surrendering all those burdens and anxieties to Him that make us so weary will bring real and uplifting rest.  Don’t fret! Talk to Jesus, pray constantly, don’t dwell on what is wrong dwell on what is right in Jesus, read Psalms of praise, go to Jesus, because He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  That brings a smile to my face and a praise to Him in my heart!


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Koinonia

I hope you are able or were able to join me today at 11:00 AM for a message in the continuing Jonah sermon series.  If not, you should be able to find the message on the website or Facebook.

In this time of social distancing there is a lot of strange behavior by people.  I have heard of or seen reported action of people hoarding goods, fighting with people to obtain food items or paper goods, people just acting like lost people driven by self-centeredness, anxiety, or fear.  It seems to me to be a very hopeless and desperate state of mind.  Of course, there is evil and sometimes people are wicked in their actions out of spite or for profiting off dire circumstances.  That is the way of the world.  It is not right.

So, let’s talk about a different approach to life’s tough situations like what we face even now.  One of my favorite Greek words in the New Testament is koinoniaKoinonia is a word that truly reflects the relationship of the community of believers, it is the essence of the Christian life – fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers in Christ.  It can also carry the idea of sharers or partakers in close mutual association and Jesus is the very heart of that association.  What is beautiful about koinonia is that it calls for a Christ-centered attitude and behavior that is the opposite of the world.  Here is what Acts 2:42-45 says “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”

Koinonia is the outworking of God’s love that comes from the genuine in-working of the Holy Spirit in believers.  In other words, believers have a different way of dealing with life regardless of the circumstances.  As a matter of fact, believers put others before themselves in order to demonstrate God’s love through genuine care.  Simply, we share all that we can so that Christ is magnified in everything.

Our lives as believers during this time of social distancing and uncertainty of the future is to be filled with sharing God’s love in any way we can, truly caring for the well-being of brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our church family has been good in checking in on one another and finding creative ways to encourage one another to stand firm in Jesus.  Keep showing the world that the koinonia we have in Christ is real and the best way to have joy and care for one another.  If any of our church family has a real need then let’s work together to meet their needs so that all may glorify God and be encouraged during this time of unknowns.


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For Benefits Only?

We live in a time that is preoccupied with ‘what’s in it for me?’ I confess I find myself there as well, like ordering a meal at a restaurant, what does it include? In other words am I getting what I think I should get to be content with the meal? You might say ‘nothing wrong with that, that’s wise.’ But that mindset or way of thinking works its way into and affects our everyday living. I would dare say a lot of people look at church the same way, ‘what’s in it for me?’ It is not worth time or effort unless I benefit from it in some way. The problem with this thinking is that it places my own ego in control of my life; I begin to measure everything in life by whether or not it benefits me. I think this is the challenge we face in our relationship with God. Do we see our relationship with God in terms of what our benefits are? Or do we seek the one who gives such marvelous gifts, promises, and provision? Do we want to know our God as Father because of who He is, or primarily for what He gives?  Think about the words of the song More than Anything by Natalie Grant:

I know if you wanted to you could wave your hand

Spare me this heartache and change your plan

And I know when he said that you could take my pain away

But even if you don’t I pray
 

 

Help me want the healer more than the healing

Help me want the savior more than the saving

Help me want the giver more than the giving

Oh help me want you Jesus more than anything
 

 

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak

And you know I’d give anything for a remedy

And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today

Oh but even if you don’t I pray
 

 

Help me want the healer more than the healing

Help me want the savior more than the saving

Help me want the giver more than the giving

Oh help me want you Jesus more than anything

Don’t hear me wrong, the blessings and benefits of God are wonderful, especially the salvation He gives us through Jesus Christ His Son. But if the relationship with Him has no earthly benefits will you still cling to the Father, the Holy God of all Eternity? Job had lots of benefits on this earth and it was all taken away, yet he said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 
In this time of uncertainty with so much and with the possibility of loss in many different ways is the Father more than enough? Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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His Word, Our Obedience

 

“When there is famine in the land, when there is pestilence, when there is blight or mildew, locust or grasshopper, when enemies besiege them in the land and its cities, when there is any plague or illness, every prayer or petition that any person or that all your people Israel may have – they each know their own affliction and suffering – as they spread out their hands towards this temple, may you hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and may you forgive and give to everyone according to all their ways, since you know each heart, for you alone know the human heart.” (2 Chronicles 6:28-30)

Solomon was leading the people to dedicate the Lord’s temple.  It was a tremendous ceremony and celebration of God’s representative earthly abode.  The above text was a part of Solomon’s prayer.  In reality it was a request that as the Israelites, His people, found themselves dealing with the trials and challenges of life that they would spread their hands out toward the temple and pray to the God of heaven, His rightful dwelling place, that God would hear, forgive and give to each one according to their ways, because God knows the human heart and knows each person’s heart.  God knows the heart of His people.

What is interesting is that this was a request of God to hear and respond to His people when they prayed and sought Him out and indeed God gave a response to Solomon and the people.  Chapter 7:12-15 records God’s response to Solomon, “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple of sacrifice.  If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.  My eyes will now be open and my ears attentive to prayer from this place.’”

God was giving Solomon the assurance that He would hear the prayer of His people when they were confronted with drought, infestation and pestilence.  He didn’t instruct the people to blame others or fix the issues.    I believe that the people of God, who have the Spirit of God indwelling them, have His Word.    Our God knows our hearts and promises for those who are His, that bear the name of Christ follower, if they will humble themselves, dispensing with pride in their religiosity, pray with earnestness seeking the Holy God of eternity, and turn from their complacency and apathy in following Jesus, then God will hear and answer His people with forgiveness and healing.  This is not a token verse to be flippantly tossed before the throne of Holy God because we fear and feel desperate.  This is the prayer of the obedient believer committed to trusting God, desiring to have God’s perfect will accomplished in their life and on this earth as He has planned it in heaven.

This believer prays in confidence before the throne of God because of Jesus’ provision of intimate relationship with the Father.  “and my people…pray and seek my face…” the cure for anxiety and fear is humble believing prayer and trust in the God who has promised to hear, forgive, and heal.


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Social Distancing Not Spiritual Distancing

Social distancing was practiced even in biblical times.  It even had to do with disease.  In the first century people were continuing to battle leprosy.  Leprosy is a generic term used to denote a variety of skin disorders from psoriasis to true leprosy.  Its symptoms ranged from white patches on the skin to running sores to the loss of digits on the finger and toes.  For the Hebrew this disease was dreaded because it meant a person who had leprosy was ceremonially unclean, or understood differently, unfit to worship God.  Anyone who had contact with a leper was then also considered unclean.  The result is that lepers were separated out and truly socially distanced, but worse than that, they were spiritually distanced.  Because of the disease they were separated from the healthy and whole so that those without the disease could continue to worship.

Jesus did not consider there to be a distinction between clean or unclean from a person’s physical condition.  A person’s outward condition did not make one unclean; rather it was what was in a man’s heart that made him unclean.  Only a wrong heart toward God could cause one to be spiritually distanced from God.  Jesus ministered to the lepers because their spiritual need was greater than their physical need, although the compassionate Savior could easily heal the sick, diseased, blind, and lame, His priority was healing the soul through salvation. In Mark 1:39-45, we Jesus dealing with a leper reaching out to touch the “unclean” in order to heal him physically while also healing him spiritually.

I think it is important to understand that our Savior Jesus Christ was compassionate and cared for men who were lost and cast aside, those who were socially and spiritually distanced.  We have instructed to practice social distancing and for the purpose of minimizing the spread of the corona virus.  The greater threat as we do so is to spiritually distance ourselves not only from one another but even our Lord.  Our congregational gathering and worship is a key way we encourage one another to seek God, praise God, to live out His Word each week.  When that does not happen, as it is not for the time being, spiritual distancing becomes a reality.  With the compassion and love that Jesus has given us we must be intentional in keeping in touch with one another for the sake of encouraging one another to love God and people and do what is good and right.  The SOS women’s class has chosen to continue their Bible Study through Zoom meetings (online format) which is fantastic.  So, my charge for EBC during this time is to socially distance for physical health, but don’t spiritually distance so you can remain spiritually healthy!

 

Footnote:  Yesterday and today there have been plumbers in the new building installing plumbing for the restrooms.  God’s got this!


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It Is Enough?

In this crazy time and period of life in 2020, we all have questions about what is factual and true.  We are bombarded with so much information and sadly enough, not all the information people hear is reliable and true.  As a result, there tends to be chaos and heightened uncertainty about most everything we do or for that matter don’t do.  As a believer, we look to find what is truth and how to responsibly make application of what is right in our daily activity.  As we do, we are always looking for confidence in what is reliable to sustain our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.  That has become a daily challenge.
Paul was no stranger to trial as he lived out life seeking to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by sharing the Gospel.  He encountered physical suffering, emotional duress, mental challenges, and spiritual warfare consistently.  In 2 Corinthians 11-12 Paul is again attacked by dissenters who charged he was a false prophet.  He talked about his sufferings for Christ and then talked about boasting only in his weaknesses in order to glorify God and not himself.  Part of his discourse talked about some visions that he had and how he could boast of these, but he emphatically stated he would not.  He says that because of the experience a thorn in the flesh was given him to keep him from exalting himself.  He sought the Lord to have it removed from him, but in 12:9 the scripture says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.'”  In Paul’s inability to handle the thorn in the flesh, the Lord stated that His grace was enough, that even in Paul’s weakness God’s power would prevail.  Paul’s response, (continuing in 12:9) “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
When we wake up each new day we must determine how we will live our lives that day.  We have a challenge right now that affects us in many ways, it may not be a specific thorn in the flesh for the reason that Paul received his, but nonetheless it is something we ask the Lord to remove, to take away so that we can be “normal”.  Yet God’s Word says my grace is enough, because by his grace His power is perfected in our weaknesses.  We can adhere to the actions required or requested to help diminish the spread of a virus, but we can trust fully in God’s amazing grace to see us through each day, because in our weakness His power is present and complete to accomplish His purposes in our lives, in our community, in our nation, and in the world.  So let’s boast in our weaknesses so that Christ’s power may abide in us!
 
So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I’m covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me
Your Grace is Enough – Chris Tomlin

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Strong and Courageous

Joshua heard the affirmation of God’s presence with him as he prepared to lead the Israelites into the promised land.  Yet God continued with his charge to the leader of his people, “Be strong and courageous for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them an inheritance.” (Joshua 1:6)  What a rally cry for the task ahead.  However, with the charge to be strong and courageous was also a very important requirement.  The charge to be strong and courageous was to be exercised in observing, or doing, carefully the complete instruction that Moses had commanded Joshua.  Joshua was not to turn away or become timid in obeying all that God had commanded to Joshua through His servant Moses.  In verse 8 there is clarification, “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it.  For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”  The connection for being strong and courageous was to do so by remaining in God’s Word, not passively, but intentionally.  The result of intentionally remaining in God’s Word would provide the way for success and prosperity in whatever Joshua would do.  The important factor for Joshua was to remain in God’s Word, by keeping it in continuous conversation as well as thinking on it, meditating on it all the time.  The scripture also called for Joshua to carefully do what what God commanded, simply said, that he must pay attention to the detail in obeying the Word, he could not take it for granted.
What does it mean for a believer today to be strong and courageous in the midst of dealing with COVID-19?  It isn’t a challenge like following God into the promised land.  But I do think for every believer it is a time to be more diligent in standing firm in God’s Word in order find success (God’s watch-care, provision, health, peace, and joy) in being strong in faith and courageous in obedience.  People who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus tend to be extremely anxious and fearful and certainly feel out of control.  Believers who are compromised in their relationship with God tend to look more to the world and find anxiety and fear rather than confidence and trust in God. The believer who is in right relationship with God has confidence in God’s control over all things, is strong in His truth, and courageous by His Spirit to face the unknown because God’s Word is the anchor of trust, the rock of confidence, and the banner of hope in the midst of the storm.  We do not have to live in fear, or be filled with anxiety about what we do know or what we do not know.  We can be strong and courageous in living each day because God is in control.  Remain intentionally in God’s Word, continually keep it in your conversation and think upon it day and night.  That is how you are strong and courageous in times like these!
 
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
Let us do His good will; He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
 
Trust and obey for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
– John H. Sammis

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Going Into A New Promised Land?

In the Old Testament book of Joshua we read about an incredible journey requiring incredible faith.  Imagine being Joshua, now called upon to fill the shoes of Moses in leading the people of  God to enter and claim the promised land.  Joshua surely had watched Moses as he grew in his relationship with Yahweh the God of Israel and he also observed the obstinate people Moses had to deal with on a daily basis.  Now it was his task.  In this instance God, His purposes and His plan for His people, had not changed, only the leader did.  
God was still very much at work and the plan for the people was to continue because the Holy God of Israel had planned it so.  His words of encouragement to Joshua had to be powerfully motivating in the face of the immense challenge of taking the promised land.  Listen to God’s words, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.  I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.”  (Joshua 1:5)  Joshua knew the faithfulness of God throughout the journey in the wilderness but now God was affirming His presence and power to Joshua for the new promised land.
We have just entered a new time in our daily lives, no we will not be crossing over  the Jordan river anytime soon.  However, the threat of the corona virus pandemic has changed many things, hopefully only temporarily, but then again we do not know the future.  The truly good news in the advent of the challenges we face with all the changes thrown at us, especially as believers, is this very true fact; God will be with us, He will not leave or abandon us!  In Hebrews 13:5b, the author echoes Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you or abandon you.”  We know that God has promised every believer eternal life and that life is in Jesus Christ His only Son.  We know that in this temporal life we will face trials and challenges, even like COVID-19.  The wonderful encouraging news is that God, even in a time like this, because of His promises and purposes will not leave or abandon His people.
We may have to adjust our daily routines and make adjustments in how we live each day, but our God doesn’t change and He will be with us!
Trust God today to take of those things that only He can do, and be filled with praise and thanksgiving because of His promises!

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