once upon a time…

Usually when a narrative begins this way it means you are reading a children’s story, and the event in question happened a long time ago.  Occasionally the phrase relates to something that happened in the past and you are sad that the “something” no longer happens.

For example, today the media and certain other political hacks might write:

Once upon a time there was no racism on the earth, and all people’s lived in harmony and unity regardless of skin color or language or religious beliefs or economic status or educational background.

But both my heart and my mind tell me this is total fiction.  Never since the garden of Eden has there been two people or two million people who behaved in the fictional setting just described.

Racism has been alive and well in various forms since the beginning of time.  History proves it, just read a book.  Racism along with all its contemptuous consequences has been with us since the dawn of time.

No, this doesn’t make it right.  Racism is morally wrong, and at our core we know this, because God created us with the innate understanding of how wrong it is.  But even if God hadn’t designed us with the ability to make this distinction, we do know that because of what Adam and Eve did we all now have the “knowledge to the tree of good and evil.”  The very fact that we have this knowledge means there is no justification for racism.

However, let me be clear.  Racism is not the main systemic problem in the United States today, or around the world.

Today, as the insidious nature of the knowledge of evil has made its way to the streets of our cities, looters and rioters have found their voice and true self, hurling rocks, bricks, and Molotov cocktails through store windows.  These revelers acting out the evil have taken lives.  Some of them black lives.  Even while their nearby protestor friends carry signs that say “Black Lives Matter” they pillage and plunder.  While the pundits continue to pontificate, “once upon a time …” and what comes trickling out of those evil mouths is pure fiction.

The mayhem of the last two weeks is not about systemic racism.  The pandemonium seen nightly in the streets is about taking down a government.  The evil behind these protestors – turned rioters – turned killers – has an agenda which results in the decimation of the United States as a nation.  This evil is aimed at destroying what was just a few months ago a burgeoning economy.  This evil is 100% committed to annihilate Christianity, Islam, or Orthodoxy of any kind in America.  They are an equal-opportunity hate-filled group.  Fathers, sons, daughters, mothers, beware.  If they have come this far, if not stopped, they are coming for you.

Now stop.  I know one of the popular phrases in the protestor signs is “I can’t breathe.”

But that isn’t true either is it?  Just stop it and think.  If you aren’t breathing, you’re dead.  Dead people don’t carry signs that read “I can’t breathe.”  George Floyd said this because he was dying.  If you are carrying a sign, you aren’t dying, you are protesting his death.  And you have every right to do that.  This isn’t the problem either.

When you have black people schooling white people on why they shouldn’t be destroying public property or private businesses, then we are no longer in the land of “once upon a time…”

Some people think what I’m about to say is the equivalent of “once upon a time…” maybe because I’ve shouted it like a mantra for years now.  Just because I’ve repeated it over and over and over in these blogs… doesn’t make it any less true.  So, here it is.

The systemic problem in our country and our world today is that we have wandered so far off the beaten path of believing God is in control.  For example, there are those with no faith who will say, “How could the God who loves mankind allow these atrocities to be happening?”  Others will say, “Maybe God is out there somewhere, but He seems to have turned His back on us, and we’re on our own.”  Still others will say, “God is more like an official observer, not a referee, or enforcer.”  And on and on it goes with any number of reasons why God is definitely not in control of what happens in our world.

So, what to do?  Now it’s my turn.

“Once upon a time”, and I remember this time like it was yesterday, when crisis came to a person’s world instead of picking up bricks, people picked up bibles.  And instead of running into stores grabbing whatever they could carry out in their own strength, they ran into places of worship and got down on their knees to pray.  They searched the bible for direction, and they prayed to the LORD for answers, because they believed God was still in Control.

Well, God IS still in control.  Even when people don’t believe it today… even so-called people of faith.

What will be our future?  Today, tomorrow, next year, or 20 years?  Will we even still be here?

I don’t know.  But I know I’m reading my bible today, and I’m praying for God’s wisdom and answers about how to live…

Today… not “once upon a time.”

“What if?” OR “Even if?”

“What if?” is a game played in the darkest recesses of your thought processes.  Even though this “game” is not real, it almost always seems real.  For example, “What if I contract the COVID-19 virus and die? What will happen to my family?  What if I’m not ready to die!”

This game is essentially based in the emotion of fear.  Fear that something bad will happen, something that I don’t want to happen, and as a result I will suffer great loss.

On the other hand “Even if?” is a game played in the brightest well-lit areas of your consciousness.  And in fact, unlike the “what if?” game that is not real, the “even if” game is the ultimate reality.  For example, “Even if I contract the COVID-19 VIRUS and die, I am not afraid of death.  I know the ONE who has conquered death,  WHO will lead me through this dark shadow into the light of His presence on the other side (and it isn’t the World Health Organization).  And my family will be fine.  Because He – the LORD JESUS CHRIST – has them too, in the palm of His hand.”

Any given individual in our USA culture today is daily given the opportunity to choose one of these options in response to the “Wuhan pandemic.”  In the news this week there were more than enough stories to continue feeding the fear-frenzy that defines the psychological manifestation in many Americans across our land.  There were also many stories, although you had to look for them, that should at least turn some people’s heads away from all the fear-mongering.

So, let’s flip the script.

Let’s reverse the “what if?” portion of the game.

What if everything you’ve heard so far… number of people tested, number of people identified as having the virus, number of people who have died from ACTUAL complications of the virus (and not some other factor – like gunshot or alcohol poisoning) … what if these numbers have been over-inflated and are completely misleading?  What if the numbers were deliberately massaged this way to increase the “fear factor” so that the American public would be easier to control?  What if our economy was shut down, based on models that said 1-2 million people would die directly from actual effects of the virus.? When that clearly hasn’t happened, has it?  What if the very people who are controlling the models, and manipulating all the data, are also motivated to support ideas like population control and euthanasia of the elderly?

To truly reverse the script we have to respond to these questions with the “even if?” answer.

Even if everything is a lie… could God use the events of a well-strung disaster in our economy and government to bring about GOOD for those who love Him and are called by His name?  Even if there is a group of well-placed, highly powerful individuals who are designing all this modeling to create fear and panic, is GOD totally unaware of their actions and evil purposes and goals?  Even if these ideas of population control and euthanasia of the elderly are being talked about as a potential reality in dark rooms where no-one can see, does the LORD JESUS CHRIST Himself not see and know exactly what is going on?

I know you see what I’m suggesting.  You understand what I’m saying.  Intellectually and cognitively if you are a Christ-follower you know Jesus is in Control, and that He has Sole Authority over all things, and has still promised the POWER of His presence with you individually, in all things.

Seeing it, understanding it, and believing it are one thing.

Living it out… without fear of the “what if?” is something else entirely.

Choose today to leave the fear behind.

Begin each moment with “Even if” and whatever comes after those words – then say, “God is in control,”  – only then will you begin the journey of a fearless life that Jesus calls us to.  It is a life of abundant joy, and peace.  It is a less-confused life, a life of logic and reason.  It is a life where God’s own Spirit brings comfort, and direction for our path, and our choices.

Even if …

 

Feelings or Faith?

It really does come down to this.  The minute we are born, we begin to die.  When we are young we become aware, at least on some level, of what death means, but we are able to deal with the reality of death by also believing it won’t happen to us.  This is why young teenage undeveloped minds can do such death defying and crazy things, because they believe they are invincible.   This belief, nonetheless, does not change the fact that death is coming.  We don’t know where, or when, or how, but we can absolutely, and unequivocally rest assured, death is coming, and not just from COVID-19.

This is where it gets sticky.  There are those who never are able to get over their fear of death.  I’m not talking about just unreligious people with no faith, or no belief in eternal life.  There are those I’ve known in the past who truly led their whole lives based on feelings, specifically the fear of death.  They lived in fear, so their actions and speech and beliefs were based in their “feelings” of fear.  Even now I struggle with how to help them, it’s rather sad to watch.  And, they don’t seem to want to listen to the Bible’s instruction: “Do not fear.”

One last observation.

I believe God is in control.
I believe God wants us to live by faith in reality of His being in control.
I believe we will not die before God says it is our “time” to die, because He is in control.
I believe the Bible instructs us to not live by feelings (fear) but faith.

Here is a video that might help.  You might want to watch it today.  The people who want you to continue to live in fear, will surely take it off of facebook, just like they took it off Youtube.  They want you to be afraid.  Don’t be.

 

When you come to a fork in the road…

“When you come to the fork in the road, take it” refers to a 1998 quotation appearing in “The Yogi Book”. Berra declared that he employed the phrase while explaining how to reach his house to Joe Garagiola.

In 2009 the biography “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee” by Allen Barra was published, and it included a wonderfully appealing rationale for Berra’s famous remark. While traveling to Berra’s house one may choose the left fork or the right fork and both are acceptable decisions because both efficiently lead to his house.

Today, I invite you to think of this famous phrase a little differently.  We are traveling down a path that most of us today have never taken.  We are living out an existence in the middle of what globally has been referred to as a “pandemic.”  We have all been affected.  We may at this point, all know someone who has been tested positive for the virus, or perhaps suffered greatly, or died from the virus.  It is real.  It is dangerous. It is still quite unknown.

And that’s the scariest part.  The unknown.

We’re being told we must stay in our homes to mitigate the effects of the virus and not overrun the hospital/medical system in our country.  We’re being told we are to wear masks out in public, and only certain businesses may be open because they are “essential.” Yet, almost every public official when issuing these decrees is not wearing a mask.  They are still receiving a paycheck.  And while the models used to tell us how bad the virus is changes almost daily, the question becomes “how long?”

How long are we going to live under these guidelines (edicts from on high) before we can even attempt something that looks like “normal” life again?  How long are we going to listen to the ones who seem to want only to keep us under their control, tell us what we can or cannot do, under penalty of law?  From a purely spiritual perspective, maybe we should get a grip on three principles of the spiritual warfare side of what’s going on here.

First, it has always been Satan’s desire to destroy humankind. This is just the latest attempt in  his efforts to breed fear, depression, and loss of purpose.  Every day that goes by when people cannot return to normalcy, Satan smiles, laughs, and clutches tighter around our hearts and minds.  The fear sets deeply, the depression paralyzes, and our sense of purpose is so blurred it becomes almost non-existent.  So we have to ask, “Is this really what God wants from me during this time?”

Of course not.

Second, from Scripture we can find dozens of stories from highly celebrated and revered Bible heroes who have gone through similar testing by Satan.  From Adam and Eve, to Abraham and Sarah, Moses, King David, and Elijah, just to name a few… all went through experiences where they had to choose to listen to God or listen to Satan.  So this should encourage you by understanding you are not alone, and not the only one who feels this way today, or has ever felt this way.

What was God’s message?  What has God said to mankind over and over and over, that might give us some perspective and hope today?

Third, God is consistent in His message to us.

Be Strong.
Take courage.
Do not Fear.
I will never leave you or forsake you.

Here are God’s actual words to Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.  – Joshua 1:9 NAS

Our purpose, the reason for our existence, is to bring God glory in all that we do.

Elijah found himself sitting under a bush in the wilderness because he had turned fearful, depressed, and had lost his sense of purpose.  You can hear it in his own voice, when God asked him, “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”  –  1 Kings 19:10 MSG

This looks and feels a lot like fear, depression, and lost sense of purpose to me.  What about you?

In Elijah’s case, God points out that He will (not might, but will) use the prophet once again to appoint two new kings (one for Israel, one for Judah), as well as anoint the man God has chosen to replace Elijah when his work is completed.  Basically, God says, get up and get busy.  Put aside your fear, depression, and loss of purpose, and get back out there and do what I called you to do.

Look folks.  Today, right this minute as you read these words, I believe God is calling us to get back out there and get busy doing what God has called us to do… bring Him glory.

Will we be able to go back to church right away? I doubt it.  But can we make a difference in our world today, in this wacko-crazy Satan-influenced culture and society? Yes!  How will we do it?  What will enable us to get busy once again?

Just remember one thing, then three things.

One Thing:  Jesus is LORD.

Three Things:   Jesus in in Control, has sole authority, and will always be present with us!

So, when you come to the fork in the road today … or tomorrow … or one day soon … you must choose to listen to Satan or God’s Authoritative word… which will you choose?

Will you continue in fear, depression, and lost purpose?

Will you listen to God’s voice, calling you to get up, get busy, cast aside the fear and depression, and find a renewed purpose to bring God glory right where you are?

Your choice. Your’s alone. You choose.

Repost: People Panicking Perpetuates Pandemonium

Can you say Pandemic?

Three years ago, May 5, 2017, I wrote an article stimulated by what was then called “The Word of the Day.”  Wordpress was using this title to stimulate bloggers to be creative and write about a word they had chosen for that particular day.  I really enjoyed those times of sometimes silly, sometimes serious articles I wrote.

Fast forward three years when yesterday I noticed someone had read this particular article I’m reposting today.  It’s fascinating that I wrote these words three years ago… since I could have written them just yesterday…

Share with your friends if you like… it goes like this…

 

A panic attack is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as:

… an abrupt and discrete experience of intense fear or acute discomfort, accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and worries about going crazy, losing control or dying.

Did you know that 8-10 percent of the population has panic attacks, or that in 5% it becomes a disorder, occurring without any obvious stimulus, making the attacks even more terrifying?  In these cases it isn’t just a rush of anxiety, like most of us might experience from time to time.  No, these patients describe it as the most frightening event they have ever experienced.  Research has discovered what leads to or causes a person’s first panic attack, as well as some clues about how to avoid an attack in the first place.  The simplified version is that panic attacks often result…

…when our normal “fight or flight” response to imminent threats—including increased heart rate and rapid breathing—is triggered by “false alarms,” situations in which real danger is absent.

The good news for those who suffer this chronic disorder is, first, all panic attacks are triggered by known events, even though the person may not be aware of those events. Knowing this can often reduce the anxiety stemming from a sense of unpredictability.  Second, though it is affirming to learn the attack is caused as a misfire of the fight-or-flight response when there is actually no danger.

pandemonium

In a culture spawning “fake” news, political corruption, excesses and entitlements, it’s little wonder that we all don’t run into the ocean, screaming in a wild panic.  I’m sure that we could learn quite a bit from a shepherd boy, if we only would.  Just because things look dangerous, or complicated, or “glass-half-empty,” (or completely empty), doesn’t mean God sees it this way.  If only we could see the world, ourselves, and our situations through God’s eyes, I believe it would make a huge difference in the way we live daily.  Maybe we wouldn’t become panicked quite so much.

The key to David’s life was his ability to not see things as they are, but to view them as God sees them.  Enter Goliath, a huge 9 ft. tall giant of a man, hardened by war, trained in battle.  He wears armor plated garments, has both spear and sword, and a shield to ward off enemy attacks.  He bellows at the top of his lungs, the wild ravings of the blood-thirsty heathen that he is.  And every time he does so, every man in the camp of Israel… well, they are trembling in a crazed panic.

Along comes David bringing food to his brothers in the army of Israel.  Upon hearing Goliath’s threats and railings, David’s response is not flight, it is fight.  It’s not an imagined danger, it is very real.  It is tangible.  This is death with a face on it.  Yet, David’s instant response to the Israelite men trembling in panic was this:

1 Samuel 17:26
Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

I can almost hear it in David’s voice.  The overwhelming confidence that God will not stand for His people to be challenged in this way without retribution.  God will not allow for the heathen to cast dispersions and heresies about Him without punishment.  David is clearly not panicked.  (1 Samuel 17)  How did God use David’s confidence to demonstrate His own sovereign control, authority, and covenant presence?  Watch.  After using his trusty slingshot to nail the giant with a stone David gathered from the river…

1 Samuel 17:51
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.  When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Now it’s the Philistine army’s turn to be panicked, and well they should.

So, here’s the thing.  That event or circumstance (think Coronavirus) that frightens you most right now, whether cancer, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, or emotional strains to difficult even to talk about… hear me… God is still in control.  The authority of His word still stands.  His covenant presence with you is designed to annihilate the panic that so easily sets in to destroy us.  Here are God’s simple words to avoid becoming panicked:

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world.

True three years ago… still true today.

Easter Morning 2020

Country music is not everyone’s favorite.  I personally am an equal opportunity musical genre listener.  I love music.  For 10 years, when I was leading worship, we sang karaoke style.  I would find music tracks that would lead the congregation in preparation of the message from God’s Word for that day.  Found in the list of any given Sunday worship might be some gospel, choral, hymns, praise, contemporary, or even country music. Regardless of what “style” or “genre” before we ever opened our mouths to sing, I would always remind the worshipers, the most important part of any song we sing to God’s glory, are the words.  Words are our communication point.  Words capture our emotions, tune our hearts to God’s Spirit.  Words combined with music have a power pull on our psyche to really discover the power, riches and grace of God towards us.

Think about one of the songs we sing regularly, “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship.  I love this song because it reminds me of an important fact of scripture.  I am not concerned with what others say about me, or who they say I am.  I am not caught up in who I might want to be, or who I think I might be.  God alone determines my existence, and experience, and I am who God says I am.  And God says, I am His child. Where?

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.          John 1:1-13

 

This week on my blog I wrote about Christmas, Easter, and the Resurrection.  I won’t rehash that here.  But writing this article did tune my heart toward the importance of the Easter season.  It always comes at the beginning of Spring, when our outdoor world is transformed before our eyes from the cold and dark of winter, to new life in the green grass and leaves.  While listening to music, we were puzzling again, and in a flash the words to this song from 16 years ago, had new meaning for me again.

Here are the lyrics…

Mother, do not cry for me
All of this is exactly how it’s supposed to be

I’m right here. Can you hear my voice?
My life, my love, my Lord
my baby boy

As they nail me to this tree
Just know the Father waits for me

God how can this be your will?
To have your son and my son killed?

Whatever happens, whatever you see,
Whatever your eyes tell you has become of me
This is not
Not the end
I am making all things new again

I remember when you were born
In that manger where I first held
You in my arms
So many miracles and lives you’ve changed
And this world repays you how?
With all this pain

Whatever happens (Whatever happens)
whatever you see (I don’t wanna see)
Whatever your eyes tell you has become of me
This is not
Not the end
I am making all things new again.

Sung by Sara Evans and Brad Paisley, released in 2004, the words and the music capture my heart, and tune my mind to the truth.  Click the link below to watch this awesome video.

In the Resurrection of Jesus, God makes all things new.

Not right this minute.  It doesn’t feel new does it?  In the prison of our homes, incarcerated and alone, with no touching, and very little communication, what we’re doing in response to a worldwide pandemic, what we must remember, where we must focus, is on this truth:

Jesus makes all things new again.

What will Easter next year look like?

What lessons will we take with us into the future, because of the work Jesus does during this time?

See, we can’t know these things.

But today, on Easter Sunday 2020, we can know that God is in Control.

Jesus Christ is Alive!

My old Uncle Wylie always cracked me up when he would hear something that brought joy to his life.  He would say, “Well, praise the LORD, and pass the biscuits!”  It was just his way of saying, God is in control!

I think our worship today should reflect our belief.  How about you?  Will you join the worship groups all over the planet today, on this Easter Sunday 2020, and lift your head and hands to the LORD of heaven, shouting and singing to His glory?

He alone deserves it.

He is Alive!

 

 

Easter 2020

The Christmas story and the Easter story have always intrigued me as the focal points of the Christian faith.  My sense is that many people treat them as singularities, to be celebrated in grand fashion, but wholly separate from one another.  This has always given me pause.  I keep asking myself…  “How can you have a cross without a manger?  How could there be a man without a baby?”

The two images are more like a microscope and a telescope.

Looking back through the microscope of a manger scene where Jesus lies wrapped in “swaddling clothes” we see the creation of life as God intended.  Adam and Eve were perfect people, and God intended when they procreated, they would have perfect babies. Not perfect in the “oh how beautiful a child!” but one that is born with a perfect relationship with God.  This is what they enjoyed, and without that one awful decision when they listened to the Father of Lies, it may very well have been our reality today.  But that didn’t happen did it?

From the manger looking through the telescope of the cross where Jesus hangs on a Roman instrument of torture and death, we see a glimpse into God’s answer to the awful decision by Adam and Eve.  We see the great I AM giving His own life, so that we might be restored into that perfect relationship with our Creator.  We also see the truth of heaven revealed above the Savior’s head, there on a plaque was written, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  He was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and is a King, but not just of the Jews.  The great I AM is King of the universe!

What grabs me is how fickle the hearts and minds of people can be at times.  One gift given to all mankind, in the form of a baby destined to become Savior of the world, is not enough for some.  We have turned the story of a Savior into a gift-giving madness where bigger is better, and more is better, and regardless of what we do receive it is never enough.

We watch the Easter  vids, or we listen to the stories of people lining the streets waving palm branches and throwing their outer cloaks on the ground as Jesus makes His way into Jerusalem and we too have a sense of celebration.  But these first-century folks were fickle too, they went from shouting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” in a short minute.  We buy new outfits, new dresses, to gather in a place of worship and shout “Hosanna!”  After which, our lives go back to normal, whatever normal may become these days.

But here’s the thing.

There is a third part of the story.  Life in the manger didn’t end on a Roman cross.  In a garden tomb, the light of the world overcame death in a final victorious resurrection.  Jesus the man, was transfigured into His true identity – Jesus the LORD – for the final time.  He rolled away that stone from inside the tomb and walked out the other side.  Or did He?

My question is not whether or not Jesus Christ is alive today.  My challenge is to get us past this idea that as the transfigured LORD how He could have been held by any tomb or any boulder across its opening?  Why would He need to roll away the stone to leave the tomb, if later that day He would appear in a locked room without having come through the doorway?   Yes, the stone was rolled away.  Maybe just pause and think for a moment, that happened for YOU as a SIGN of the resurrection… not to facilitate His leaving!

The microscope of the manger and the telescope of the cross will have no transforming effect on your life today if you don’t believe then apply the empty tomb and resurrection of the Savior.  Here it is, and you know you’ve heard it a million times from me in the past couple of years.

Jesus is LORD.

The Lordship attributes of Jesus are:

Jesus is in Control
Jesus in sole Authority over all things
Jesus is present with us, right here, right now

This Easter we are sheltered in place and not meeting at the House of Worship.  You think it’s hard being cooped up where the kids are screaming, you’ve gained 5 pounds eating snacks all day, and watching more TV in a few weeks than in your entire life?

Imagine being dead, and in a cold, damp tomb for just three days!  Jesus didn’t “want” to be there any more than you want to be at home right this minute.

But He did it to save mankind.  Because this was God’s will.  He said “yes” to God’s will.

How about we do it for the same reason?  For just a few more days, weeks, or whatever it takes…

Can we do it?  I really think so.

Because I believe in Jesus as LORD, and He has got this!

Happy Easter ya’ll!  Praise the LIVING LORD JESUS for all He is doing … that we can’t even see!

You Are Here

YOU ARE HERE

Do you see what I see?  I see a universe being held together by God’s own hands.  I see stars that He calls by name.  I see the earth in this picture relative to distance and time.  Yet, even the details of our own planet cannot be seen, except in the image on the bottom left. This image of God’s creation is what I call big.

Do I have any Biblical evidence that my statements are true?  Sure.  First let’s consider:

 John 1:3
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

This supports my claim that God made everything you see in this image, and all the tiny details which you cannot see, on every dot in the image, including planet earth.

What about God making it all, and holding it together?

Proverbs 30:4-6
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
Surely you know!
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Hebrews 11:3
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Colossians 1:16-17
For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

What about God knowing all the names of the stars?

Isaiah 40:26
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.

Look at the image again and see the marvelous truth that we are NOT ALONE!  “You are here” in this image gives clear indication that the LORD of all the universe is fully in control, has sole authority over this pandemic and your life individually.  But most important of all, HE is RIGHT HERE TOO!  He is present with us. Right now, right here.

Based on these truths, let me pray for you now.

Father, thank you for demonstrating your power, in Your words, as seen in this image.

I pray today for all those reading these words, who need your hand to touch their hearts and minds with peace.  There are those reading this who are terrified, please calm their hearts.  There are those who are single, living alone, facing the hours and hours of uncertainty, so please Father, reveal your presence to them in these moments.  Help those who live alone, know without doubt, they are not alone because You are there with them.

There are moms and dads who while loving their children, have never been faced with this much time together and under these conditions.  Father I ask that love, gentleness, and relationship building take the place of frustration, anger, and depression.  In addition to these relationship struggles LORD, some families are facing financial crisis, and I pray You would send them help.  Not just from our government, but from Your people.  Open our eyes to see the needs around us.

For those infected, and in varying degrees of failing health, LORD JESUS, Healer and Savior, I ask for You to say the word from Your throne which brings healing around our world.  We ask it selfishly, for our friends and our families who have been effected.  But we also seek this to happen for Your glory.  What greater evidence could there be than Your own healing power to be demonstrated this way?  Yet, just as You prayed Jesus, not our will, but the Father’s will be done in our world today.

Keep us strong LORD.  Keep our minds in perfect peace as we face the unknown.  We trust You alone LORD, help us when our trust and confidence waivers.  Give us your wisdom on a daily basis, until this unseen force has passed us by.

To You alone be all the glory and honor for all our days.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Mind Control?

Anyone… and I do mean anyone… can observe what is going on today, and remain calm, rational, logical, and peaceful.  But this is a choice.  And this choice once made, requires certain actions on the part of the person who desires peace in the middle of this chaos.

The media and those who want to politicize this pandemic want to control your mind with a constant diet of infection projections, death projections, causing you to think you are next.  Not might be. That YOU are next.  They want you to live in fear.  This agenda is straight out of the pit of hell, because Satan wants you to live in fear.  Satan wants to rob you of peace, and the joy of your salvation.  Whether knowingly or not, those who usher into your mind all these fear factors, are doing the work of Satan to control or destroy your mind.

I recently read about 5 visible effects of Mind Control:

  • Isolation
  • Moody Behavior
  • Metacommunication
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
  • Uncompromising Rules

Yes, I know, I’m taking a chance here.  But I promise this is not going to be a technical discussion… I’m offering tangible and applicable ways for you to fight against this mind control effort.

We are isolated (1)… causing moody behavior (2).

We are being told that using “the Chinese Virus” is racist and xenophobic. (3 – Metacommunication)

We listen to phrases in the reporting process like, “could be as many as 2 million deaths in the USA.” (4 – Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

We are sheltering in place under penalty of law. (5 – Uncompromising rules)

Now what can we do to combat these mind control efforts?

Many years ago as a young boy, I learned an acrostic (A.C.T.S.) that helps me in times like these. Before I walk through that remember what the Apostle Paul instructed the church in Rome, and us today…

ESV-Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

A – adoration

Turn your thoughts to adoring the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Know that His claim to be God is true.  Which makes His claim to have Sole Authority over ALL things true as well.  He is worthy of our praise.  He deserves to be worshiped and adored.

C – confession

Confess to Jesus you are afraid.  Confess that all these statistics and modeling and projections of infection and death are getting to you.  Of course Jesus already knows this, but when you tell Him, you are recognizing His claim to know it ahead of time, and that makes it safe to say it out loud.

T – thanksgiving

Think about how this progression works.  When you take the time to worship and adore Jesus for being in control, through His sole authority; then take the time to confess these things you can’t control make you fearful… this frees up your mind to simply ease away from the fear and say “Thank YOU for being in Control!”  Thank God today for all the first responders, for our national guard, for leaders that are doing everything they can do to get us through this WAR with COVID-19.  Thank God for the home you live in.  Thank God for the family around you.  Thank God for friends you still have, but from a distance.  Thank God there is still enough toilet paper to go around.  (Did you smile? I know you did!)

S – supplication

About now, if you have followed through with a dedicated to choice to fight against the mind control… you are fully engaged in the spiritual war around us.  I’m sure you have a list of people that you are thinking about during this time.  I’m sure you have been praying for them already.  But what about those not on your list?  Why not ask God to open your eyes to see a need you haven’t seen before?  Why not ask Jesus to give you some insight on how you can make a difference in this world under attack?  Do you get where I’m going here?  It’s not about you.  Each of us have our own needs, and I am not trying to minimize any of that.  But in times like these, we must come together.  We must support each other.  We must get away from the mind control games of the world, and meet needs.  God will help us do that, if we ask Him how we personally can be involved.

What is the RESULT of this simple exercise?  What does God promise?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
ESV – Isaiah 26:3

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
ESV –Philippians 4:7

Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your instruction; nothing can make them stumble.
ESV –Psalm 119:165

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and He also has become my salvation.
ESV –Isaiah 12:2

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
ESV –Isaiah 9:6

We serve a Mighty God!  He is the PRINCE of PEACE!

How about just one feel good story, about how we come together to meet other’s needs?

Did you hear the one about the Dr. going home after work, getting stopped by an officer for doing 85 in a 70 mph zone?

Oh… this is good.  When you read it, just see it as God at Work… maybe He wants to use you, in a peaceful state of mind, to reach someone today.

Click here for the story.

 

share this post with your friends and family if you want.

 

 

 

Changing Times

This one will be short.  There is a reason. Things are changing.

In times of uncertainty I’ve always turned to Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

What’s interesting is how this morning my wife pointed me to Proverbs 3:25-26.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

There are many ways that God can speak to humanity.  I read a story this week where Dolly Parton said, “I think God is in this, I really do.”  In times past, He has acted through a flood.  God performed miracles through Moses and brought plagues to Egypt to accomplish His purposes.  God sent serpents into the camp of His own people to get their attention.  God can use any and all means at His disposal to get our attention.  Believe it or not, God can even use a 1964 singer-songwriter now maybe considered a prophet named Bob Dylan.  Don’t believe me?  Read these words carefully.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

These changing uncertain times bring yet another opportunity to the family of God to unite with a message of eternal hope, even if the world as we know it changes into something unrecognizable.  Because this world is not my home.  I am just passing through.  So what can I do??

The short, and the sweet of it all is simple.

God demonstrates His power by still being in Control, either we believe it or we don’t.
Jesus claims in Matthew 28:18 “All Authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” and either we believe it or we don’t.
The Holy Spirit residing now in true believers all over the world represents God’s abiding Presence among all of mankind.

Either we believe it or we don’t.

Remember, Solomon was wise enough to teach us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.

 

Share with your friends, and trust God for the results.

Chimers, Haters, and Nay-Sayers

Is COVID-19  a life or death crisis?  A little perspective here might be nice for all of us.  In your neck of the woods, you may not know anyone who is infected or in an urgent care condition from this virus.  This does not mean that others around the block, in another state, or around the world are not facing serious life and death battles with their health.  So, we all have a choice to make when we are not the ones facing these issues.  Do we pretend that all the news reports are fake news?  Do we denigrate the leaders we don’t like because we think their communication is just constant fear-mongering babble?  Do we offer an opinion on issues when we can’t possibly see the larger picture, or all the details that are prompting all these local, state, and national reactions to this war with … aren’t you tired of hearing it yet… COVID-19?

So, here’s the thing.

I read an article yesterday about a Hollywood celebrity who Tweeted about her support for  how our President is handling the crisis in our country.  Immediately she was ridiculed by the other celebrities and followers on her account since not many folks in that community support anything President Trump does.  But I loved her response:

“You can tell a lot about people who belittle you for your views and beliefs, when u aren’t even TALKING TO THEM!” the “Look Who’s Talking” actress wrote. “My bestie and I call these people CHIMERS ..they ALWAYS chime in when u are speaking to someone else.”

Chimers

So, yes, I got the word “Chimers” from Kirsti Alley’s tweet, because it resonated with me.  A lot of people do a lot of “chiming in” today.  Most of it unsolicited, most of it negative, most of it hurtful, most of it we are all better off without.  I have to admit that in my past, I have probably chimed in way too much, with very little impact other than making some people royally ticked off.  Today I just blog.  I am happy to have a voice when asked, but I try really hard to not rock on other people’s opinions or posts or ideas, if I can help it.  Where’s the gain in that anyway?

Haters

You’ve heard the phrase, “Haters are just gonna hate, and judgers are gonna judge!”  And largely today this is true.  I live in Denton county, in Texas where the local authorities have just issued a “shelter in place” restriction.  But they did it in such a way that caused me huge concern about our society as a whole.  I’m reminded of Greg Gutfeld, who has written a great article you may want to check out titled “The Prison of Two Ideas.”

Yesterday, my impression of what  the Judge in Denton county and Mayor of the city of Denton said was (my paraphrase-not a direct quote):

“You will follow this new ordinance and stay in your homes, and not leave for anything except essential services or you are just selfishly putting everyone you engage at risk of infection and death.”

So look.  I hate this virus.  I hate that people in Denton County are suffering, and may die, just like others around our nation and the world, I hate it.  But don’t make me the culprit of all the death in the world, or even someone in the city of Denton, because I went outside and spoke with my neighbor yesterday.  Please don’t call me selfish, because I would like some normalcy in my life.  That’s just absurd.

This kind of hate-mongering, name-calling, illogical over-reaction to COVID-19 is the very reason why people are wondering how they’re going to pay their bills, or keep their mortgage up, or buy new clothes for the kids in the fall when they do go back to school.  Come on people, a little perspective ok?

Nay-Sayers

Right about now, someone reading this might say, “Dude, you sound a lot like a Chimer and a Hater about now.”  Sorry if you think that, it wasn’t my intention.  So, let me try one more time to help you with what I’m trying to say.

There were those who believed in God a long time ago who thought they knew more about spiritual matters than anyone else on earth.  God in fact had chosen them among all other nations of the earth to be His People.  Yet, when God showed up in the flesh, to bring salvation not just to them, but to all people, they became such intense nay-sayers that they plotted to have a Roman Governor of Judea hang Him on a cross.  “You cannot possibly be our Messiah!”  “You claim equality with Yahweh?  Blasphemy!”  “You break the very laws God gave us to live by, what Messiah would teach people to do that?!”

For thousands of years now, people have been suggesting Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, but certainly not God, and definitely not the Savior of the world.

Well, guess what. That is a personal choice that every individual is given the privilege of deciding for themselves.  Chimers, haters, and nay-sayers are always going to look at me and say, “how can you possibly believe that rubbish?”  Yet, I want to live my life in such a way that when crisis comes to town, something like say, COVID-19… that those folks will see my faith as Rock solid, not filled with fear or uncertainty.  I want my speech to be filled with loving words of hope.  I want everyone who knows me to know I believe with absolute certainty that God is in Control, Jesus is who He claims to be, and nothing since the beginning of time has taken Him by surprise.

Let’s not be a chimer, hater, or nay-sayer.

Instead, let’s act like true Christ-followers and give these folks something to think about, something to hope in, something to believe in that will see them through dark days of doubt and confusion.

Jesus is the Rock.  Jesus is in Control.  He holds it all, including you, right in His hands.

 

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What is “Normalcy” today?

Last evening I experienced something as close to normalcy as possible in today’s crazy zany mixed up world.  Actually most of the whole day was pretty normal, in terms of my activities.  After I got up, had some morning coffee, ate a breakfast burrito, and drank some apple juice, I began my prep work for smoking meat.  This past week one of the items still available at my local food store was Baby Back Pork Ribs, and, they were on sale! Yippee Skippee!  I bought four full racks, and spent less than the cost of two large pizzas.  Can I get a “hallelujah!”?  But I digress.

Anywhoo, after all my prep work was done, it was time for “On-line” church, so my wife and I worshipped “remotely” from the safety of our living room.  The time we spent singing and listening to God’s Word was delightful, and while not “NORMAL” in the sense of going to a church building, we still felt connected to those like us who were making the most of our time, and doing the right thing!  Singing praises to the LORD Jesus.

When worship was over I put the ribs on the smoker, here’s a pic of the ribs before the goodness of the smoke cooks them into a delicacy!

unnamed-2

After five hours in the smoker, all wrapped in foil, and sitting in warming mode in the oven, it was time for me to clean up, and prepare for the “normal” part of the evening.  The rule of thumb in our area of Texas is to not congregate with more than 10 people, and use common sense about knowing the risks, and taking precautions.  That said, I cooked these ribs for a group of my wife and I, and two other couple friends.  We arrived around 5pm, had a wonderful time of loving each other, sharing good food, playing card games, and discussing spiritual matters and current events.  That is about as “normal” as it can get, and still be in “safe” mode.

We joked, we laughed, and generally just tried to appear normal for a few hours.  We all left around 9pm to our respective homes, refreshed by the fellowship of human relationships that are meaningful and loving.  We ate way too much, and everybody got a take home bag of ribs for leftovers.  How fun huh?

Now, on Monday morning, I’m back to reality, and trying to get a handle on how to deal with the ongoing issues of how to just be “normal.”  And it is quite challenging.  One thing I did today was return to our local food store for this week’s supplies of nourishment.  During the first few minutes of walking around the store, I became aware of a sense of “blah” from the people I passed.  So, I decided to just try a “social” experiment.  I didn’t try to get anyone to engage in conversation, I simply smiled at them, and tried to get them to smile back.  No, not one of those creepy “who is this crazy man” smiles.  You know, the kind where people just genuinely know you care kind of smiles.  Some smiled back, some didn’t, it was maybe 50-50 on the whole.

But, is this the new “normalcy” where people are shopping for food and can’t even smile?  I wondered how many of them were actual Christ-followers and I wondered how many were far from God in their own chaotic world without hope or promise.  I wondered if my smile had made a difference.  What else could I do?

I would never try to minimize the importance of following local and national government instructions for social distancing and self-quarantine when there is infection.  That said, if you have no symptoms, maybe when you do get out in the public eye, you might try just smiling.

Also, it might help us all to listen as close to God’s word as we do the NEWS media which seems more pervasive and invasive than ever.  Last week I wrote about being still and knowing that God is in control.  That’s in Psalm 46:10.  Maybe some of you went ahead and read the whole substance of Psalm chapter 46.  But if you didn’t, maybe it would help give some context about being still and understanding God is in Control. It begins this way…

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

I don’t think it’s possible to feel normal again yet, and maybe we won’t ever return to the same place we were before COVID-19.  But here’s the thing, would that be such a bad thing?  Hasn’t this helped many people reconnect with family?  Hasn’t it helped many people question the value of some of their previous activities?  Hasn’t this situation turned many people’s minds toward spiritual values, and looking to God for answers?  Yes, Yes, yes, and YES!

So what is normalcy? Who gets to define that?  No one yet.  But God is still in control.  Even in this very abnormal confusing frustrating time.  Trust Him.  Obey Him.  Declare and proclaim Him LORD of ALL.  Why can’t this be the new “normal?”

 

Surrender, Submission, Adoration

I sat here today reviewing my week of writing.  All of these posts remind me that I’m perhaps more like the prophet Jeremiah than Jerry Seinfeld whose comedy is based in truth but makes us all laugh our heads off at it anyway.

I wanted to take a lighter look at our current circumstances and found this entertaining meme of FaceBook.

89931206_10157475871592620_6295564922197639168_n

It is important to be able to keep laughing, find the humor in our circumstances, and let off some of that pent up depression.

How do we do that?

Surrender indicates an end to the resistance of an enemy or opponent, and coming under the enemy or opponent’s authority.  When panic and paranoia result in fear the enemy of God, who is our enemy, gains authority over us.  This enemy doesn’t stop until the fear has totally ruined a life, resulting minimally in a debilitated human existence or death.  Depending on which translation of the Bible you read, the command “Fear not!” or “Do not be afraid!” is found between 105 to 365 times.  Some will see the discrepancy of these numbers to negate the basic message.  However, if God repeated it only a few times, say 5 times in the whole of Scripture, would it still not be God’s Authoritative  voice commanding  His children to not be afraid?  So when we are afraid, are we not fighting against God’s providential care and concern?  Listening to God’s enemy who wants us to be afraid, means we are surrendering to that fear infused whispering from the father of lies himself.

God’s word says:

Psalm 23:4 –
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Submission is often used as a synonym for surrender.  Usually this is derived from context, as when a person might be “forced into submission.”  However, it seems to me that surrender is about a person thinking they have no other choice; while submission is almost all about choice.  When a persons submits, rather than continuing to resist the enemy’s whispering temptation to fear, they simply quit struggling, they give up.  In becoming so passive about God’s command, they may not be afraid, but they are also not pursuing the fight to stay alert, and listen to God’s sole authoritative word for direction.

God’s word says:

James 4:7
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

What of “Adoration” then?

The definition of this action is perhaps best found in its synonyms:  love, devotion, care, affection, admiration, worship, glorify, praise, extol, laud, magnify, etc.

When we read the scriptures from the beginning to the end, the whole Bible is filled with the wonderful promises of a Creator who loves human beings as His highest creation.  We know from the Creator’s revealed word, that He only wants the best for us.  We also discover in these same Scriptures how God’s enemy seeks to destroy us, simply because we are God’s highest creation.  All the promises of God are based in the simplicity of saying “yes” to God’s voice of authority, and saying “no” to the enemy’s temptations or attacks to keep us from glorifying God.

So consider this word from God, spoken through the Apostle Paul:

2 Corinthians 1:20
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him (JESUS) they are yes; therefore also though Him (JESUS) is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

If God says He will act in a certain way, the promise of this action is “YES” in Jesus.  When a person steps over the line of faith into saving faith provided in Jesus, then all of God’s promises are enacted and empowered through His Son – Jesus.  God says He alone has the power to save, to create, to uphold, to heal, to direct, and to sustain us.

  • God does not force us into surrender.
  • God does not belittle us into submission.
  • God gives us choice to serve Him in completely devoted adoration.

In choosing to serve God alone, to worship God alone, to listen to God’s authoritative voice as the sole authority for life, in our crazy mixed up world, we hear “Yes” in the loving voice of our Savior.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Today, choose life.  Do not surrender to the father of lies and become fearful.  Do not surrender to the rantings on social media, or the talking heads breeding doom and gloom on the television.  Do not submit by becoming an impassive voice, thinking it is better just to quit resisting.

Today, choose life.  Choose to live a life of adoration for the ONE who can deliver us from this unseen enemy called COVID-19.

Live in humility before the Creator of all things… casting all your worries and fears on Jesus … because “He cares for YOU!”

Loving God doesn’t have to mean giving up a sense of humor either.

Choose life.  Find something to laugh at today.

Intentionality

Right about now even the strongest hearts and minds are subject to the efforts of Satan, to use COVID-19 spreading fear and panic among human beings across the world.  While each of us wants to be strong and courageous, modeling our faith and trust in the LORD for those around us, we can easily be defeated from reaching this goal without some specific intentionality in our daily lives.

One aspect of this crisis is the car-crash syndrome.  You know what I mean.  You’ve been in traffic jams before.  There are those events which take an inordinate amount of time to continually creep toward what is causing the long delays.  The highway during these times resembles more of a long winding parking lot.  Arriving on the scene of some horrific entanglement of metal and road, you discover the delay was someone’s life being altered forever in the vehicle that was crushed.

On the other hand, you have probably been in those traffic tie-ups that slowed everyone down for miles and miles, only to have the traffic suddenly return to normal speeds, with no evidence at all of what caused all the fuss.  I’ve said on more than one occasion, “What was that all about?”

When we look back in the weeks ahead at this very frustrating couple of months we are still working through, for some, life will have changed forever. For others, it will be more like life returning to normal, after a brutal slow-down period of isolation and social distancing, toilet paper hoarding and disruption of lifestyles.

What can you do right now to make your experience in this crisis more tolerable?  One is to be more intentional about everyday life, and the activities that help you pass this time while preserving your sanity and peace.  There are going to be those who say this would be a great time to binge watch that old favorite TV show on whatever streaming media channel you use for entertainment.  And this will surely while away the hours, but is this the best use of your time?

Others might suggest getting outdoors for a walk or run and soaking up some sun.  Or heating up the swimming pool and floating in the sun, all the while imagining yourself on that deserted Caribbean beach with white sands and cool tropical breezes.  I’m sure both options could help with the cooped up feelings we struggle with right now.

May I suggest another activity that also has the inherent ability to bring encouragement and peace when things are not always looking so bright and cheery.  Get that Book of all books, and turn to Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae.  Specifically, and with intentionality, focus your thoughts on Jesus Christ, the LORD.  Read with the idea of learning something new, or rediscovering something that will help you personally during these trying times of isolation.

Paul wrote with this intention: Colossians 1:10-12

“… so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

If anyone today should be “walking” with confidence and assurance, without fear of anxiety, it ought to be those true Christ-followers who serve the risen LORD Jesus!  Paul says we should be “strengthened…attaining all steadfastness and patience, and living in joyous thanksgiving.”  This words are not just lip-service to spiritual philosophies, Paul modeled firsthand for us how to do this while he struggled to serve Jesus.

But how do we get there from here?  We are so diverted by all the stories of the virus.  We are so concerned about the unknown nature of the virus and when it will all be over.  We are cutoff from our friends and family.  How do we become strong again?  How do we maintain peace and patience?  And many you might be thinking “what is there to be joyously thanking God for right now?”

I’m so glad you asked! Verse 13 is the answer to those very questions!

For He (the Father) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus), in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We have been rescued from something far more deadly than the Coronavirus.  Jesus has rescued us from ourselves.  He rescued us from that God-defying willful shaking of our fist at our Creator and saying “I don’t need you!”  When we said “yes” to God’s love and turned away from our own thoughts of how to save ourselves, Jesus rescued us from “the domain of darkness.”

So during these dark days of social distancing and isolationism, let’s focus on the ONE who can restore our strength, help us be strong and courageous, and joyously thank Him for rescuing us from ourselves.

Here He is.  Read it slowly.  Dwell on the words, letting them sink deep into your thoughts and hearts.  His name is Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Everything we need, right this minute, is found in Jesus Christ the LORD.  Nothing else satisfies.  Nothing else matters.  Did you see it?  Do you see it now?  Right in the middle of this deep theological truth written by the Apostle Paul, is the singular truth that must be the foundation of our intentionality for living.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

My dear friends the only reason any of us are still here is because Jesus is holding this world together.  This one fact alone should cause our lips to joyously praise Him and thank Him for His steadfast love.

Today, as you face another day of Coronavirus madness, turn your eyes upon Jesus and say “Thank you, LORD, for rescuing me. Thank you, LORD, for holding everything together.”

Missing You

Since the time I was a teenager out in West Texas, I’ve followed basketball, football, and golf.  I have favorite teams or players like many of you do.  You may be into soccer, or bowling, opera, theater, going to movies or concerts.  During this time of world-wide crisis we have all been told to just stay home.  I have no problem with this directive.  In spite of whatever inconvenience this may impose, radical times call for radical measures.

I have to say it though, I don’t miss watching the NCAA tournament, my favorite golfers playing on the grass so green, or spring training games for my baseball team, the Texas Rangers.  This reality was quite an eye-opening experience for me, since I’ve been athletic all my life.  Yet, I still don’t miss it.

I don’t miss going out to a movie.  I certainly don’t miss Hollywood’s elite telling me how stupid I am for supporting our President.  That whole make-believe industry holds no sway over me these days.  I just don’t miss it.

“Missing you” is reserved for those of my personal family I haven’t seen in awhile, or those men and women who are part of the two Bible study times I lead.  In the incomparable words of Lowman Pauling, and Ralph Bass, and their 1971 hit, my blog today is “Dedicated to the One I Love.”  I love and miss my friends from church.  These are the folks I am connected to.  One thing we all cannot afford to do is lose the connection with our friends and family… just because we are adhering to the “stay home” element required by all of us at this time.

I remember when the telephone on the table was connected by wire to a plug on the wall.  You picked up the phone, you got a dial tone, then dialed the number of a friend and waited.  Waited until the friend answered, or until a message machine guided you to “leave a message.”  We still have the “leave a message” option on our cell phones today.  But there is so much more you can do with your cell phone than just calling someone.  Today we can “text” someone a message, or Skype or FaceTime with each other like a video conference call.

If you can send or receive an email from your mobile device, then more than likely you can also send and receive still image pictures, as well as short video clips.  All of these activities can serve to preserve the emotional and spiritual connections between people who love each other.

In addition to your cell phone, there is always the opportunity to practice a lost art: writing cards or letters to those we love.

Now think on these words of Jesus..

John 13:35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Missing my friends should not paralyze me.  Just the opposite.  My missing people should stimulate me to be creative in the ways I try to reach out and “touch” people “virtually.”  That has been my goal for the last few days of writing these blogs.  We are all in the same boat of danger from this virus.  The phrase used by scientists is “flatten the curve of the pandemic”; that just means slowing the spread of infection.  The number one way you and I can help is “social distancing.” The current thought is to not be in a group larger than 10-15 people.  One of the greatest privileges of our time in history, is using technology to stay connected while not in the same physical space or location.

The old adage is true, and this current disruption to every facet of our lives proves it to be true:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

My version is:  I’m Missing You.

Just how serious should we take all this?  You may or may not know these statistics:

As of 8:53pm March 17th (last night), according to NPR’s Elena Renken and Daniel Wood, 6353 people in the USA have tested positive for COVID-19.  Of this number, 108 have died from complications derived from the virus.

In this same report, in Texas, 110 have tested positive as infected, and 1 person has died.

That is serious enough for me.  I want to help. I want to be actively part of the solution. So I will keep on missing you.  As more time passes before we can gather again without fearing the unknown of this virus, I will miss you more and more.

Missing you will inspire me to write more articles for this blog.  I will do my best to stay current and relevant to the things that concern us all.  The Minister of Senior Adults in our church emphasized the importance of these key activities you can do at this time:

HERE IS MY REQUEST:

  • Pray for God to stop this virus.
  • Pray for families to use this time to re-connect with each other and to God
  • Protect yourself
  • Pray for healing for those infected

I guess I just want to add my two-cents worth, as you miss those whom you call “friends” try to connect with them through your phone, by email, by text, or some means that you feel comfortable with.

While we wait, and trust in God, stay connected, and…

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.

 

 

 

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Purposes

I’ve lived for years in solitude.  My vocational choices led me to spend time among people occasionally, but the bulk of my work, both secular and in ministry, was alone in an office.  While some of those jobs also challenged me to work with several people in the office, the most number of people I was around on a daily basis was 8-10.  Even there I spent every day on the phone, or planning, or writing proposals or sermons or lessons, in what sometimes felt like solitary confinement.  In many different ways, I’m as prepared as I ever could be, for social distancing.

While in the throes of this COVID-19 chaos, we’re being told to go home, stay home, and live in a secluded fashion with the purpose of stemming the flow of the virus to other people, including ourselves.  Many people who don’t deal well with confinement, will see this time alone as pure torture, agony, or undue suffering.  In fact, not being alone, and not being still long enough to think rationally and logically about anything is an ancient problem, not a new 21st-Century challenge.

The Psalmist writes how God is the refuge of His people in Psalm 46.  But I especially have always looked to verse 10 for solace.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Hebrew text indicates this word means to sink, or relax.

Sink into what?  Relax, are you kidding me?  No really, this is exactly God’s purpose for what we need most – right this minute.  We need to know, not just intellectually understand or comprehend, but really get what God expects from us, indeed commands us. The command of God is total surrender to Him as the LORD – in control, having all authority, and present in our world today.  More and more, activities people around the world would normally flock to have either been postponed to a later date, or cancelled completely.  This could be easily construed as the LORD of heaven on purpose saying to all of humanity, “You’ve been worshiping at pagan places filled with idols.  I will help you be still, and remember who I AM, by using this virus to get your mind off of sports, movie theaters, works of art, concerts, playoffs, or any other venue-oriented entertainment escape.”

One of the hardest things for many people I’ve known is the concept of just “being still” for more than 10 seconds.  Add to not knowing how to be still, the idea of being cooped up with children, or spouses, or grandparents who all would drive you crazy when there was no virus, and this command of God might seem impossible to achieve.

Could God’s purpose for this virus really be that we need to stop worshiping other things and just be still?  Well, being still is only half this equation.  Because if you are capable of being still, that alone does not ensure you will focus where you need to focus, on the LORD of heaven.  After all, the being still part is really just to create a space in your world where you can experience Truth.

“… and know that I am God.”

Our minds and our hearts have in recent years become numbingly indifferent to the nature and character of God.  I really do believe it is time for a reset for us.  Why?  Think about the last several years of turmoil in our United States government.  Now filter everything you’ve seen, read, or heard on television, radio, or online apps, and read these words:

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Do these descriptions essentially fit to form a fairly accurate description of life in the USA and other places around the world today?  Does Paul really have a vision of life in the 21st-century?  Men and women of power and means, blatantly denying the existence of God, must really be taxing to the LORD of creation, don’t you think?

It doesn’t take much understanding to realize we have no control whatsoever over this virus.  The leaders of our world, the scientists, the manufacturers of the health products we need, all are working around the clock to solve a currently unsolvable problem. The virus will run its course. And we do not yet know the extent of the damage, or where or how it will all end.  We’re in the throes.

Isn’t it time to just stop?  Stop being scared?  Stop listening to the talking heads on TV telling us what to think and how to feel?  Isn’t it time to just BE STILL, AND KNOW that the One who created us, also has intended purposes for this event that we can’t possibly know or understand?

When was the last time you picked up your Bible to give you hope and clarity, rather than tuning into Talk Radio, or some 24 hour news station on the television?  If you are a true Christ-follower, you are being watched right now, whether you know it or not.  In days of calamity and chaos, even the ungodly are brought to a place where they must recognize they are not in control.  God is.  Do you portray this truth in how you are dealing with COVID-19?

Right now, are you modeling for your neighbor who is spiritually far from God, the truth that God is not far from any one of us?  Are you criticizing everything and everyone, or contributing a solution by inviting God to intervene in our world with healing?  The true Christ-follower knows how to “be still” and in prayerful worship, trust God for the outcome.

Are you a lover of self, money, or power?  Have you become boastful, arrogant, ungrateful, and unholy? Are you like those holding onto a “form of godliness” all the timing denying the power of the Creator to control this virus?

Be still. Know that I AM is still God.

Keep saying it.  Allow you mind to constantly repeat:

I am in God’s care.
He loves me more than I love myself.
Jesus gave Himself for me so that I might know the truth of God’s love.
I am who He says I am, and He says I am His child.
He is in Control.
He has absolute Authority over my life.
And He is right here with me… whatever may come.
His name is Jesus.

And I will not face death, until all my days are done, so I will be still, and know that God is..

 

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Mortality

This is going to be a very interesting few weeks ahead.  My prayer is that this post brings you hope.  But you might want to read it carefully…

The one fear plaguing mankind since the very beginning is the reality and certainty of death.  Those without hope, those without love, those blind to the eternal nature of the human spirit, are most possessed and effected by the ultimate eventuality of their own death.  The natural reaction to something like COVID-19 then, is for a person in this lost and hopeless condition is to panic, act illogically, and do whatever they can to find a way to increase their own ability to survive.

What a shame.  What a loss of time.  What a sad, sad, testament to a life which was designed for exactly the opposite result.

I don’t know when you last spent much time reading Psalm 139, but right about now would be a great time to dust off the old Bible sitting on the shelf, near all those self-help, nonsense works, that haven’t made a difference, and do a little reading and thinking.  Stay with me here, I’m not just making this stuff up.  We’ll go slowly, so you can soak some truth into that truth-starved soul and mind that might be upset about what is happening in our world.

Psalm 139:1-2
O LORD, You have searched me and know me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar.

So, just on the face of it, God sees exactly where you are right now.  He knows the condition of your body, and He knows how panicked you are, and how hopeless you feel.  He knows what you’ve been doing, and how you’ve reacted to this virus scare.

Psalm 139:3-4
You scrutinize my path, and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all.

The Psalmist doesn’t want us to just skate by those first two verses, but spends a little more time detailing the exhaustive nature of God’s understanding and awareness of our condition, our thought patterns, and daily routines.  He knows ALL our ways.

Psalm 139:5-6
You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain it.

Here the thought shifts to gaining a little perspective of God’s control on matters of my life and yours, by understanding God’s presence all around us, all the time.  It’s mind-boggling for sure, but that doesn’t negate the truth of it.

Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lay hold of me.

Stop here a minute.  Don’t just read the words.  Re-read them until the truth of what is stated sinks in.  There is no place in this universe where you can go to hide from, escape from, or avoid God’s touch.  His hand will lay hold of you, when it is time.

Psalm 139:11-12
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night. Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You.

These are dark days for many people around the world.  The virus is continuing to spread, with deadly results for some, and debilitating effects for others.  Yet there is nothing hidden or dark or unknown about this virus to God.  He sees it all with absolute clarity.

Psalm 139:13-15
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Knowing that we are created, and knowing there is a Creator, also serves to give us perspective on our existence.  Knowing and understanding the natural human experience of procreation, that I am a product of God’s will through the efforts of human love, should also bring some basic assurance of God’s awareness of not just my being but also my plot in life.  God knows when you took your first breath, your first step, spoke your first word, had your heart broken for the first time.  God knows because He is deeply invested in you.  He made you in your mother’s womb.

Now comes the part I’ve anticipated writing about, so don’t miss this next part!

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Carefully read that again.

What does it mean?  I believe that no one will die out of the sight of God, or at a time different than that which God chooses.

Yes, I really believe this, based on Psalm 139:16.  But it wasn’t just David, the Psalmist who spoke this truth.  The Author of Truth, the One who called Himself, the Truth, also said:

Matthew 6:27
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

And there it is.  We don’t die out of God’s timing, awareness, or plan for us.  All our days are written, the details of each day, hour and minute, in God’s own book.  He knows us better than we even know ourselves, because He knows when we will finally see Him face to face.

This virus has no power except that given to it by God, not man.  If it is man-made, then God allowed this for some purpose we don’t know and can’t know or see.  If the virus is an un-natural mutation of another strain of the flu, then that too didn’t escape God’s notice as if done in darkness.  He knew when it happened, allowed it, and has a purpose for allowing it within His sovereign will for mankind.

But make no mistake here.  COVID-19 is limited by God’s own all-powerful control.  No more will get sick than God allows.  No more will die, than is predetermined by God’s plan. Since neither you nor I can do anything to alter this fact, then maybe this knowledge will help us alter our own concerns about what is happening around us.

I am in God’s care.
He loves me more than I love myself.
Jesus gave Himself for me so that I might know the truth of God’s love.
I am who He says I am, and He says I am His child.
He is in Control.
He has absolute Authority over my life.
And He is right here with me… whatever may come.

And I will not face death, until all my days are done.

Snoopy said to Charlie Brown one day, “We’re all going to die someday.”

Charlie Brown’s response bears remembering:

“But, not today.”

 

 

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