buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Finding My Happy Place

How you feeling these days? I must admit, my head hasn’t been in a good place during these last couple of months. I have been going a bit stir crazy. I am also feeling a bit frustrated and ready for all this to be over. You too? I don’t know anyone who is enjoying these crazy times. I do like less traffic in the morning when I have to go to work. But if I am not careful about my thoughts, the loneliness and lack of social interaction can overwhelm me.

My happy place is with my family. I wrote about my family time at the beach back in June. I need to share a secret with you. Everyone who commented on the blog posting said it was a great tribute to my parents and I guess it was after all. However, the secret is my parents were not the focus as I wrote out my thoughts about the beach trip. I was actually thanking my family for an amazing time throughout the years. Yes, my parents were instrumental in the foundation of our annual beach trip set twenty-eight (?) years ago. But this year, the trip was so needed in my life. I was growing desperate for some type of normalcy and finding peace in the craziness. The trip came at the right time.

Human interactions are truly important to our emotional and physical health. We need it. We crave it. I most definitely need my family time. I’ve had a revelation about how much I need my family during a crisis. It’s made me rethink my future and where I need to be for the next season of life. My timetable for moving to my “retirement” place may be sooner rather than later.

Our emotional wellbeing is just as important as our physical wellbeing. So what do you do to get your head in the right space? Do you have hobbies you turn to for a “happy” hour or two? I love golf. I also enjoy walks and being outside. I noticed when I don’t get outside, I get a bit cranky. What makes you happy?  It really is essential to find a place to go when the craziness is too much.

I have also realized that I need my time with Jesus. Maybe the struggles we face are to bring us closer to Jesus. He is supposed to be our “happy” place. He is our comforter, our peace in troubling times, our rescuer, and our protector. Being in God’s Word, keeps me focused and keeps me from feeling isolated and lonely. I remember where Paul was when he wrote most of his letters to the churches and to his fellow missionaries. If not for prison, we might not have had these Scriptures. Think about that for a minute or two.

We need to stay focused on the things that are important to us. We are to make it a priority to gain some perspective of where we are in life and this season we’re in. God can use us in this season if we stay open to what He is doing around us. We might not be in prison but we have some available time right now. What is God calling you to do in this season? What is He showing you about this time we’re in right now?

This is not the end as we know it. It’s just a different season. God is still working on His plan and things may seem out of control. But I believe God is placing things in the right place for the next season. We may need to move into the right place. Or God may already have us in the right place for now. Keep your eyes and ears open and wait on the Lord. I believe we will see something greater if we just wait on Him to move.

Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7), he fought the good fight, he finished his race, he kept the faith. Just as Paul suffered in his season and came out on top, we too can have his focus and keep the faith even in our trying times. Find your happy place and hang on. Get your head in the right space. Endure through this time. Keep the faith as Paul did while he underwent his trials of separation.

The victory is ours even when it feels like the battle has been lost. God is still in control. Brace yourself for what may come next, but lean upon the only thing that cannot be shaken – Jesus. He is a sure foundation that cannot be moved. Be amazed in His presence for you cannot go wrong when you are with Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8

Standing Together

It’s been awhile since I sat down to write. One of the reasons is I just don’t know what to say about these times we are living in. Actually, I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, but it’s best to keep my thoughts to myself at times like this. We don’t need another opinion out there – we need truth written instead.

This morning, I woke up with the thoughts of a podcast I heard yesterday. The podcast was from the Duck Dynasty clan called Unashamed with Phil Robertson. It’s on YouTube if you want to check it out. Duck Dynasty was a fun show to watch (the shows are now on YouTube as well), but they were not able to give much spiritual applications as they wanted except for the prayer at the end.

The podcast is different. Jase, Alan and Phil sit down to give biblical applications and biblical truth on a weekly basis (or is it twice a week?). Anyway, it’s good and fun too.

The episode that impacted me yesterday was one from earlier in the year. Uncle Si was sitting in for Phil. Si spoke about a conversation he had with a young lady at a casino in Las Vegas. The lady spotted Si and after gathering her courage, she spoke to him. As they were talking, Si wanted to get Jesus into the conversation, but he didn’t see an opening until she asked him a question. “You must have met some really famous people, who is the most famous person you have met?” He chuckled and said I wondered how to mention Jesus and you opened the door for me.

They talked further but she had to leave since her husband was beckoning her to come. Si was disappointed that the conversation was cut short, however, he realized another lady had chair hopped until she was sitting next to him. She was drunk. I forgot the leading statement about coming to the casino to drink, but Uncle Si proceeded to tell her it was her choice to get drunk. She also had a choice to find a church – she needed to be around good people.

As I woke up this morning, I was reminded that it’s true. We need to be around like-minded (biblically-minded), godly people during this time. We have been isolated; church has been cancelled. Yes, thank God we live in a time of technology and can catch the gathering on line at a convenient time for us. However, we are told to stay home. I am reminded by the writer of Hebrews we are not to forsake gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Our enemy is all about separation and dividing. We need each other – especially in this time.

As the times grow darker, and they will, we need each other. We need like-minded people who love Jesus and are not ashamed to mention His name. We need boldness and courage to stand up together. Jesus is the only hope the world has in order to walk back from the brink of despair. We have the answer but we have to be willing to step out and share what we know.

Another message I heard yesterday was from one of my health gurus I follow. He was interviewing a doctor concerning the forces of evil at play. I don’t remember much of the conversation; however, she did mention we will need courage to stand up for our rights as citizens of this country. This was the one thing she said was missing today – courage.

When times get dark, I want to put my head in the sand and make it all go away. I don’t want to be bold or have the courage to stand up alone. Yet, if I had my tribe around me, my people who have my back, then I might be willing to step out and share what I know. Standing alone is scary, but standing together is a better strategy.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states two is better than one… if one falls down, the other can help them up…though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves… a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. As the saying goes, we’re better together. We cannot be the silent majority. We have to take a stand. We are at a crucial time in our history. I don’t like confrontation, but it may come to it in order to keep our freedoms.

Our freedom doesn’t come from our government, it comes from our God. We have a choice to make and it’s time we stand together. If you love Jesus, it’s time to be the light we are called to be. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Remember, we are not of this world, we are Kingdom people. Love like Kingdom people. Share and give like Kingdom people. It’s what we do as Kingdom people. It’s who we are. What can man do to us? Fear God, not man.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Feeling Full

Many years ago after a large meal with the family, I asked my grand nephew who was about three years old at the time if he was full. He turned to me and asked what’s full? Hum. I never thought about how to define “full” especially when it comes to a full belly. I couldn’t ask him that today because he is big fella now and full doesn’t seem to be in his vocabulary. He always seems to be hungry.

Last week, my family gathered at the beach for our annual beach trip. I think this was our twenty-ninth year of gathering at the same place, mostly in the same house. This year, we had to get a duplex because of the number of family members getting together. We started the tradition with ten family members but we were up to nineteen at the house this year. My parents are gone now, but the nephews have grown, married and have kids of their own.

I once thought our family was built around my Mom. I thought she was our rock that held us together. When she passed almost eleven years ago, I thought we wouldn’t be the same. In reality, we are not the same. I think we are stronger and better equipped because of the foundation she and my Dad laid for us. Yes, both she and Dad are gone now, but the family did not fall apart because of it.

I have come to realize it wasn’t Mom who was our center – our family was (and still is) centered on Jesus. He is the foundation Mom and Dad laid for us. He was the center from the beginning and is continuing in that tradition as my nephews are building their foundations with their families. I love seeing my nephews with their kids and I love seeing how much they love their wives.

When we started this tradition twenty-nine years ago, I had no hope for those boys! They were a hot mess. Mom was not a boy’s mom. She had girls and wasn’t accustomed to the boy’s way of life. It was hard for Mom to cope with the messiness that comes with boys. She was a bit on edge whenever we were at the beach with those young boys. But as they grew up, she mellowed. She loved those boys dearly and wanted the best for them.

I wish she could see them today. I wish she had witnessed what the boys have become and the families they are now raising. Dad got to see it. Before his death, Dad got to see all these great-grandkids. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the capacity to know what was going on. He didn’t really know who all these little kids running around were. But Dad knew my nephews and remembered they were married to those young women. But the kids, he didn’t know they were his children as well. But he loved them just the same.

After last week, I remembered all we had been through; the good times and there were many, and the bad times when the rain didn’t stop for days. The special times with Mom and Dad and houses we occupied for a week – making it our home for that week. The times with Mom and the games we played. The one time she kept winning while our attention was diverted. We laughingly accused her of cheating. We got one of the best belly laughs out of her that I can remember.

The boys told us at Dad’s funeral how he used to talk with them on the crow’s nest about – well, I’m not sure what they talked about since they didn’t go into any detail of those conversations – but the boys all remembered those times with Dad up on that roof top as one of the greatest times with Dad. Year after year, memories are made. Even today as we look back at this past week, there will be memories we can all look to as one of the best times we had at the beach.

After the last four months of being alone, I was feeling a bit empty. Today I am full. I still don’t have a good definition for “full” that I could tell a young child. I just know today my heart and my emotional wellbeing is full. No matter what happens next, I have a memory bank full of hearty laughter, good food, putt-putt games and unending joy, but the best part is that it is all centered on Jesus. Jesus is the reason our family time is sincerely one of the best weeks of our lives.

This annual beach trip wasn’t originally started as a tradition. But I believe it was a God-given idea for the family to be strong through the start of this tradition. Year after year, we decided to do it again. God made it happen and I am so thankful today because of His love for us and for His love of family. It was His idea for the family to be the lifeline in a chaotic world. It is our safe harbor when things go astray. In this craziness we have experienced over the last four months, I truly needed this time of refreshment with my family. Thank you family for loving so well this week!

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV)

Hope for Our World

Watching the memorial service of Ravi Zacharias yesterday evening caused a great sense of grief to overwhelm me. The great defender of our faith died last week on May 19th after battling cancer. The sadness wasn’t really from his death, although it is a sad day to lose someone of such great significance, but the sadness was from the death of my own Dad a couple of years ago.

The daughter was speaking about her Dad and as she was speaking it was just a fresh tidal wave of emotion for me. The daughter’s son said that he didn’t know who he was without his Papa. He asked his Mom, what did Papa mean to you? The dam broke while I remembered my own Dad’s words to me as she spoke of her Dad’s love for her.

After my Mom died ten years ago, my Dad called me every night. Before he hung up, he always told me to remember he loved me very much. I miss my Dad. I miss knowing he was always in my corner. I miss how he instructed me when I had trouble with my golf game. (He would correct my positioning so that I could work out my slice.) He would tell me how to do something to finish a home project or he would do it himself when he was able. My Dad was a great father and he loved his family well.

The overwhelming sadness isn’t just from the death of my Dad or Ravi it’s all the death we are focusing on right now. Death just seems to be the main topic every day. I’ve lost two aunts in the last five months. The darkness seems to keep closing in. Evil just seems to be winning every day and if I didn’t know better, I would think evil will win in the end. But I know better.

I believe in eternity and no one truly dies. For those in Jesus Christ, we are given a promise of eternal life through Jesus – we just pass from this life to the true life we are meant to live – with Him forever. We are told through Scripture we will be with Him where He is at that moment of passing. There is no darkness for those in Him – only light. We also know that we will see one another again. We have the hope of resurrection and eternal life with God (Romans 8:18-25).

I may have a sense of sadness every now and then due to the events happening around me or the world, but my underlying sense is one of hope and assurance that God is in control in all things. No matter what the evil one plans, God has a countermeasure to bring good from it for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Sometimes I just need to sit in His Word and let it wash over me. Sometimes the Word needs to fill my tank just as I get filled up being with my family. My tank needs to be full. If I start running low, my emotions and my outlook seems rather dark like there is no hope for this world. God has worked many of my troubles in this life for His glory. I know He still is going to work something out for the story of loss we feel for this day for His glory too.

I believe in a Great God who can take our troubles and make them into a great testimony. We just have to surrender our plans to His. Our plans are futile without Him. God’s plan was not to heal Ravi from cancer. God’s plan didn’t include healing my Mom from cancer or my aunt either.

But this I do know, God’s purposes will be fulfilled – I read through every story in the Bible and God works it all out in the end. God didn’t save Jesus from His suffering either – but thank God He didn’t. By His suffering, we are healed and we are saved. There was no other way to have a relationship with God unless Jesus died for our sins.

I also know we all have to suffer at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s at the end like my Mom and my aunt. We are told in Scripture (Romans 5:4) suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. God is always about building character.

It was my aunt who rejoiced in her suffering when she found out she had cancer. She knew Jesus was right by her side. She was at peace with her end. My Mom too.

I told my Mom when we first learned of her cancer, that God had given me a sense of peace about it. I thought He was going to heal her, but He had other plans which are not truly known to this day. My Mom too felt that sense of peace and reconciled to the fact God had chosen that type of death for her.

There is a 100% guarantee we will all die one day. We just have to be ready to meet Jesus no matter what. If we are given another ten, fifteen or fifty years, we still have to live each day as if it’s our last because we never know the number of our days or the time of Jesus’ return. And yes, I have hope that I will see Jesus return in the clouds for His church. I will be ready for that day. How about you? It’s time to be ready no matter what!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Making a Difference

It just doesn’t make sense. The news was bad. It takes time to process and after you do, it still makes no sense. You might think I am writing about the political landscape, but what I share is death. Death is bad news. It’s loss. It’s sorrow. But when it is someone who has such a bright future ahead, you just can’t make sense of why bad things happen to good people.

I lost my aunt a couple of weeks ago from cancer. She faced a long battle that finally ended for her. It was expected. But I woke up this bright, sunny morning going through my routine when I jumped onto Facebook to see what my friends and family had posted. I was shocked to learn of this young man’s life cut short by a new motorcycle and a good evening to ride.

I didn’t know him. I saw him around church. He was the kid everybody wanted to hang with. He was energetic and flashed a big smile. He spoke to everyone – even me – just one who passes by. I noticed when he left to go to college how everyone congratulated him and wished him well. When he came home, the people in his circle were so excited to see him. He seemed to be a really good guy.

But as I read the posts by my friends and church family, I noticed how big a loss this truly is to our church body. It’s a sad day. To make it worse, there’s no gathering together to mourn the loss. There’s no comfort of hugs as people come together to remember. I felt this loss when I went to see my aunt for the last time. There was no comfort found in mourning alone. But as I reflect on my aunt and this young man, I don’t mourn their loss of life because they are more truly alive today in heaven than what they ever experienced here on earth.

It’s hard to explain to those who do not understand this joy when we face these times of sorrow. We do not mourn as those without hope. We have the hope of Jesus – the One who defeated death and claimed victory for eternal life. Yes, we experience sorrow. But oh the joy we find in Jesus. If this young man’s legacy is as it appears to be, even in death his light will shine. This isn’t the end of his story. He already has a legacy even at his young age.

It was a death of a friend that reached into my heart and changed me. And I believe God can do it again with someone else who is on the fence looking in and wondering about their own eternity. My friend died at a young age too; a little older this young man. My friend was a godly woman. It was a tragic accident too. But what set this death apart from all the others I had experienced up to that time was she was around my age. It was shocking. I knew people died young. But not ones I knew. Maybe this young man’s death can be a catalyst for change in someone else’s life. I pray it may be so.

When my friend died years ago, I was faced with my own mortality. Even thought I have known about Jesus all my life, I didn’t know where I would go when that day of death occurred. You see, my life had taken a detour for a few years. I wasn’t living as one who had given their life to Jesus. Basically, I knew about Jesus, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

From my years of church life, I just thought you said a prayer and it was a done deal. But when my friend died, I had to know for sure where I stood with Jesus. I began the journey to find Him. My friend’s death changed my life. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We just have to trust God in our circumstances and remember He is our good Father who loves us and weeps with us in our sorrow.

We will all die one day. My hope is that you will know where you will go when you do. Let this young man’s life touch you too. We are to make the most of what God gives us – each and every day. God will make the most out of our days even when it’s such a short time. We just have to surrender each day as if it’s our last. This young man’s life has made a difference – even to the one who just passed by.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.” John 11:23-27

To Stay Under

Last night, I wanted a good movie to watch. I didn’t want fluff. I wanted substance. I found Corrie Ten Boom’s story called The Hiding Place. I read the book many years ago and I had forgotten the details. I remembered it was about her life in the concentration camp.

Before the time of hardship, their family led a quiet life until the Nazis showed up in their world. The Ten Booms decided to take a stand. They decided to help anyone who came to their door. They had a safe place for Jews to come until they could make their way out of the country. It was because of that stand that eventually led to the family’s arrest.

Corrie, her elderly father, her sister Betsy and her two brothers were arrested. Her father died soon after the arrest. Her two brothers died while in prison. Corrie and Betsy were taken to the same prison and eventual concentration camp. Betsy seemed to have had the greater faith. She encouraged Corrie not to hate but to thank Jesus in everything even the hardship.

Their conditions were harsh. Betsy was beaten because she could not keep up with the work. They stayed in an infested dorm room in overcrowded conditions. But Betsy kept telling Corrie, even in the deepest pit, Jesus is deeper still. Betsy thanked Jesus for the conditions of the room – the lice kept the guards out of their space. It gave them opportunities to read the Bible and talk about Jesus to others.

This morning, I got up with the message of hope in this trying time. This is nothing in comparison to what the rest of the world suffers every day. Yes, we’ve lost some of our comfort and our normal way of life. Maybe it will come back some day, but we may be in this storm for another month or two or ten. Who knows? But hardship is the perfect way of seeing what’s beneath the surface.

Both Pastor Louie Giglio and Pastor Andy Stanley used James 1:2-5 in their messages this morning. Okay, seems important to remember that trials are for our good. Trials help us to persevere. To persevere means to remain or to stay under. James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us trials are a way for God to finish His work in us. It matures us and makes us complete. That’s why we’re supposed to find joy in our trials. God is working in us to complete what He started.

Our trials or hardships are a way of finding out what’s underneath the surface of our faith. Is it rock solid or is it made of sand? Without storms in our lives, we would never know the authenticity of our faith. Faith is a muscle that has to be tested in order to become stronger.

Jesus told Peter Satan had asked to shift Peter. Peter said he would follow Jesus to his death. But was it true? Peter needed to see what was underneath his declaration “I will die for you.” The story didn’t go as planned for Peter. He denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. Peter had to see his fault in order to become the man he was saved to become. There was a greater work that would be soon coming where he needed a deeper, abiding faith.

We may not like this time we’re in, but God has allowed it for our good and for His glory. We may want this pressure to end. But it’s best to stay under and let God complete His work. I don’t want to get through this time and not see progress on my faith journey. I want this to change me (in a good way). Pastor Louie reminded his listeners that God does not send us storms to destroy us but to refine us. This could polish and perfect us and transform us into the image of Jesus. That’s our purpose as believers in Jesus – to be conformed into His image.

God uses shifting from the enemy. He also uses shears to cut off any branch that isn’t fruitful. For the fruitful branch, He prunes in order to produce more fruit. Living the life we’re meant to live means we have to go through hardships in order to be useful to God and to glory Him. Hardships get us to the place we are meant to be and to be the people we were born to be. We cannot allow ourselves to get out from under the pressure before the work is done or the next storm we face, we may not be able to withstand it.

Corrie Ten Boom’s faith was tested. But in the end, after she was released from the concentration camp by clerical error, she went on to live a life glorifying God and proclaiming His goodness even in the deepest pit. She reminds us even in this hard time we face, He is deeper still. This is our time for shifting to see what is beneath our faith; our time of cutting off the thing that is not producing fruit and it’s time for pruning what remains to become more fruitful. Stay under as long as it takes until what God wants is polished to shine in perfection. Keep the faith – He is deeper still.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Re-imaging Worship

Several years ago, my Pastor had a vision for the future of the Church. He believed the Church would once again be as it was in the beginning – small gatherings in homes; studying scripture, singing praises and then eating together – sharing life together. Soon after the vision, he began a teaching program called Solutionary – to help the membership (well, those who signed up for the classes) learn how to lead a house church. Through the years since, the vision has morphed into missional communities – small groups meeting together regularly, driven by a single purpose to help the community in a specific way.

As I was contemplating this Easter without any of my family – either my biological or my church family – I realized this maybe the first of a new normal. This thought brings some real grief. I have ever been without my family for an Easter celebration. I also realized during this season of forced solitude, I don’t do worship well by myself. I join the online experience, but I can’t seem to get into a worship rhythm with the worship team. This new normal feels wrong somehow. Worship is supposed to be a joint effort, right?

The thought of a house church really appeals to me right now. How about you? But what if we’re months away from another in-person gathering? What if our new normal is small gatherings where we are forced to stay within twenty or less people? What if I have to worship alone for another few months? That’s a lot of what ifs and I can get a bit freaked out if I think about the possibilities too long.

My spirit has felt a bit dry lately even though I have been in God’s Word every day for the last fifteen years or so. I have been in Bible studies. I have going to the church building for our weekly gatherings up until these last couple of weeks. However, something seems to be missing. Maybe I am just going through the motions without really connecting with God. Maybe this forced solitude is to reconnect with my Lord and Savior. Maybe this is a great time to refresh and reconnect and to learn to worship properly without the others around me to influence my worship.

I was reminded a week or so ago from a message by Francis Chan about the worship experience being an act focused on God, not us. He said breaking bread and drinking from the Cup was central to the act of worship in the early Church. It is an act of remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was broken for us. His blood was poured out for us. Jesus told His disciples to remember Him in this way.

Communion should not be taken lightly. This is an act of reverence for what God did for us. He sent His Son to the cross for us. And Jesus’ death was a harsh by suffocation alone, but He was brutalized by flogging and beaten with sticks before He was nailed to the cross. I don’t think we get how offensive sin is to God. Jesus’ death should be our evidence of what God thinks of sin. If not for Jesus, we would have to suffer an eternal punishment for our sins.

According to God’s Law, sin is removed by a blood sacrifice of a perfect lamb. Jesus’ blood had to spill in order for our guilt of sin to be paid. Jesus said from the cross – it is finished – an accounting term meant “paid in full.” One and done. The Perfect Lamb was sacrificed and our sins were washed away. No more eternal punishment for those who believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins! Praise Jesus for what He has done for us!

However, we have to own up to what we’ve done. It’s our sin debt Jesus paid. We have to agree with Jesus – we did not meet His standard. We are guilty. Every time we take communion we come to the table acknowledging our sins before Jesus. But as we lay those sins down, we pick up the bread give thanks for what He has done for us and drink His offering of the Cup that was poured out for us. We come to the table humbled before Him. We go away from the table cleansed by His blood.

Worship should not be taken lightly either. Francis Chan explained in his message, we are actually joining the angels and the ones in heaven in their worship time. We come together to worship, but we are actually slipping in through the back door to join in the worship of God the Father and worshiping Jesus as Lord. The angels are already doing this worship experience non-stop in heaven.

Revelation 4 and 5 show us their worship experience. One day we will be in that crowd of worshippers. But today, while still here on earth, our voices join theirs. They are already on their knees singing Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty. We are the backup singers. And our worship should be God-focused. He is worthy. Our hearts should be turned in His direction. Our voices are lifted to the throne room of God.

We may have to do our worship experience a little differently this year, but it is still an act that pleases God. I may be alone in my living room, but I am joining together with the rest of the Body. It’s a spiritual act and one I should not take lightly.

We don’t know how long we’ll be forced to stay in this solitude time. But until God sees fit to release us from this time out, we will have to re-imagine worship – including communion and remembering all Jesus has done for us. It’s a time of humbling ourselves before our great and almighty God; recognizing we have fallen short of His standards, and confessing our sins before Him. Once we come to the place of repentance, I believe God will heal our land and our spiritual Body will be better for it.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28

What is the Silence Teaching You?

For the last couple of weeks, I have heard many encouraging words. But I have also heard a message or two about where is God at a time like this? It’s always the question when trouble comes, right? One of the messages I heard recently from Pastor Jack Hibbs concerned the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation.

Jesus has been given the authority by God the Father to judge all things. During Jesus’ time on earth, He did not judge (condemn) but came to save (rescue) us from our sins. He exchanged our sin debt for His life – He was the Sacrificial Lamb who took away our sins by His blood being poured out for us (by death on a cross).

After Jesus’ ascension back to heaven, His role has changed. He will no longer by the Sacrificial Lamb but the Lion of Judah when He returns. Through His mercy though, He offers warnings to His people. When He was walking this earth, He spoke of the Good News that the Kingdom of God was near. He asked all to repent of their sins. He looked at sinners and told them He forgave them. He looked on the people with compassion. He healed them; drove out demons and caused the blind to see and the deaf to hear. That was then; what’s going on now?

Jesus still looks on us with compassion. He still sees us as sheep without a shepherd; lost and wandering in the desert looking for food and water. However, He warns us through His Word that time will come when we have to own up to our sins. We will face Him one day as a judge. For those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, His judgment will be based on what we have done with what we were given. For those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior will be judged based on the sins they committed. We will all be given an eternal sentence – it just depends on whether it’s life or death.

This all seems a bit harsh, right? Sorry, just writing what I know to be true. However, there is still Good News to be shared in this day and time. Jesus did come to save the lost and to bring living water and daily bread to those who would seek Him. The Kingdom of God is still near and He still wants us to repent of our sins. He still forgives and gives us life everlasting when we turn toward Him. There is no doom and gloom when we received the free gift He offers us. He is still the Rescuer and the Redeemer.

In Revelation, we find seven letters to churches Jesus chose to give a warning before their influence is removed from them (their lamp stand). It can be said these churches represent the Church through the ages. It could also represent our own hearts concerning Jesus. Jesus warns the churches of their lack of zeal for the Lord. He also told them to repent and turn back to Him – to those who have ears, let them hear.

If we wonder where God is at this time, look to God’s Word. God is speaking today just as He was in biblical times. However, are we paying attention? I do not believe God caused these things to occur, but I do believe God has allowed these things for our good and for His glory. I believe He is using these times to get our attention.

The distractions have been taken away. Our “busyness” has been put on hold. There is nothing to fill our time with going back and forth – chasing after the wind as Solomon put it in Ecclesiastes. There is silence wherever you turn. Very few cars on the roads, people are not gathering in different places; and life has slowed down to an almost stop. Every worship center around the world has closed regardless of religion. So, why the silence?

God speaks clearly in the silence.

When the prophet Elijah wanted to see God, God hid him in the cleft of a rock. God was not in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart or the earthquake or fire; but when Elijah heard a gentle whisper, he pulled his cloak over his face and went to stand before the Lord at the mouth of the cave (1 Kings 19:11-13).

It is silence that brings His presence. Are we willing to step into the cleft of the rock in order to hear Him? We haven’t experienced this type of silence in so long, it’s a bit scary. However, it’s never a scary thing to be with God. Peace beyond understanding is what He gives in His presence.

There are many words in the Bible to give us encouragement for such a time as this. Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6-9); I’ll be with you wherever you go (Deuteronomy 31:6). When I find myself in circumstances beyond my control, every time God brings Isaiah 41:10 to mind:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

God is speaking. Cover your face and listen to Him. Lean into this time. Learn from it. Make this a pivotal time in your life and also your family’s life. Jesus is here with us and for us and is upholding us in this time. Be assured of His presence in the silence.

Lord, give us ears to hear and a heart that is obedient to what You say. Forgive us and help us turn away from these sins of ours and turn to You and only You. May You once again look upon us with favor as we humbly come before You. Heal our land as only You can do for the sake of Your Name and for Your glory. Amen.

Time Out

Even before I know what happened while I slept, I was reminded God is in control. The birds are still singing, the earth still rotated for the sun to rise in the east. God is still a miracle worker, a way maker – even when we don’t see Him working, He still works. Even when we don’t feel Him near, He is still near. Most of those words are from a song titled Way Maker by Leeland. The song was playing in my head as I read my daily Scripture this morning.

The Bible is full of stories of God’s work in progress. I have read through God’s instructions to Moses and the Laws given to the Levites. I read through the promises God gave His people. But I also noticed God had warns if His people were disobedient. He promised too that if the people did not follow His Laws, then there would be consequences. And He warned them what would happen – exile from the Promised Land He would give them. The Land would be cursed because of their disobedience.

God is still working in the process. We may not understand what He’s doing in the midst of our circumstances, but He is still at work. This circumstance we’re in today may be a “time out” – a warning – like He gave the Israelites in the Old Testament before their exile. We have to admit our disobedience to God’s Word. We have been very disrespectful to Him through the last twenty years for sure. I don’t want to say this virus is a punishment from God, but this could be a way He uses to get our attention.

We have been distracted by many things especially in the last four years. This time out has wiped away our distractions – no more sports, no more running around after things that do not matter. The television is still blaring, but it’s only blaring bad news. I get stressed just listening to all the information they keep throwing at us. I turned it off. I still find out what I need to know, but I don’t have to listen to it sixteen hours a day.

Precautions are a good thing. Washing hands – yes, please do – we shouldn’t have to be reminded of this during a crisis. However, we are to be aware of what God is doing around us. If someone is panicking, we need to help them with perspective. God is still on the throne. God is still a miracle worker. He is the Way Maker. He is the hope of the world. We can help them look up and see Him at work in the world. This may be the greatest time in our current history to show them His glory.

I have a book that I read in my quiet time written by missionaries throughout the world. One of the stories I read this morning concerned a missionary who traveled by motorcycle to remote villages. A Muslim man drove him for many days on dirt paths through the jungle. One day, they had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. There was no hope for the tire to be fixed unless God fixed it. The missionary lifted the tire to the heavens and asked God to fix it.

The missionary handed the tire to the driver and asked him to put it back on the motorcycle. They started out slowly, but after a few miles the driver increased his speed. By the end of the day, the tire was like new. This story circulated throughout the area – not about a tire, but about a God who hears and answers prayers. Many came to faith in an awesome God who answers prayers.

God still answers prayers. However, we still have to be faithful to ask them. We still have to humble ourselves before Him. He is waiting patiently and sometimes He has to get our attention. Sometimes the finances have to be wiped away. Sometimes our health has to fail. Sometimes we have to realize we are not in control. Sometimes we need to be in time out so that we can see Him more clearly.

Time out is a fairly new concept. We didn’t have it when I was growing up. I got the full punishment when I was disobedient. There wasn’t a time when I sat in a chair to think about the wrong I had done. When I got caught doing something wrong, I knew punishment was coming. Most of the time it was just a spanking, but on the rare occasion I received the belt. I didn’t like punishment, but I knew if I disobeyed there would be consequences. Most of the time, I thought I could get away with my wrongdoing. Some of the times I did. But the times I got caught, I knew what to expect. I had already been warned beforehand.

This may be our time out for this season. We may have to think about the things we have done wrong and seek forgiveness. But if we don’t change our ways, there will be stiffer penalties in the future. We have had ample time to change our ways. God said in His word to Solomon at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 7:13-14):

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

God warns. We react with humility and prayers. We watch God work and give Him the glory. “Tires” should be lifted to heaven and watch God restore our land and fill our hearts. Let the Miracle Worker – the Way Maker do what only He can do as we lift those “tires” for His glory. Let us pray faithfully and obediently and watch God work.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:15-16

Focus and Attitude

How much fear are you feeling today? It seems the world is spinning out of control. With the stock market taking a nose dive for the last week; the election and the virus running the news cycle, it’s enough to cause great fear among us. I know for myself, I have been a bit concerned about all these things. This news cycle is enough for any of us to take a pause to feel a bit concerned about the future. We are living in unprecedented times. Our culture and our times will never be as they were before. Not to give you a real downer today, but just a reality check.

Let’s look at the future for a minute. Socialism will one day rule over us. It’s the way of the future – not just for us in the US, but around the world – we will one day be ruled by the one world government. They will be in charge of everything – from financial, to religion, to how we spend our time. It’s going to happen eventually.

A plague (along with war and famine) will one day wipe out a forth of the world’s population. And one day there will be a one world currency because of the fall of financial systems as we know it today. The future looks a bit bleak, right? The future has been given to us in the Book of Revelation so it will come to pass, one day, but not today.

Today, it’s just a blip on the screen. Socialism won’t come in full force no matter who wins the election, because it’s not time yet. It might be a step in that direction if the socialist candidate gets in the White House. We do have a choice this year on how the future will look for the next four years. Choose wisely, my friends. We still have a congress that will keep socialism at bay for a few more years (hopefully).

The virus that is playing havoc today with the news cycle will die down again eventually. Yes, there will be some sick people out there carrying this thing to the ends of the earth, but it’s not the plague that will take out millions of people. The flu is more threatening than this current virus – so far. It could change, but scientists are working hard to find a cure or vaccine, whichever comes first. And the financial crisis won’t last; stocks will rise again and the economy will bounce back when fear isn’t driving financial decisions.

I took a road trip last week to see one of my dear aunts. Visiting her was such a blessing. Her attitude was so refreshing in this climate of fear. The doctor recently asked her if she had been depressed lately. Her response was why on earth would she be depressed after all the blessings she has experienced in her life? She exuded great joy of all the Lord has done for her. She has an attitude of gratefulness – one that I need to take to heart myself.

When we are grateful for all we have in our lives – all the blessings the Lord has given us – there is no room for fear. When we see our Great God for who He is, there is only hope for a brighter future, because God has all things in His control. Nothing is a surprise to God. It might come as a great shock to us – but for the Lord, this is nothing. If it’s nothing for Him, then why should we be concerned?

We have a focus problem when we are fearful. We focus on the problem and not the One who is in control of the problem. These times maybe unnerving at the moment, but it’s nothing to fear. I don’t like my IRA to drop as it did this week, but I believe God’s in control of my resources too. After all, all the resources come from Him; He knows my needs now and in the future.

I will get out and vote in the next few days for a candidate to run this nation and for those in congress. In November, I will do so again and will hopefully join a larger group that will put the right people in office to do the right thing for God’s will to be done.

And for the virus of the day, I will keep myself healthy – sleep well, eat well and exercise – and take my supplements to keep my immune system running well. There are always steps for us to take as God makes His will known to us. We do our part as God does His.

Our focus should be on doing His will and let the consequences play out as God allows. Keep the faith and do your part too. God is bigger than all this. Trust Him in the midst of our difficulties and let gratitude for a great God exude from you too.

As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the
Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure. Psalm 18:30-32

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