The “New Normal”

“Groovy, Man!”

“You got mail!”

“Good night, John Boy”

“I know nothing!”

“Nip it in the bud!”

“My bad!”

“I’m good!”

Adulting

Crazy busy.

These and hundreds more are words and phrases that crop up each year to describe some aspect of life, culture, thought, action, etc. Today’s new word/catchphrase is, “the new normal.” Seems like everywhere I go, I hear people talking about it.

What is the “new normal”? Everyone would definitely have their very own definition due to COVID-19 and quarantine. Life has changed so much. Indeed, there are aspects of the pandemic shut-down that have been positive, enriching, enlightening, and life-changing. On the other hand, in many ways it has been difficult. So most likely, the “new normal” would be a mixture of life as it was before the coronavirus with a few work, family, recreational, and/or spiritual changes thrown in.

Truly though, what is the “new normal”? Well, just as in all of life, we need to search the Scriptures and see what the Creator of life has to say. No matter the scenario, question, or circumstance of life, you always begin with God, Jehovah Elohim (Genesis 1:1). He is the Starting Point, the Supply, the Substance, the Sustainer, and the true Success of all life, here and for eternity.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). This chapter in Romans speaks of our union, identification, and participation with Christ Who has redeemed us from our lost, sinful, helpless, guilty, hell-bound condition (Romans 3). Because we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23) and with an old sin nature (Romans 6), we are spiritually dead, following the course of this world and of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The greatest crisis of my life is how to reverse this condition. Hallelujah for the love of God (John 3:16), the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 3:18) and His resurrection from the grave (Matthew 28:1-6; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15) and the regenerative, convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-14; Titus 3:5) that takes me from a life dominated by the old sin nature, worldly philosophy and Satan, and gives me Christ’s life in exchange for mine! That is newness of life (Romans 6:4)!!

This newness of life is Christ living His life in me and out of me (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) from the very moment of personal salvation (Romans 10:9, 13) received from Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I am now alive to God (Romans 6:1-14). This newness of life is continually fresh and refreshing as it is the life (zoe) of God!

My friends, that is truly, genuinely, and for all eternity “the new normal.” This world is constantly changing. Today COVID-19, tomorrow something else. That which is absolutely normal is . . . life in the unchanging, eternal Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8), and it is new every morning, every hour, every day, every week (Psalm 23:1-6; Lamentations 3:22-24; John 6:48; 11:25; 14:6; Philippians 1:19-26; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 5:11-12).

So when looking for the “new normal,” look to Christ!

This life is #awesome!

Prayer Points – Day of Prayer

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Praises

1. God is in complete control (Is. 45:7)

 2. Our Father knows all our needs (Matt. 6:31-33)

3. Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39)

4. God uses calamity to turn people to Him (Is. 19:22: Hab. 3:2-6)

5. God’s ways are deep and wise (Ps. 92:5,Is. 40:13-14)

6. The LORD is with us (Ps. 46:1, 11)

The World

1. God’s word to have free course and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1)

2. Seekers to find true shepherds and not false ones (Jer. 50:6, Mark 6:34)

3. Powerful witness of gospel media (Acts 1:8)

4. Repentance of world leaders (Jonah. 3:6, Dan. 4:37)

5. Wisdom for leaders in making decisions (Prov. 21:1, 1 Tim. 2:2)

6. Mercy: Delivering lives and limiting the pandemic (Amos 7:1-6)

7. Specific places: NYC, USA, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, etc. (Ps. 46:10)

8. A realization of the destructive nature of sin in our world (Rom. 5:12)

Those in Need

1. Strength, wisdom, love, and protection for health workers (Ps. 145:9)

2. Healing for those who are sick (Matt. 8:16-17)

3. Income for those who have lost work (Eccl. 5:19)

4. Sustaining of ministries hampered by the lockdowns (Ps. 90:17)

5. Sustaining of persecuted Christians in poor areas of the world (Heb. 13:3)

Spiritual Growth

1. Renewed perspective on God’s priorities for our lives (Ps. 90:12)

2. Pursuit of God more than entertainment (1 John 2:15-17)

3. Devoted time to Scripture memory and meditation (Ps. 119:11)

4. Devoted time to private prayer and corporate prayer (Matt. 6:6, 18:20)

5. Hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6)

6. Purity for God’s people stuck at home (Ps. 119:9-10)

7. Spiritual strength to rise and work (1 Cor. 15:10, Col. 1:29)

8. Growth in faith and endurance (Jam. 1:2-4)

9. Joy and thanksgiving (1 Thess. 5:18, Ps. 92:1)

Families

1. Parents refocusing on their calling to their family (Eph. 6:4)

2. Husbands & wives serving one another spiritually (Gen. 2:18, 1 Pet. 3:7)

3. Families bonding in seeking God together (Ps. 133:1, 1 Chron. 16:10-11)

4. Children learning from their parents’ godly responses (Prov. 23:26)

5. Edifying activities & positive spirits for children stuck at home (Col. 1:9-12)

6. Salvation of unsaved loved ones (1 Cor. 7:16)

Pastors and Missionaries

1. Increased closeness to God Himself (Ps. 73:25)

2. Abounding grace for new and overwhelming challenges (2 Cor. 9:8)

3. Wisdom to re-plan for the rest of the year (Prov. 16:3)

4. Wisdom & Discernment to feed, lead, & protect their people (1 Pet. 5:1-4)

5. Boldness and faith to show people their sin (Is. 58:1, Jer. 23:22)

6. Opportunities to powerfully testify of Christ (Acts 4:33)

7. Protection from attack (2 Thess. 3:2)

8. More laborers sent out to the uttermost parts (Matt. 9:38; Acts 8:1-4)

Local Churches

1. Good online connections and edifying communication (Heb. 10:25)

2. Fellowship for isolated Christians (Ecc. 4:12)

3. Love, grace, forgiveness, mutual care, and increased bonding (Jn. 13:34)

4. Spiritual initiative of members being proactive to edify (Eph. 4:12)

5. Consistent support of pastors and missionaries (2 Cor. 9:11)

6. Increased commitment to one another as a body (1 Cor. 14:12)

7. Unity of God’s people (Jn. 17:21, Eph. 4:3)

Reviving of the Church

1. Deliverance from complacency and spiritual slumber (Rom. 13:11)

2. Alert to the nearness of Christ’s 2nd Coming (Matt. 24:7-8)

3. Revival of corporate prayer & fasting (even while apart) (2 Chr. 20:3-6, 12)

4. Great repentance on individual, local, & international levels (Joel 2:12-17)

5. Formation of prayer groups that will endure beyond this time (Matt. 18:19)

6. Powerful testimonies of hope that impact the panicking world (1 Pet. 3:15)

7. Spirit-empowered boldness in sharing the gospel (Acts 1:8)

8. God manifesting Himself in a mighty way among us (Ex. 33:16, Lk. 11:13)

9. A time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19-20)

10. A work of the LORD’s doing, marvelous in our eyes (Ps. 118:23)

“When saints are all alive and instant in prayer, it is the index and token that the Lord will open the windows of heaven and pour them out such a blessing that they shall not have room enough to receive it.” – C.H. Spurgeon

(Compiled by our fellow servant in the gospel ministry, J. B.)

Zoomin’ On!!

Singing In Christ Alone, The Solid Rock,  Nothing Ever Can Nothing Ever Will, Be Still My Soul, He Will Hold Me Fast, the reading of Galatians 5:16-26; preaching from Romans 8:5-11, Sunday School & Adult Bible Fellowships, hearing of gospel ministry in Brazil to the deaf, and corporate prayer, these were some of the components of the last time we met in March as a corporate body in our church building.  I’ve intentionally kept the hard copy of the Sunday Gathering Order in the flyleaf of my Bible.  Good memories!

Yes, we have missed the many ingredients of a Sunday at BCBC as well as other gatherings. Nevertheless, God in His grace and mercy has been so very good to us!

In this midst of this quarantine, what have we enjoyed?  What blessings have been graced upon us?

  • Zoom Services.  Thank the Lord for technology that has kept us connected.  With all the push toward social distancing, the Lord has enabled us as a congregation to stay close.  Through Zoom, we see/hear each other, chat with one another, share blessings, fellowship with our missionaries (Asia and Europe), rejoice over the salvation of a precious soul, evangelize those who would not attend a gathering in person, and . . . wave at each other when we “leave the meeting.” 🙂
  • Zoom Prayer Meetings.  What a blessing to hear adults, young people, and children pray for the salvation of lost souls, spiritual awakening in the world, America, and the Tri-Cities, and revival for BCBC!
  • Zoom Small Groups.  Each week when groups have chosen to meet, they have experienced the presence of the Lord as they pray, discuss the Romans passage from the previous Sunday’s message, share burdens, simply chat, and encourage one another. Once again, the grace provisions have been rich!
  • Zoom Sunday School. The upper grade school class has been meeting after the morning service. Last Sunday, they were able to have a “visitor” from Germany participate in their class as they even did an outdoor activity. How cool is that?!?!
  • Zoom Teen Meetings. Pastor Andrew has been able to continue teen ministry through meetings at various times through the week, even reading through Mere Christianity with some guys. So good to see a passion to continue to disciple.
  • Zoom Apples of Gold. My wife loves to disciple ladies through this ministry. The past three Sunday afternoons, she has given a cooking lesson (jam, donuts, biscuits and sausage gravy) for the purpose of creating hospitality and gospel conversation times going forward. There has been teaching and questions from the participants, laughter, encouragement, and even the fulfillment of given opportunities to be a blessing to others during week.

Indeed, there are many other grace blessings that I am not aware of because our God is bigger than the coronavirus and social distancing, and He is fulfilling the promise of Matthew 16:18 around the world! I am certainly looking forward to meeting again in a corporate setting at our building to sing, pray, fellowship and hear God’s Word proclaimed, but in the meantime, we rejoice in how God accomplishes His will and work no matter the circumstances.

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
(Psalm 106:1-2)

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Treating COVID-19 Marriage Conflicts

I heard someone say years ago when asked how long he had been married, “38 years, . . . and 36 of ‘um have been good ones.”

So, has COVID-19 stretched your marriage like a rubber band? Has it created additional conflict due to being together too much? Has the stress of the quarantine created some tough times?

Well, let me encourage you about something. The issue is not the quarantine or the coronavirus. The issue is that two sinners are living under the same roof.

Recently I heard about a book that intrigues me in regards to pre-marital and marital counseling. (I have not read it yet.) Authored by Dave Harvey, the title is When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. Harvey says, “Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin.”

The coronavirus cannot cause strife in your marriage. The cause was there before COVID-19. The cause is your old sin nature which is full of pride, selfishness, criticism, harsh words, envy, jealousy, anger, fear, and much more. It stands in constant opposition to God and has a downward gravitational pull.

Let me give you a challenge. I could offer suggestions, but only the Word of God has the power to transform you, your situation, and your marriage in tough times. Therefore, here’s the encouragement, and men, take the lead. As a couple read Romans 5:1 – 6:23; 8:1-39; and Ephesians 4:17 – 5:33. Pray before you read the Word, then read it together. Read it slow. Read it out loud. Ask the Spirit to reveal Christ to you through the Word. Ask each other after reading a verse or two or more, “What does this passage say to us about our marriage? What do we need surrender? How do I need to change?” Take off the face masks and be transparent before the Lord and each other. Soak your soul in the Word of God and lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

There are still many unknowns about the coronavirus, but that is not the case with marriage. God created marriage and has given us the manual for marriage if we will just read it, obey it and trust God for His way in it.

Be as willing and proactive to protect the gift of marriage from the sin virus as you are the coronavirus.

Hold’er Newt!

My father had many “dad” sayings that have lived on through me. One that came to my mind just this morning was, “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!” What in the world?????

Well, he would use that statement to describe an action that needed to be slowed down, stopped or taken with caution.

Yesterday, the governor of our great state of Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee, announced that he would not extend the “safer-at-home” orders beyond April 30 and would begin to reopen the state. At that moment, I could hear car engines fire up, restaurants buzzing with weight-gained, post-quarantined shoppers, stimulus checks zeroed out in three debit card swipes at reopened stores, and a state of basic euphoria!!

Okay, Dad! Say it! “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!” I share in that excitement, but is being set free from quarantine and your life returning to what you call “normal” really what you want? Is it best?

First of all, it all begins with our heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life. The heart here is not the physical organ within your chest, but it describes the inward core of every person. This is “Central Command.” This is NASA’s “Houston.” In other words, it is the headquarters of your feelings, thoughts, actions, and choices. For instance, Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 15:17-19, Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. And in Luke 6:45, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil [i]treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. And we must be reminded of the words of Jeremiah, The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings
(17:9-10).

Has this time of quarantine prepared your heart for greater contentment? Has the Word of God been tucked away in your heart during these six or more weeks of shut-down? Is your heart right with God? Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11-12).

Second, have you gained a greater desire for prayer and communion with the Lord during these days such that instead of jumping right back into life the way it used to be, you will find yourself seeking the Lord before any decision or action? Will you and your family be praying more about these days ahead? Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:19). May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Thirdly, will you live a life of rush, rush, rush again (“crazy busy”) or have you planned into your weekly routine times of rest and refreshment? Proverbs 21:5 says, The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Have you thought through the biblical priorities of life? What is Christ in you saying about your next step today or next week? Note the words of Christ as recorded in John 4:34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Proverbs 16:3,9 has great counsel for us. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Remember, every time you say “no” to a non-essential or lesser priority issue, it allows you to say “yes” to something more important. You see, there is eternal, godly ministry that the Lord would have you to participate in that might have been pushed away due to being too busy and too tired. You have a clean whiteboard today. Choose prayerfully and in a God-honoring way (Matthew 6:33;1 Corinthians 10:31).

I write this today to remind myself and you, when we roll back into “regular life,” let’s not forget that a sovereign God permitted this COVID-19 for many, many reasons. As I said in an earlier post, let’s don’t miss it.

So, okay, Dad! Here you go, “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!”

Don’t Miss It!

Could the rapture be occurring today?

Are we in the beginning of the tribulation period?

Is God judging the world; our country?

Was this virus a part of a conspiracy?

These and many more questions have been asked, and we grope for answers. Of those questions stated above, I know that the rapture of the church has not occurred and therefore the subsequent tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:9). Since there are no signs for the rapture, only promises, we know that it could occur right now. As my wife has said, “It will happen in somebody’s lifetime. It might as well be mine!”

Also, in reference to this virus being the judgment of God, I agree with Thomas Schreiner’s statement, “All temporal judgments are meant to direct our attention to final judgment.” (Revelation 20:7-15)

Nevertheless, from the very beginning of the gradual shut-down, “safer at home” mandates, and face masks, I have had one definite fear. It is not a sinful fear, but one that has driven me to prayer and the Word. It is that when the “pandemic” is over, we will miss what God intended for us personally, nationally, and corporately as in our local churches.

This very desire led me to roll out of bed Tuesday morning at 3:30 and get on my knees in prayer. “Lord, You are under no obligation to reveal to me your purposes in permitting this virus, but if You would be so gracious, would you share enough with me so I don’t miss what You want to teach me?”

After prayer, I began to read the Word. Currently, I am reading through 1 Chronicles, Luke, Psalms and Colossians. Normally, there is one psalm to read each day in my Bible reading plan, and having read Psalm 129 on Monday, I read Psalm 130. Having completed my reading and writing in my journal the things God has spoken to me about, I picked up my phone to record my daily reading in the YouVersion app.

My reading was not complete. Psalm 131 was scheduled for Tuesday as well. God speaking to me was not complete either because Psalm 131 was the answer to my prayer. As I read, I believe the Lord revealed to me one of the reasons for this trial. “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). God has seen fit at this time to wean us off of much of what we thought was so important for life to be fulfilled.

This is good. Many said before the virus, “I sure wish I could slow down.” Or, “Life is crazy busy!” Or, “There is so much going on that I can’t keep up!” Well, we got our wish. What will we do with It? What have we been doing with it?

Folks, God is trying to get our attention! We had better be awake (Romans 13:11-14). During this shut-down . . .

  • How are the current circumstances giving you an opportunity to seek the Lord?
  • What has the Lord said specifically to you? Could you write it down; could you articulate it?
  • What changes have been made spiritually that will affect all other areas of your life going forward? What has been “weaned away” from you? (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1-39; Ephesians 4:17-32)
  • Have you given more time to prayer? (Psalm 130; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Timothy 2:1-8)
  • Have you read the Word with a greater passion and hunger for Truth? (Psalm 119)
  • Have you sensed a greater conviction of the Holy Spirit that has led to repentance and transformation into Christlikeness? (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 4:12)
  • Have you been crying out to the Lord for a spiritual awakening and revival in our land? (Psalms 3:4; 80; 61:2; 85:6 119:126; Joel 2:12-13)
  • Have you found yourself thinking more about prophecy, the end times? (Titus 2:13)
  • Have you come to realize your need of eternal hope; the need of a personal relationship with Christ? If so, listen to the following link: https://vimeo.com/41496372

This Sunday will mark the fifth Sunday in-a-row that we will not be gathering within the walls of brick and mortal as a church to worship our great God and to fellowship together. How grateful I am for the online connection that has helped us to continue to grow and “meet.” No matter, for our congregation and myself, I don’t want us to miss it! I don’t want any of us to miss what God has to say to us; what He has planned for us going forward!

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with [a]marrow and [b]fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:1-8)

Fear

Fear . . . the dwelling place of millions around the world today.

Fear . . .

  • Puts you in bondage.
  • Sells.
  • Keeps you on edge.
  • Is a companion of worry, anxiety, discouragement, depression, despair, stress, physcial ailment, suicide, etc.
  • Lies.
  • Produces weakness.
  • Is no friend of love.
  • Is a snare in life.
  • Leads to quick, unwise decisions.
  • Causes panic.

What is the opposite of fear? Some of the antonyms of fear are assurance, boldness, confidence, courage, faith and love.

So, how do we live with these characteristics in this fear-filled age? May I encourage you to get a Bible and read each of the passages listed below? Read them slow. Meditate on them. Soak your soul in the eternal, life-giving, absolute truths of God’s Word! Let it wash over your fears and lead you to a faith-filled life that dwells above it all!

What does God say about fear? Joshua 1:9; Psalms 23:1-6; 27:1; 56:3-4; 91:1-16; Isaiah 41:10; 43:1; Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 4:6-8; 2 Timothy 1:7.

I Don’t Want to Go Back to Normal!

COVID-19 has changed all of our worlds around the world!

In short order, our personal calendars have gone blank. Any attempt to reschedule has the word “hopefully” attached to it.

For thousands, there is a longing to get back to “normal” such as work, school, ballgames, shopping, eating out, not wearing a mask, etc.

There is one area of life that I hope does not return to “normal,” and that is what I will call “typical church life” here in America before the coronavirus.

My perception at times over the years has been that the church has been too reliant on programs and “business as usual.” (I remember attending a church growth conference in the 80’s that said if I would spend a $100 to buy their materials, my church would grow to 300 in one year.) With that in mind, there have been occasions where I have desired to announce on a Sunday, “Beginning now, all ministries of this local church are laid aside. For the next 40 days, we will give ourselves to fervent prayer and the reading of God’s Word to discern how Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), would have us continue His ministry for His glory (Acts 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31) in the days to come.”

Well, guess what? It happened! We are living it out right now in April 2020. Indeed, these are uncharted waters for all of us. At the risk of sounding heartless for all who have suffered loss, I must say that I am optimistic! I believe God is up to something awesome right now, and because the Church is His vehicle to accomplish His redemptive purposes, and the Church is still here, having not been taken out (1 Thessalonians 4:13=18), I’m on my knees. I’m watching. I’m anticipating. I’m longing. I’m expecting. I’m reading. I’m listening. I’m rejoicing.

You see, who am I, but I will say with a broken, weary heart that I don’t want to return to “normal” if it’s more of . . .

  • Man-centered, convenience-driven, “I’ll serve if it doesn’t interfere with MY life” ministry. In other words, the self-life taking preeminence over the Christ-life. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20)
  • Prayer meetings usually being the least attended gathering of God’s people on any given week. (Acts 1:13-14; 4:23-31;12:5-17)
  • Lost souls not hearing the gospel from the redeemed on a regular basis; few coming to Christ; and the baptismal pool having to be swept out because it’s become a den of cobwebs and dead bugs. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15)
  • Dry, empty altars. Call me old-fashioned, legalistic, and/or emotional, but we need a fresh awareness of the holiness of God, a renewed vision of Christ and a visitation of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that drives us to our knees in repentance and revival! (e.g. Judges 10:10; 2 Kings 11:17-20; 2 Chron. 15:1-19; Acts 2-5; 10-20)
  • Personal preferences and the fear of man being the driver of ministry decisions as well as the stated “biblical standard” which determines whether we are right or wrong. Since the virus has shuttered our Sunday meetings and weekly ministries, I don’t hear complaining about music preferences, Bible translation arguments, -ism discussions (whatever you wish to use to preface -ism, put it in there). By the way, I don’t think we are going to hear about many church splits during this time!!! (Proverbs 25;29; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:14; Colossians 1:9-18)
  • Church membership being a take-it-or-leave-it decision. (1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5)
  • Pharisaical, hide-behind-my-looking-good-Sunday-attire and continuing to answer the “How you doing?” question with a “Fine!” Oh, that we would be transparent and genuine in our conversation acknowledging our dependence upon the Lord and His people. Oh, that we would enter into the hurts, sorrows, burdens, and sins of others through prayer and scripture reading to help them take the next step toward Christ during fellowship time rather than being upset that our favorite donut was no longer available. (Romans 14:19; 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16)
  • Prayerless, powerless, going-through-the-motion preaching and teaching of God’s Word in every area of ministry. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, “If there is no power, there is no preaching.” (Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 3:6-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)

Over the past few weeks, I have heard pastors say that they were attempting to keep things as normal as possible while using online services. I totally understand what they are saying. With all my heart, may I say, let’s not seek to keep things normal. Let’s cry out for a fresh touch from the Throne of God! Let’s be willing to go with God and not be timid about asking for a fresh movement of the power of God. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Perhaps we could begin that 40 day prayer movement now so we will be ready to follow the Head of the Church into this new territory of ministry when the Lord opens the doors.

I end this post truly from from my pastor’s heart, with two quotes from Vance Havner:

“Too many church services start at eleven sharp and end at twelve dull.”

“The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.”

I don’t want to go back to normal!

Sunday Zoomers

My wife and I had “been to church,” read, eaten dinner, played two rounds of croquet, and it was still the early part of the afternoon! Such is a COVID-19 Sunday!

Yesterday marked the third Sunday for our online services. How cool to see all the faces of our church family as they connected one-by-one to Zoom. To read the Word, to sing praises, to watch an object lesson for the kids, deal with a glitch on my part, and to share praises and answers to prayer; how thankful I am for this blessed online connection!

When I finished teaching through Romans 8:26-27, everyone had a time of prayer in their home or car. We then stayed online for 10-15 minutes for some “fellowship.” We wished one of our ladies a “Happy Birthday” in song, heard about one of our precious girls learning to ride her bike without training wheels, rejoiced in the peace of God overwhelming the souls of one of our families who are on the medical frontlines, listened to someone give a testimony of the power of God’s Word in their life, and recognized all the children!

Indeed, this is difficult, challenging, and very different, but praise the Lord for our church family who are united in working through this trial to praise the Lord and encourage one another! As we have been reminded, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is waiting for us (Romans 8:18).

So while we wait for our gathering in person here and our eternal gathering in Glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we will continue to Zoom and have a literal day of rest.

“How about another game of croquet, Hon?”

A Quarantined Marriage

Monday, my in-laws celebrated 65 years of marriage!! Wow!! What a milestone by God’s grace! And let me say right now, they are still like two little love-birds continuing to feather their nest and keep their marriage fresh. But I will tell you, they made a major adjustment in their relationship when my father-in-law retired early as a plant engineer. My mother-in-law was not used to Dad being at home every day. Being the consummate servant that he is, well, he kept “getting under mom’s feet.” I promise you, there were indeed some adjustments for both of them.

Is that how you feel wives, now that many of the husbands are working at home or vice versa due to COVID-19? Perhaps at first it was a welcomed change. But if these weeks move forward at their projected pace, how’s your quarantined marriage going to look? Will it be like a brief video that is making its way around the internet that has a married man listening to a voice recording that says, “Because of coronavirus, you are going to be quarantined, but you have a choice. Do you A) quarantine with your wife and child or B? And before the voice can announce what “B” is, the father says, “B!” Or, will you make the adjustments and come out on the other side of this trial having put into your marriage the ingredients that can make it 65 years if the Lord wills?

May I say first of all, let’s not waste this opportunity. In spite of the trial, God has given us an opportunity to push the reset button, but not to go back to the way it was before. Reset priorities, schedule, goals, passion, direction, values, etc.

As for your marriage, this quarantine time gives you the opportunity to:

  1. Pray together (And not just at meal time). Stop and pray several times throughout the day. Share your fears, concerns, and anxieties with each other. Then compassionately pray for one another.
  2. Read God’s Word together at breakfast, lunch or supper or before bedtime.
  3. Read a devotional book together such as Paul Tripp’s, New Morning Mercies.
  4. Read a marriage book together such as Emerson Eggrich’s, Love and Respect.
  5. Memorize a passage of scripture together that is relevant to this trial such as Joshua 1:9; Psalms 27:1-4; 34:1-9; 119:92-93; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2 Peter 3:18.
  6. Spend time together on the couch cuddled up like you used to do when you were dating and/or first married. As a matter of fact, go back to some of the things you did when you were newlyweds that added spark to your relationship. Get out of the rut. (Saturday night, my wife and I cuddled on the couch listening to Kenny Roger’s love songs that we’ve enjoyed through our dating and married life. Sure was fun to just be still and hold each other!)
  7. Put your children to bed so you can have some quiet time together talking, praying, reading, playing a game, watching a movie, etc.
  8. Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22-23).
  9. Be forgiving (Ephesians 4:26, 29-32).
  10. Laugh (Proverbs 17:22).
  11. Be romantic with each other.
  12. Take a drive through the country . . . not a fast one either!
  13. Show love and respect for each other by your appearance. Don’t stay in your pjs all day.
  14. Take walks together (hand-in-hand) or work out together.
  15. Work with a pastor or a biblical counselor via the phone or Zoom to repair some hard places in your marriage.
  16. Build a better home for your children. They need the security on knowing that mom and dad really do love each other.
  17. Most of all, grow in your personal relationship with God. The very best thing you can be and do for your spouse and family is to be a growing, maturing believer in Christ (Ephesians 5:18-33; 2 Peter 3:18). Since you have extra time on your hands due to the gym being closed, ball games cancelled, restaurants shuttered, etc., prioritize the most important relationship!

“Divorce rates in China have risen sharply since the coronvirus pandemic began, and America may well be next. It’s understandable. With social distancing measures in place, people are stuck with their spouses in close quarters indefinitely, which eliminates the necessary space many of us need to actually miss our [husband/wife].” (Parade, March 18, 2020)

A marriage that lasts 65 years has to be worked at day-by-day with many adjustments along the way. Don’t let your marriage be a casualty to COVID-19. Make social distancing work for your marriage, not against your marriage. The grace of God defies all of man’s reasoning and ability. Don’t waste the opportunity!