More COVID Counsel

How Elevators Work | HowStuffWorks

Often, after supper, my wife and I read from Chuck Swindoll’s devotional, The Finishing Touch. He has been a long distance mentor of mine since the late 70s through his writings, preaching, grace living and laughter! He, among others, has helped to keep me balanced in life.

Having dealt this weekend with more of the ups and downs of the state-by-state, county-by-county, store-by-store, people-by-people response to COVID, Denise and I found this devotional last night to be encouraging and edifying. Grab a cup of coffee and read “Stop the Elevator.”

Elevators are weird places. You’re crammed in with folks you’ve never met, so you try really hard not to touch them. And nobody talks, except for an occasional “Out, please.” You don’t look at anyone; in fact, you don’t look anywhere but up, watching those dumb floor numbers go on and off.

In a strange sort of way, an elevator is a microcosm of our world today: a crowded, impersonal place where anonymity, isolation, and independence are the norm.

A recently published report by sociologist Ralph Larkin on the crises facing suburban youth underscores several aspects of this new malaise of the spirit. Many children of affluence are depicted as passively accepting a way of life they view as empty and meaningless, resulting in a syndrome that includes “a low threshold of boredom, a constricted expression of emotions, and an apparent absence of joy in anything that is not immediately consumable.”

Exit: involvement and motivation.

Enter: indifference; noncommitment; disengagement; no sharing or caring; meals eaten with headsets turned up loud; separate bedrooms, each with a personal telephone, TV, and private bath; and an it’s-none-of-your-business attitude.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, author of one of the most widely used psychology textbooks, addressed this issue in a Psychology Today article entitled “The Age of Indifference.”

I know of no more potent killer than isolation. . . . It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder. . . . The Devil’s strategy for our times is to trivialize human existence in a number of ways: by isolating from one another while creating the delusion that the reasons are time pressures, work demands, or anxieties created by economic uncertainty.

Philip G. Zimbardo, “The Age of Indifference”, Psychology Today, August 1980, 71-76.

We must come to terms with all this. The need is urgent! Our Savior modeled the answer perfectly. He cared. He listened. He served. He reached out. He supported. He affirmed and encouraged. He touched as well as stayed in touch. He walked with people . . . never took the elevator.

The only escape from indifference is to think of people as our most cherished resource. We need to work hard at reestablishing family fun, meaningful mealtimes, people involvement, evenings without the television blaring, times when we genuinely get involved with folks in need—not just pray for them.

Stop the elevator. I want to get off.

“Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates” (Thomas Mann).

To escape indifference, think of people as our most cherished resource.

— Charles R. Swindoll (Excerpted from The Finishing Touch, Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Word Publishing)

21 Days of Prayer (Day #6)

God’s Sovereign Compassion in the Midst of Man’s Decisions. (Pastor Andrew)

The book of Jonah is quite an interesting book because there are so many interesting literary uses by the author. For instance God’s prophet, Jonah, twice is willing to be killed but the pagan sailors and the people of the sinful city are found worshipping God after they are spared from death. The pagan sailors and the people of Nineveh worship Jonah’s God. Jonah prays in the whale and most likely repents. However, his actions do not back up his repentance in the chapters following his prayer. He gets angry about the plant dying that covered him, but he cared less about the sailors, people of Nineveh and animals dying. 

Several times the phrase “go down” is used.  He went down into the ship, down to Joppa, down into the fish. Several uses of personification are used as well. In verse 4 the original reflects that the ship was thinking or considering breaking up. It is a very interesting book that uses several literary devices in order to help the reader have certain characteristics of the story emphasized in certain ways

We need to see this theme in Jonah:  God’s sovereign compassion in the midst of man’s decisions.

Think about all the moves Jonah made and then the moves God makes sovereignly:

  • God’s prophet runs.
  • God brings pagan sailors to himself because of Jonah running.

  • Jonah runs.
  • God creates a storm and prepares a fish to be on call to swallow Jonah.

  • Jonah delivers an 8 word message.
  • God uses that 8 word message to bring an entire pagan city to repentance toward God.

  • Jonah sat outside the city to watch the explosion of the city (popcorn and soda in hand).
  • God builds a plant then destroys it with a worm.

God’s Compassion to the sailors. Those poor sailors they have to throw out all the cargo. How are they shown compassion? It could have been worse they could have died even though they were pagan. Pagan sailors acknowledged Gods sovereignty and they feared him with a great fear and offered him sacrifice and gave vowels. They may have really truly come to God.

God’s Compassion to Nineveh. Nineveh is described as a great city that has great wickedness, but God doesn’t destroy them.

God’s Compassion toward Jonah. He spares his life. He also gives Jonah shade. More than anything He shows great mercy even though Jonah is opposing God’s will for his life.

Here is the application for us. God uses wicked and sinful people to accomplish his purposes, like us. He is God and we are not. Often we seek our own wills rather than the will of God. We believe our decisions surpass God’s, so we sin.  However, even when we seek our own will God is continuously compassionate and merciful to us.  He sovereignly overcomes our bad decisions and works good through us. We can be condemning, critical, selfish, and uncompassionate to people around us. Consider the key verses of the book of Jonah which are 4:10-11, And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Asked another way, Isn’t God a better decision maker than you because His character is better than yours? Who is the god of your life, you or Him?

Prayer Questions

  • Are there any Christians I will not forgive?
  • Are there any unbelievers I refuse to love?
  • Is there anything in my life that I am choosing my sovereignty over God’s?
  • Are there any current events that I am struggling to entrust to God over what I think should happen?
  • Who do I need to pray for asking God to bring them to salvation?
  • Talk to God about how you have seen his sovereignty in your decisions recently or in the past.
  • Praise the Lord for his specific acts of compassion and rulership to you over the past years.
  • Specially praise God for the Gospel where He has shown His Lordship and compassion in your life!

We Are Where We Are

For a year or more, our world has been and continues to be consumed with COVID-19. It has rearranged our lives in so many ways in bringing fear, death, sorrow, loss, anger, masks, division, criticism, long lines, solitary living, confinement, quarantine, etc.

COVID as a word has probably been used more than any other word in our vocabulary. Somehow, some way it always finds a place of mention or domination in our conversations.

When you consider the baggage of COVID as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, look around you. We are where we are today because our minds and lives have been consumed with a topic of death, despair, division, and dread in every area of life.

Where are you today? Are you dwelling on the aforementioned “D‘s” of COVID or the life, hope, unity and joyful expectation found only a personal relationship with God the Father through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 14:1-6; 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 1 John 5:11-13) ?

No matter what you have endured through this pandemic, may I encourage you to look to Psalms 42-43? Read these words over to yourself quietly and out loud; meditate on what you are reading; then pray through the passage. If you have such darkness pervading you that you want to run away to fleshly, worldly, sinful temptations, let Peter’s response to Christ be your response. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:66-68).

You are where you are based upon where or to whom you have turned. Will you turn to Him Who has the words of eternal life? Cast all your care on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7, 10).

No matter what COVID brings, Christ is always the answer. Be found in Him.

He’s where you are . . . waiting on you to turn to Him.

Heart Counsel

We need this for our hearts today! Soak your soul in the Truth!

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭112:1-10‬ ‭

COVID Counsel #4

One of the many blessings of vacationing at the beach is the rising and setting of the sun. There is something special about standing on the 20th floor balcony with a fresh cup of coffee in hand and your camera ready to take shots of God’s moment-by-moment creation!

Albeit the month of December does not draw a huge crowd to North Myrtle Beach, there were a few folks gathered Saturday morning on the beach waiting on the same spectacular event! One family in particular had staked their claim to front-row seats with their towels and blankets.

As a ribbon of the sun stretched across the horizon, anticipation began to build. Indeed, it was awesome (Psalm 19:1-2)!! The hues of orange, blue, purple and yellow were all mixed together to present a first-morning vacation sunset that would cause a veteran rooster to be overwhelmed!!

Eventually, the sun rose above the few clouds and was in full sight!

With that, the aforementioned family gathered up their belongings and headed back to their room. For them, it was on to the next thing in their day.

Later on I was reminded, this is how we should be with the promised soon return of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)! Everyday I have a front-row seat for His appearing. When the Lord descends from heaven in the clouds with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God, I won’t miss it!! No matter where I am on this planet, I will hear it! Beyond His call to me for salvation, this will be the sweetest, most exciting voice I will have ever heard and the greatest event of my life up to this very moment!!

  • Am I sitting on the edge of my seat this morning looking and listening for His return?
  • Does the imminent return of Christ have immediate effects upon my life right now?
  • Does a sermon on the return of Christ stir me and fill my heart with anticipation and as soon as the gathering is done, I pick up my belongings and head on out for the next thing in my day?

Let’s ask the Lord to renew our anticipation of His return rather than being so consumed with COVID, our fears, anxieties, stresses and what we don’t have right now.

Let’s ask the Lord to nudge us when we get so caught up with this world that we forget about being caught up into the eternal world of His presence! (John 14:1-6)

And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16b-17)

That’s good counsel for our weary souls!

(If you are interesting about a personal relationship with Christ and an eternal home in Heaven, please watch the following video.)

COVID Counsel #3

Keep Your Eyes on the One Who Walked on Water

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

These lyrics written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., came to my mind Monday morning as I sang along with the instrumental version playing through Alexa. The bold lines struck a chord in my heart.

Indeed, COVID has been one of “life’s billows” (a great wave or surge of water) that has tossed us in so many directions that we have been or are today tempted to be “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” How interesting our minds and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) work at moments like these.

The battle is not with COVID but with our thinking.

Is all really lost? Note the phrase, “thinking all is lost.” Is that true? What does God’s Word say about COVID or any circumstance of life?

The songwriter got it right when he said, “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.” That is absolute, eternal truth!

Colossians 1:16–17 For by him all things were created, 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.

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, today, do not listen to your thoughts but think His thoughts. Do not listen to yourself; preach the Truth to yourself.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FZECFq4BvRQ

COVID COUNSEL #2

We are all effected by COVID-19 in one way or another.

This past week while preparing for Sunday’s message from 2 Timothy 2:11-19, a key word in the last verse stood out as a source of needed counsel for my own heart and mind. It is a word that is greatly needed for all of us in the midst of COVID. It is a word that Asaph used so poignantly as recorded in Psalm 7323. The word . . . nevertheless.

Paul reminds Timothy that in the midst of dealing with false teachers in the church at Ephesus as well as their error and leading some astray, Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Asaph, dealing with the doubts and struggles within his own heart, comes to preach the truth to himself and says, Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory (Psalm 73:21-24).

In Sunday’s message from 2 Timothy 2, I shared a quote that I hope will encourage and help you in the midst of how you are being effected by COVID.

The Lord says to us, “Nevertheless.”
Do false teachers seem to abound? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Are perilous times upon us? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Do we fear for the future? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Are we worried for our children’s safety? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Do we wonder how the church will survive? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Do we see some falling away from the faith? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Are we tempted to despair? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Could persecution come to us? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”
Do evildoers rise to power? The Lord says, “Nevertheless.”

Ray Pritchard; The Life God Blesses

Today, would you let the Lord’s “nevertheless” counsel your heart?

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

COVID COUNSEL

Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You wouldn’t say it out loud, but you probably think you are the most intelligent creature on the planet. Why? Because you listen to yourself more than anyone else.” By the way, do you ever have a conversation with yourself or with someone else in your mind?

This preacher went on to say something very needful. “Instead of listening to yourself, you need to preach to yourself! You must preach the Truth to yourself!”

David does this in Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

For sure, COVID and 2020 has been filled with inconsistencies, false information, cancellations, deaths, life-altering illnesses, disappointments, fear, anxiety, abrupt changes, and unfulfilled plans and expectations.

Where do you run? Where do you hide? Where do you find rest for your weary soul? Where do you find strength to take the next step, to live the next day? The answer is found in the aforementioned scripture passages. Read and meditate on what David is saying. Put yourself in the passage. Preach the truth to yourself. Do not listen to yourself, your doubts, your confusion, your pain, your sorrow, your fears, etc.

The help of His countenance (42:5) will always be the help of my countenance (42:11; 43:5) as I hope in my God and praise my God while preaching the truth to myself. Counsel your heart.

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.

How You Doing?

(Slate.com)

As a pastor, as well as for our church congregation, yesterday was a very different day. But then again, it has been a very different two plus weeks!

We were travelling along, for the most part, doing just fine. Our economy was on an upswing. Students were preparing for their final semester and graduation. Many of us were already in the countdown mode for our beach vacation.

Restaurants were booming. Retail stores seemed to be profiting. And, we were going to church . . . just like we always do.

Have you heard the screeching of the brakes? Basically, life has been put on hold. So much of what we would consider the ingredients of life has been removed from us, closed down, quarantined, or reduced.

May I ask, “How are you doing?” We are going into week two of the various levels of virus response in our area. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee enacted an executive order for statewide closures due to COVID-19. Again, may I ask, “How you doing?”

Are you missing your “normal” life? No sports, no Friday night restaurant trips, no TJMaxx, and no Sunday gatherings. (It seemed so strange to walk into the waiting area of my eye doctor last week to find only three chairs located a 100 miles from each other!!!)

Bottom line is, we have been really good at cramming our 24 hours-a-day with the stuff of life. I am not minimizing the severe threat of the coronavirus, but I must say that it has also caused many of our idols to come crashing down in front of us. So very much of our life has been characterized by being “crazy busy” with a truck-load of temporal things.

Friends, life is not found in the abundance of things or activities or recreation or even people. Everything and everyone around us, as far as this time on earth is concerned, is temporal. We can do all within our power to keep things propped up, running smooth, and filling our lives with what we think really satisfies. All it takes is for a virus or a tornado or some other tragedy to wipe it all out; to remove it from our grasp.

Here’s the true bottom line: Who is Jesus to you? Life is not things. Life is a Person (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus Christ came to save you from your greatest crisis which is your total inability to save yourself from an eternity in hell (John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:1-10). But He did more than that. He came to give you Himself, the only way back into a right relationship with God and the assurance of an eternity in Heaven. For more information, click on this link and watch the four YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsP-etMyUZk

Indeed, God has abundantly, mercifully and graciously given us so much to enjoy here on earth, but if they were all taken away from us, would Jesus be enough? When things get back to “normal,” remember the only true normal is Jesus Christ, first in all things (Matthew 6:24-33; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ is the issue in all of life!

How you doing? Would you pray for me, too, that I’ll keep my eyes and heart fixed on Christ?