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?

Quarantined

A few weeks ago, the word “quarantine” was not a frequently used term in our every day vocabulary. Now it is a repeated visitor in our minds and speech along with the terms social distancing, pandemic, fear, worry, panic, cancelled, closed and isolation in light of the spreading coronavirus.

Merriam-Webster defines quarantine as “a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons . . . designed to prevent the spread of disease; a place of isolation; to isolate from normal relations or communication.”

Someone might say, “What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?” While isolation serves the same purpose as quarantine, it’s reserved for those who are already sick. It keeps infected people away from healthy people to prevent the sickness from spreading. (clevelandclinic.org/covid-19)

President Trump has outlined a 15-day plan to slow the spread of the virus. The CDC is keeping us informed in real time. This virus has and is changing our world.

There is another “quarantine” of which every believer should be most familiar. This quarantine is the number one way to effectively deal with the virus. fear, panic, worry, as well as the moment-by-moment effects and news of this pandemic.

That quarantine is your “secret place,” the place where you get alone with God to pray. The place where you “restrain upon the activities or communication of persons,” and you share your heart with God and you listen to God. (Prayer is not a one-way communication.)

That “secret place” is where you “prevent the spread of disease” of worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, dread, panic, and stress.

Listen to these words from Psalm 91:1-6

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the [a]fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and [b]buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

Where is your quarantined, secret place? Perhaps it is kneeling beside your bed in the middle of the night or when you arise each morning. Maybe it’s a special place in your den, living room, back porch, office, or outdoors.

For the Lord Jesus Christ, that secret place was a mountain (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46) or a secluded place (Mark 1:35) or a garden (Matthew 26:36) to name a few.

My friend, to have the eternal perspective on this virus, to have a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-8), to have wisdom from above (James 1:5), to have a genuine place of refuge (Psalm 91:4), to experience God’s mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:14-16), you must spend time quarantined in the secret place.

We don’t relish being quarantined or isolated in our American way of life. But there is a “quarantine” that you will never regret, and you will long for as the days go by.

I’ll see you at the Throne of Grace!

This Transcends Coronavirus Fears

Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors (Psalm 119:24).

In the midst of such uncertainty, distress, fear, anxiety, and sometimes minute-by-minute decision making, where are you finding your enjoyment? From whom are you receiving counsel?

The psalmist gives us the direct answer. Awesome delight as well as omniscient counsel is found in the testimonies of God’s Word.

During these days, you must counsel your own heart as well as the hearts of those around you from the life-giving, eternal, unchanging Word. How prone we are to listen to ourselves, to allow social media and the news to keep us on edge, and to rehearse the doubting lies of the devil.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word (John 1:1) is the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). Since He is the Righteous One (1 John 2:1), He will always give you righteous counsel that will be a delight to your soul (Psalm 19:8; 119:162).

Read the Word, meditate on the Word, memorize the Word, share the Word with your spouse, pray the Word, engage your family with the Word, and delight and counsel your heart in the Word! With so much of what normally fills our daily hours being removed from us, we have time to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn of Him and from Him (Matthew 11:28-30). Take advantage of it!

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7-11)

Being Tribulated

Joshua-940x540
(Pic from Grace Community Bible Church)

You know that when you are stepping forward for Christ, you open yourself for attack from our enemy, the devil.

Sunday evening we were blessed at BCBC to host some humble, faithful missionaries who left their secular, stable profession while in their forties to give the rest of their lives to reaching lost souls for Christ. Now in their late sixties, they are still moving forward, even asking the Lord to give them twenty more years for Him!

He shared from his recent personal study of the life of Joshua some truths that had impacted his heart.  We listened to a man who knows His God, walks by faith, and is a living testimony of the power of the gospel as seen in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.

He began by saying, “You won’t feel the pressure of the devil against you if you are not on the front line!”

His first principle was, “Life is hard, but God is faithful.”  Joshua was nearing 90 years of age when he became the leader of Israel. The LORD spoke the following to Joshua as recorded in Joshua 1:5-10, No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua needed to hear these words because hardship and trial would come; life is hard.  In the face of those trials, these truths from the LORD would help him remain faithful.  They would encourage him “to be passionate, unflinching, and moving forward with much intensity. The most important thing that God wants to accomplish through you may still be in the future.  And Joshua was nearly 90.”

His second principle was, “God is with us no matter where we are or what we are going through.”  He went on to remind us that “God may be the source of that hardship.  God is always at work in our lives.  Nothing happens to us by chance.”  [It is very likely that Joshua had served in Pharoah’s army before the Exodus. Foreigners were common in the army of Egypt. Moses considered him sufficiently battle-tested to appoint him leader of the Israelite defense against the attack of the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exod 17:8-16). Since Joshua was apparently known to Moses, he may already have been in charge of organizing the undisciplined crowd of slaves who had escaped from Egypt into orderly marching columns. Bible Gateway]

His third principle was, “Don’t forget the history of God’s faithfulness to you.”  Joshua could look back to the attack of the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16), and he would be reminded of such faithfulness.  “We need to rehearse in our own ears the history of God’s faithfulness.”

He said in closing that we need to recall these truths when, as a friend of his once said, “we are tribulated.”

In a Split-Second!

Missle Cruiser

That’s all it takes for news anyplace in the world to reach the world along with its far-reaching impact due to the internet.  It impacts the minds, hearts, and emotions of millions . . . in a split-second!

Even the worn-out announcement “Breaking News” still grabs the inquisitive minds of so many!

Early this morning as I sat by the fireplace reading Jeremiah 14-16, I repeatedly saw phrases like this: Then the Lord said to me . . . The Lord said . . . Therefore thus says the LORD.

Compare for a moment earthly, internet news and the words of God.

  • The news you hear in the world turns old in moments; God’s Word is never stale, it’s eternal and life giving (Psalm 33:11; 119:25, 89, 92-93; 1 Peter 1:25).
  • The news you hear in the world is often tainted by man’s viewpoint; God’s Word is always pure, perfect and true (Psalm 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17).
  • The news you hear in the world is always a symptom of a greater problem; God’s Word always correctly diagnosis the case and prescribes the correct remedy (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • The news you hear in the world can quickly become irrelevant; God’s Word is always relevant and fresh for every situation of life (Psalm 119:89-96).

As I pondered God’s direct communication to and through Jeremiah to Israel and their subsequent response, I thought of my response to God’s Word as I read its pages.

Which affects me more; which grips my heart the most; which grabs my inquisitive mind?  News on the internet or the truths of God’s Word?

Spend some time meditating on Psalm 119:97-104.  In a split-second it can change your life, and it’s always for good.

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

Change!!!

old car 1         old car 2

For good while now the “How many ____________ does it take to change a light bulb?” lines have been circulating.  For instance,

  • How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Any of them because they all have their hands in the air!
  • How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-lived, and tinted; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
  • How many independent Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!!  WE AIN’T CHANGIN’ NOTHIN’!!

Now, please take these and others like them all in stride.  It is only a joke.

Truthfully though, for oh so many, change is not a joke.  Most folks don’t like change, and for many, the older we get the harder it is to deal with change. We want our grocery store to stock the same items on the same aisle week-after-week; we tend to want our children to stay young and at home, never to grow up; we are not too fond of anything that is labeled “new and improved” because we know it’s not going to be the same; and we don’t want the stamp machine down at the post office to change either.  Just ask Barney Fife.

You see, change provides a sense of security.  When things supposedly stay the same then we are comfortable.

Truth is, change is all around us every day. Nothing ever stays the same: the universe, your job, your children, the government, the newness of your car, etc.

With that being said, I want to share from my heart two brief, important principles of life in reference to change.  There is much more to be said, but consider these simple truths.

  1. Security in this life can only be found each day in knowing and resting in the Immutable One, Jehovah God.

Malachi 3:6 declares, For I am the Lord, I change not.

Ponder these words found in Psalm 102:12, 25-28, But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations . . . Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee.”

Since God is unchanging, therefore, His Word is unchanging, His plans are unchanging, His character is unchanging, and His knowledge is unchanging.

This security in Jehovah can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

  1. For the follower of Christ, change is the order of the day in our walk with Him.

The good that comes out of all things working together is the daily transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-11).  All of us as believers wear an “Under Construction” sign due to the sanctifying work of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

As we spend time in the Word beholding our God and His Son, we are changed by the power of the Word. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).

So, how do you respond to change? Are you resting today in the Immutable God?  Are you growing and changing into Christlikeness as the Spirit convicts and instructs you?

The most important changes of life are spiritual not material. This isn’t about changing a light bulb which is discarded.  This is about the life of a genuine believer in Christ shining for God’s glory.

All the Questions of Life

Questions

Where do you go when you don’t know what to do?

Who do you call first when you receive devastating news?

When you need wisdom for a major decision, what is your first response?

When your world comes crashing down around your feet, where do you run to hide?

For all of the questions of life, who do you ask or whom do you seek?

Every day of our lives, we are faced with decisions and/or unanswered questions and/or needing a sign post to point us the way and/or a place of shelter from the storm.  For all situations of life, for all the questions of life, and for all the unknowns of life, will you meditate on the following?  I believe you will see the answer in these passages to the questions of life.

Therefore submit to God. . . . Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-8, 10)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28)

97Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
  (Psalm 119:97-104)

And he (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

After meditating on these passages, listen to I Run to Christ