Rejoicing or Railing?

The default setting of my sinful, depraved heart is to be critical and persistently complaining (railing). There is so much about the way life has been going in every direction due to this coronavirus that it breeds such contempt, gripping, anger, and fear. Even having a mask over my mouth doesn’t stop the verbal expression of what’s in my heart.

The greatest moment of my life was when as a five year old the Holy Spirit revealed to me my need of Christ. He also gave me the faith and the power to believe on His name (John 1:14; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Since then, I can’t explain it but Scripture verifies it, Christ and the Holy Spirit have been dwelling within me (John 16:15-25; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:12-14; Colossians 1:27).

One of the rich blessings of this arrangement is that I cannot live the Christian life on my own(John 15:5). Jesus Christ is the Christian life (John 14:6) and at the point of salvation, I am brought into union with Christ, identified in Christ, and live life participating with Christ (John 15:1-9; Romans 6:1-14).

So what does all of this have to do with rejoicing in the midst of the coronavirus and its subsequent effects. Well, since the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in my life, I don’t have to follow the dictates of my heart. Moment-by-moment, I have the blessing of participating with Christ in His life empowered by the Spirit (Romans 8; 12:1-2; Philippians 3:10) as I surrender to His good and gracious authority in my life.

What will that look like? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do (practice) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26)

Note the second word of the complete fruit of the Spirit—joy. No matter what is happening around me in this world or the circumstances of life, the Holy Spirit produces joy when I am surrendered to Him (Ephesians 5:15-21). The Spirit, not me, magnifies Christ through me (John 16:14-15).

I am speaking to my own heart here, but I must say that this world needs to see more joy-filled believers than cranky, whining, pessimistic, critical, gossiping, complaining, gripping Christians! Soak your soul in Romans 8:28-39. Sink your taproots into 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. Let Christ be seen in and through us and not us!! Folks, the tomb in empty! The back of the Book says “We win!” God will fulfill His plan to the very end (Revelation 19-22)!

Furthermore, Romans 8:21-29 has not be erased from the Word of God! How powerful are Christ’s words just hours before being crucified, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart (be of good cheer); I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Last night, after our small group meeting, I sat in our porch swing and found the following song, I Rest My Case At the Cross. As I listened, my heart swelled, tears started down my cheek, and as we say in the South, “I just about had a shoutin’ fit!” (Now it won’t hurt you to have one of those. Trust me. Better yet, read the Psalms. Or ask Paul and Silas in the jail, Acts 16.)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 reminds us, Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Rejoice! Pray (Praise and supplication)! Give thanks! And surrender moment-by-moment to the magnification of Christ in and through you as you participate in His life!! It’s all a supernatural work of the Spirit!!

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, be courteous (humble): 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1 Peter 3:8-10).

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!

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)

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)

His GPS

My wife gets a laugh at my expense when I argue with my GPS. Many times I’ve said, “There’s a better way.” Or, “I’m not following those directions. That will take me the long way around.”

When it comes to discerning the will of God and/or needing direction for your day, those are arrogant statements to make.

Yesterday morning, I opened my Bible to the YouVersion daily reading plan with a hungry heart seeking a word from the Lord. My longing was, “Lord, I am reading every word, every phrase with my eye on You and my ear open to Your voice.”

How cool to see and hear the Lord reveal Himself and His Word to me as I read and jotted each piece of direction in my journal. In the midst of doing so, He directed someone to send the first passage as a text message of encouragement. Wow! How great is our God!

Here’s His GPS for my heart and life in response to my longing:

Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God.
(Ps. 123:1-2a)

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)

Plans are established by counsel. (Proverbs 20:18)

A man’s steps are of the Lord. (Proverbs 20:24)

Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2)

Throughout the day, these truths were set before me. I did not argue with His GPS. They have given me peace and assurance.

Looking forward to His direction today. I’m watching and listening. His way/GPS is perfect (Psalm 18:30).