Burdened, Not Amused

The longer I strolled through the amusement park, the more burdened and sad I became. Everywhere I turned, people were trying to fit in, wanting to be accepted, living a lifestyle of sin, provoking their children to anger, flaunting their assumed freedom, living for the moment, trying to buy happiness, bowing down to the idols of their heart, motivated as described in Jeremiah 17:9

Then, the next morning while reading Ephesians 4:17-19, my mind was transported back to the day before and those dear soul’s greatest need . . . the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why? Because they are living in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (4:17b-19).

If it were not for the grace of God, Ephesians 4:17-19 would describe me. But, how marvelous is the mercy and grace of God that has transferred me from darkness to light! As an old song written by Rusty Goodman says,

Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost,

The change this world needs can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!! But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Protesting on the street corner, shaking your head in disgust, or responding in anger or arguing will not change sinful hearts. These dear souls, just like you did, need someone to love them enough for God’s glory to share the love of God through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can radically change their life for eternity. Real life and adventure is only found in following Jesus Christ!

If you are searching today, my friend, read these scripture verses again and again until your eyes are opened to see your condition before God. Watch the video “How can I go to Heaven?” at the top of the sidebar.

I share this because I care for you. No critical judgment toward you. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) Everyone must go by the way of the cross or forever be lost, . . . and Jesus Christ did all that was necessary for you to have a life worth living here and for all eternity!

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)

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.

And What Will We Do?

On this important day in American history, we (born again believers, John 3:16) will and must do what we are to do everyday, and especially today!

PRAISE THE LORD!

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
(Psalm 145:1-3)

READ GOD’S WORD!

And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [c]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

PRAY!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

MAKE DISCIPLES!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

LIVE THE CHRIST LIFE!

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

You see, friends, the ultimate daily, lifetime step for every believer is wrapped up in one word no matter the circumstances of this world or who’s in authority . . . obedience. The joy of fellowship and the appropriation of blessings in Christ are revealed as we walk in obedience to our righteous, holy, perfect, loving transcendent Heavenly Father by His grace!

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6).

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 ‭

How I Began 2021

Sober, silent, sane and secure.

After a good night’s rest, I awoke to 43 degrees and rain. Made the bed and took care of Liza Jane. Then it was time for the morning meeting at the coffee pot. Love the anticipation of that first cup each morning! Glad I was sober and didn’t need it to deal with a hangover due to senseless, undisciplined revelry that included alcohol.

From there, it was time for the best part of the morning . . . the blessing of meeting with the Lord in His Word. Add to that the beginning of a new, yearly journal.

As I read the Word in the silence, Psalm 99 awakened the stillness in my heart with an absolute truth, The LORD reigns (99:1). I paused and let the Holy Spirit speak to me.

That’s it! If I am to have a sane response to all that 2021 will afford, I must live in the truth that The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble! For all of us who are born again believers in Christ, we do not tremble. We dwell securely in the secret place, in the presence of the LORD Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

How did 2021 begin for me? Sober, silent, sane and secure.

2021 Come Quickly!!

And when it does, what will be different?

Will the passing of the dreadful year of 2020 make your life instantly better?

Does the ball dropping in Times Square automatically change everything into a world of peace and happiness?

What does 2021 promise you?

So, let’s stop for a moment and look to the past. What do you see? The same scenario year-after-year . . . joys and sorrows, fulfilled and unmet expectations, life and death, wins and losses, ups and downs, financial gains and losses, strength and weakness, calm and storms, success and failures, and my list could continue.

You see, it’s been this way since the Garden of Eden. We live in a sin-cursed world with deceitful, desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that longs to be satisficed with the “husks of this world” (Luke 15:11-16) and the selfish desires within each of us. It is totally impossible to find lasting satisfaction and joy in this world or within ourselves. Everything around us and within us is temporal, fleeting, decaying and dying.

So, what does 2021 promise you? Nothing. It’s just another year of the same.

What hope then do we have? How will we survive? What do we have to look forward to?

The answer is wrapped up completely in a name, in the Person, the very Son of God . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are still in the midst of celebrating a special holiday called Christmas which is all about the name at the beginning of the word Christmas…Christ.

He is the Good News for today, for 2021, for the past and for eternity future!

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.(Matthew 1:21)

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. . . . He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:16-17, 36)

My friends, John 14:6 spells it out so simply when Jesus said, I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The way, the truth, the life are not things, a better year, a pay increase, being married, having children, or any other ingredient you think you can add to your life to make you happy and/or satisfied. All three of these are now and will forever be a person . . . the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Way to Heaven and the way of everyday life is found only in the Person of Christ. He desires to have a personal relationship with you for all eternity. The Truth is now and will forever be in the Person of Christ. He is the unchangeable, living Standard. He is the Truth Who will personally guide you into all truth, in the paths of righteousness (John 16:13; Psalm 23:3). And, Life is now and will forever be the Person of Christ. There is no life outside of Christ. You will strive and exist in this life, but true living is only found through the Creator, Giver, and Sustainer of life.

Jesus, come quickly today as I walk with you and you with me (Psalm 1, 23; John 15:1-11; 1 John 1).

Jesus, come quickly and take us home to Heaven where we will truly, finally be home! Then it will all be different; it will all be right; it will be one eternal day of basking in your glorious presence, serving You without sin, sorrow, disappointment, pain. . . the stuff of this life that binds us.

I’m not looking for the ball to drop in Times Square. I’m looking for the Savior to return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

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).