COVID-19 DISTRACTIONS

(Wall Street Journal)

In the past few weeks, I have often heard the following statement: “I will be glad when this mess is over!” Of course, they are speaking of the coronavirus pandemic.

No doubt COVID-19 has affected you as it has me, and quite frankly, from a selfish standpoint, I am done with it as well. I am weary of the constant discussions about it, the masks, the social distancing, care facilities and hospitals being closed to visitors, stares from others when I forget to wear my mask, the political bantering about it, trying to following the direction signs in the floor, the affect upon the sports worlds, the inconsistencies of businesses in following the local authorities’ mandates, etc. Have I covered them all? Probably not. Sigh.

Now, at the beginning of every thought, every circumstance, every question, every doubt, every frustration, every illness, every misunderstanding, everything in life, I must begin with God (Genesis 1:1), with Who He is; His attributes, character and essence. He is always, and for all time, the correct starting point, the perfect plumb line, the no-fail GPS for our lives.

Since that is true, I know that Satan wants to use his ability (2 Corinthians 11:3) along with our old sin nature (Romans 6-7) to keep us from dwelling in the land of absolute truth, Who God is; from abiding in Christ (John 15). So, he uses distraction and deception along with your human viewpoint. As harmful as COVID-19 can be, lets’s face it, the coronavirus has caused us to live distracted lives.

Can I help you? Are you distracted? Have your thoughts been more earthward than heaven-bound? If so, will you meditate on Psalm 94:19? In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul (NKJV). When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul (NASB)

Stop right now in the midst of all your disquieting thoughts and list the comforts, the consolations of God. Recall them to mind. Sing them to your heart and to any around you who will listen. Pray them back to God. Talk of them with your spouse, your children, your co-worker, your neighbor, your friends.

Spurgeon says it well, When I am tossed to and fro with various reasonings, distractions, questions, and forebodings, I will fly to my true rest, for thy comforts delight my soul. From my sinful thoughts, my vain thoughts, my sorrowful thoughts, my griefs, my cares, my conflicts, I will hasten to the Lord; he has divine comforts, and these will not only console but actually delight me. How sweet are the comforts of the Spirit! Who can muse upon eternal love, immutable purposes, covenant promises, finished redemption, the risen Saviour, his union with his people, the coming glory, and such like themes, without feeling his heart leaping with joy? The little world within is, like the great world without full of confusion and strife; but when Jesus enters it, and whispers “Peace be unto you,” there is a calm, yea, a rapture of bliss. Let us turn away from the mournful contemplation of the oppression of man and the present predominance of the wicked, to that sanctuary of pure rest which is found in the God of all comfort. Good will to us, and to give us some evidence and assurance of his love and favour towards us; these are his comforts. (Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon)

Indeed, this “mess will be over” in time, but the comforts and consolations of God will last forever. They are a delight, not a distraction!!

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!

A Pastor’s Tuesday

Began the day with a cup of coffee and the Word!

Was encouraged and blessed by a daily Bible verse text from a dear brother in Christ.

Ministered the Word to two still-grieving hearts; shared from what I had read earlier in the morning.

Spoke an word of encouragement to one whose world has been shattered.

My wife and I attended the adoption ceremony at the county courthouse for a precious foster child who is now the daughter of one of our church member’s.

Made a Dunkin run for this first day of peppermint mocha coffee!

Reminded myself to think biblically.

Visited one of our church family who is recovering from heart-valve replacement surgery. Thankful for Psalm 4 and prayer!

Helped my wife pick up some things at Sam’s Club.

Fought my flesh.

Dropped off some books, a DVD, and a thank you note to a long-time Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16) in my life.

Listened to Adrian Rogers preach as I traveled to Kingsport.

Reminded myself to think biblically.

Experienced another “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) men’s book lunch where we discussed a biblical theology of work, shared life events, and prayed together. A transparent, honest exchange among men.

Connected with a missionary friend via Whatsapp.

Listened to Chip Ingram teach on prayer as I traveled for my next appointment.

Met with our assistant pastor for our weekly ministry meeting. Another time of “iron sharpening iron.” God met with us in a very special way.

Received a text from my wife that her cousin has maybe a day or two left on this earth due to cancer. I called my wife on my drive home to come alongside her and hopefully bear her burden.

Was reminded that Jesus could come right now as I was exiting the interstate and saw the view from the top of the hill.

Received a humorous phone call from my oldest daughter that produced a needed “belly-laugh.”

Fought my flesh and the attacks of the devil.

While waiting for and helping with supper preparation, I answered texts and emails, called a church member to sing Happy Birthday, and chatted with my wife as I caught up on other events of the day. So very grateful for my wife who faithfully serves at home to make our home a place of refuge from this world. The meal was delicious comfort food.

Reminded myself of God’s promises.

Spent the evening helping my wife who was not really feeling well. Also, answered and read more emails, read some helpful blogs and worked on prep for Wednesday and Sunday’s messages.

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 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. I charge you [a]therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead [b]at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (2 Timothy 2:22-3:5; 3:13-4:2)

Another day of experiencing the sufficient grace and eternal love of God!

A Much-Needed Reminder

This past weekend was a much-needed refreshment for my soul. Ministry in the past year and a half has been difficult. While seated by the lake at the Wilds, the Lord pointed out this passage to me. Reluctantly, I must say that I had forgotten some of the ingredients of gospel ministry, of following Christ. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reminded me last Saturday morning.

But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Pressing forward in His grace!

Worldwide Intercession

Prayer - Spurgeon

While reading Psalm 61 this morning, the following thoughts came to mind about the far-reaching, awesome blessing of prayer.

  1. Prayer is the response of a fainting heart no matter where I am in the world (61:2).
  2. Prayer takes me to the Rock, the Transcendent Summit, that is higher than any place in the world (61:2).
  3. Prayer is my strong tower and refuge as it places me in God’s tabernacle/tent that can be accessed anywhere in the world (61:3).
  4. Prayer joins me to the heritage of those who fear the Lord’s (past and present) around the world (61:5).

“When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really living prayer, and when the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying, when he prays along the street, prays in his business, prays in the house, prays in the field, when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

 

Who Will You Be in 2019?

bible-journal-1

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr, often said, “There are no stains on the pages of tomorrow!”  That’s a challenge, comfort and encouragement.  Truth is, what I plan today has effect upon my tomorrow which will become yesterday and then collectively a life.

With that in mind, I want to share some resources to help you move forward in your walk with Christ, your growth in the knowledge of God and the application of the Word of God on a daily basis for 2019.

The most important thing you will do in 2019 is keep your eye on Christ and watch what He does through His Word.  I am so intrigued that on His divinely human side Jesus did what we are to do:  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel (John 5:19-20). I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me (John 8:28).

First of all, what is your plan for reading God’s Word in 2019; His fresh Love Letter to you?  The YouVersion Bible app provides many plans for you to follow.  May I remind you that the goal of reading the Word is not to check off boxes, but to come to know the mind and heart of Christ whereby we think and act biblically (Psalm 119:9-11; Matthew 4:4; John 6:63; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).

Along with reading the Word of God, may I strongly suggest using a journal to record what God says to you each day.  It may be one sentence or a whole paragraph or more.  Think about it!  The God of Heaven and Earth is speaking to you; your Heavenly Father if you are born again (John 14:6)!!  Therefore, it is important to watch Him as Jesus did.  You don’t want to miss it! Then after a few days, read back over what you have written and see how God is leading you, what He is teaching you about Himself, and what He has revealed to you about you.

Use a spiral-bound notebook, a journal, your tablet or a journaling Bible.  I simpley record the day and date, the Scripture passages I am reading, and even what the weather is like on that morning.  Here is what my journal looks like from yesterday:

Tuesday, Jan. 1                                          51 degrees, partly cloudy

Matt. 1:1-17; Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 1; Genesis 1-2

As I read through these passages today, the Lord reminded me that Christ Who was active in creation and came to redeem a genealogy of sin, is the One I am to be a witness of as I delight and walk in His Word, planted by the rivers of living water.

That thought ran through my mind all day.  As Denise and I were enjoying our annual New Year’s Day brunch at Cracker Barrel, I was brought to tears as I looked at all kinds of people in the restaurant and wondered if they knew this Christ, my Savior.  The Word I had read in the morning moved me to see people as Jesus does and softened this old, selfish heart for them.

I will share more tomorrow about some other resources.  Let me close by sharing the following.

Last Sunday morning, a dear, godly lady said to me after the morning gathering, “Pastor, last week I was going through some things and counted 16 spiral-bound notebooks of my Bible study notes.  I don’t want to throw them away.  Perhaps they will be found someday and be an encouragement to my son who needs the Lord.”  I can attest that when you are in conversation with this dear saint of God, you are speaking to a Word–filled believer.

Let’s meet with the Lord today!  He is waiting for you (Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 10:38-42).  Listen to Him (Revelation 2:7).  Start with a clean page.

Because Love Has No Limits!

“What would you do for someone you love?”

That was the headline at the top of our local newspaper insert, Parade. Oh, and yes, in this instant internet age I still read the newspaper. Nevertheless, that question piqued my interest here on the brink of a new year.

Immediately my thoughts were turned to, “What would I do for the One Who Loves me eternally? What would I become and do the for Christ Who gave Himself for my redemption and justification? What would I do for Christ Who demonstrates His for me love today, tomorrow and for all eternity?”
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In these past few days, we have heard much through preaching, podcasts, and social media to encourage us to begin a new year with a “clean sheet / a fresh start.” Therefore, may I simply ask each of us to consider what we will be and do in 2019 for the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who motivates us by His eternal, unconditional love?

The answer should be the same one word answer as found under the question in the Parade insert that prompted this post. That word . . . EVERYTHING.

 

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.