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.

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 #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.

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)

Breaking News!

 

revive-our-hearts

OH NO!  What’s happening???  Grab the kids and run for the shelter!!  Quick, hide your money!  Peek outside! Are they coming to cut off my head????

We live in a fear-mongering world!

I would venture to say that way too much of our lives, our decisions, and our actions are motivated by fear.  Our thoughts are consumed with, “Oh my! What if . . . .!”

Think about it, when is the last time you heard Fox News or any other news outlet use the “Breaking News” announcement for something that was wholesome, encouraging, and completely truthful?  Those two words are a literal catch-phrase, and indeed, when announced, they’ve gotcha!  Your attention is captured and your heart moves to fear . . . “Now what?”

Fear is a money-maker.

Fear is a peace-stealer.

Fear is a heart-stirrer.

Fear is an alarm-ringer.

Fear is a stress-producer.

Fear is a blind-puller.

Fear is a joy-crusher.

Fear is an obedience-excuser.

I must be honest, as I have written in this blog, fear is something that I have had to battle in my life.  And usually what we fear, just like worry which is its second-cousin, never happens.  There are many things in my life that I have missed out on because I was afraid.  The most important of all . . . just living day-by-day under the sunshine of God’s loving, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign care.

Now, before I am thrown under the bus, I understand being wise, cautious, and having common sense, but fear that does not trust in the promises and character of God is of the flesh and Satan!

Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you fear.  Write them down.  Then go to the Word and see what God says about them.

For starters, what fears do these truths obliterate?

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Psalm 23:1-4 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Truth is, every time you are fearful, “Breaking News” should be a passage of Scripture brought to the forefront of your mind!  God’s “Breaking News” is fresh, eternal, truthful, calming, encouraging, and fear-removing.  Read Psalm 34:4 again.  Do you want the devil or The Deliverer?

So what will come to your mind the next time you hear, “Breaking News!”?

A Masada-Sized Fear!

israel-days-67-064

As we pulled up into the parking lot, there it was . . . the main transportation to Masada . . . a cable car suspended in mid-air!  Folks, my take on this is, man made it and therefore it can break.  There was no way I could ride hanging from what to me was a thin thread with thousands of pounds suspended from it.  When the moment came for our group to board, the crowd was so large that I slipped away.  No one missed me until they were on their way up the mountain.

israel-days-67-067

For five years, I have been dogged by the fear of knowing I would probably “return to the scene of the crime” someday.  Also, Craig, who organizes these trips, has threatened me non-stop ever since!

So, Monday morning, January 16, after a dip in the Dead Sea, it was off for a stop at En-gedi to view where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 23:29), and then . . . Masada.  I wanted to be like David and hide again, but I knew I needed to face this fear by God’s grace.

Same story as five years ago.  The bus ascended the parking lot and there in my view was that cable car.  As we entered the complex and received our tickets, I was praying and so were others.  Craig came to me and said, “I want you get in the middle the cable car, face the mountain, and keep your eyes on me.  I promise you, it will be okay.”  I did exactly as he said.  My knees were a bit rubbery, but it wasn’t long until we were at the summit.  The doors opened, and by grace, I had conquered another fear in my life!  My! What views and history I had missed by slipping away five years ago.

As I walked around on that massive rock plateau of what was once Herod’s fortress (Masada), I thought about Craig’s words to me.  They are absolutely spot-on for dealing with any and all of our fears.

  1. Get in the middle of the cable car. Whatever that fear is in your life, you need to get right into the middle of it and meet it head on!  Don’t make excuses for it!  Don’t try to make it what it is not.
  2. Face the mountain. Yes, your fear(s) may be a mountain to you, but instead of running from it, taking some false remedy to overcome it, or living in that fear the rest of your life, face that mountain!
  3. Keep your eyes on me. This final command is the most important.  Hebrews 12:2 says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.

The word looking means “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.”  This is not a quick glance but a fixed look on something.  For all the fears of life, you must fixed your eyes on Christ.

That fixed look begins at salvation as you see Christ alone as the only Savior (1 Timothy 4:10, We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers), Redeemer (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18), Reconciler (Colossians 1:20-21), Rescuer (Colossians 1:13), and Justifier (Romans 3:24; 5;1) for sinful man.  He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith.  This is proven by the fact that He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the place of authority.  There is only one way to Heaven and that is through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is not A way; He is the ONLY WAY.  You must turn from all other religions and self-helps to Jesus Christ alone.

Then once you are truly born again, you live the rest of your life with your eyes fixed on Christ through faith in His Word because now Christ is always for you (Romans 8:31-39). Peter stepped out of the boat in faith, but he began to sink when he took his eyes off of Christ (Matthew 14:22-33).  The Lord’s words to Peter sum up all of life after salvation when He said, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (14:27). Our Savior never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  He is our Shepherd Who leads us even in the valley of the shadow of death, but we are to fear no evil, because He is with us (Psalm 23:4).

What do you fear?  Let these words sink into your heart.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . . . For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13)

By the way, all the way up the mountain, Craig talked to me.  In the midst of your fear, rather than listen to yourself and others as well as the distractions of your fears, listen to Christ.  Read and meditate on His Word that addresses all the fears of life.

So, get in the middle of the cable car; face the mountain; and keep your eyes fixed on Christ!