Staying Power

44 years.

38 years.

48 years.

These numbers represent folks who Denise and I had the joy of sharing in sweet fellowship this past Saturday and Sunday in two different locations.

For 38 and 44 years, Seth and Linda, now retired, have labored for the Lord in the fields of Christian education.

For 48 years, Bacilio and Eunice has labored faithfully in the mission fields of Hispanic nations. Although the years have taken its toll on him, he said to me, “Dale, I am busier now that I have ever been.”

As I have pondered their lives after our recent visits, my heart was once again encouraged to finish well; to have staying power over the long haul.

Seth & Linda (Gray & maroon)

How does someone in full-time vocational ministry “stay by the stuff” until the end?

What’s the “glue” that helps us “stick-to-it”? Having been involved in ministry now for over 41 years as well as growing up in a pastor’s home, I share these with a bit of experience, yet knowing that my race has not been finished.

  • Keep your heart fresh in your walk with the Lord by living life in the awe and wonder of Who God is! (Psalms 34:1-3; 63:1-4; 91:1-2; 145:1-21)
  • Live a life of prayer, not a prayer life. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Memorize and meditate on Scripture so when you talk to yourself, rather than listening to yourself, you have something really worthwhile, transformative to say. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)
  • Learn to rest spiritually, mentally, and physically. There is no virtue in having your “foot-to-the-pedal” 24/7. (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 6:31; Philippians 4:6-8)
  • Make daily investments in your marriage; more deposits than withdrawals. Outside of Christ, your wife needs to be your best friend. (Proverbs 5:15-23; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Song of Solomon 4:9-11; Ephesians 5:18-33)
  • Enjoy the journey! Laugh a lot! Have fun! Don’t take yourself so serious! (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 15:15; 17:22; Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • Love people as Christ does. (Matthew 22:37-40; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:21)
  • Expect to be disappointed and suffer at the hands of people. Why should I be treated any better than Jesus was? And, make sure you do not live with a martyr’s complex! (Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10)
  • Live a life of gratitude. (Colossians 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 12:28)
  • Remember, few men cannot stand the applause. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Proverbs 16:18)
  • Your identity is not in a successful sermon or project but in Christ alone. (Philippians 3:4-14)
  • Surround yourself with godly, encouraging, edifying, loving, transparent friends inside and outside your ministry. (Proverbs 27:17; Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 2:19-30)
  • Live with the Bema in view as well as eternity. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Revelation 21-22)
  • Live the gospel and share the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 1:27)

One final thought comes to mind as I consider these four faithful laborers.

At this late date in their lives, they still have such a winsome personality, a sweet disposition and a joy-filled heart in spite of the aging process and current physical hinderances.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Bob Saget, Covid & Bronx Fire

On the last day of 2021, Bob Saget reflected on the passing of 99 year-old Betty White by saying, “She always said the love of her life was her husband, Allen Ludden, who she lost in 1981. Well, if things work out by Betty’s design — in the afterlife, they are reunited. I don’t know what happens when we die, but if Betty says you get to be with the love of your life, then I happily defer to Betty on this.”

According to worldomenters.info, as of Monday, January 10, 2022, Covid has been the cause of death of 861, 021 people in the USA and 5,511,396 in the world.

Sunday morning, fire broke out in a Bronx, NY, apartment complex killing 17 people. Eight of them were children. “It was absolutely horrific,” Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said. “I talked to many veteran firefighters who said it was the worst fire they had seen in their lives. They were doing CPR on people outside. It was absolutely horrific. Members operated with upmost heroism. Unfortunately, not all fires have a positive outcome. It’s horrible. This fire will be with these members forever.” (abc7ny.com)

This world is filled with suffering and sorrow. It is not supposed to be that way.

Then why so much agony, angst, fear, disappointment, and death?

As God created the universe, He saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:31). Upon creating man and woman in His own image (Genesis 1:26) and from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), He placed them in the Garden of Eden, blessed them, and . . . said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

What went wrong?

Sin. God gave man a freewill to choose and being tempted by Satan, he chose to go his own way and plunged the whole world into sin (Genesis 2:8-3:24). Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world (Romans 5:12-13a). You see, the world is totally broken because of sin.

Is there any hope for us? Is there anyone who can forever correct the sin problem? Will it always be this way? My friend, just as the world is completely broken by sin, Jesus is the complete answer for every sin, every wrong, every heartache, and every act of unrighteousness (Romans 5:14-21).

Covid constantly produces fear and reminds us of death. Man, even in his God-given mental capacity, has not figured out how to eradicate this pandemic. Yet, in the midst of it all, I hear these hope-filled words of truth at the tomb of death, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live (John 11:25).

Sadly, mankind will continue to face fatalities due to such things as faulty space heaters and apartment doors that are designed to close in case of fire. Remember, the world is broken. Man cannot produce a perfect environment because we are imperfect creatures due to our sin. But there is hope! For where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20b-21). The answer is the perfect Son of God (John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:1-10).

Yes, there is immense pain and suffering in this world, and Jesus experienced it all (Isaiah 53; Hebrews 4:14-16). He bore the sin of the whole world, yours and mine (2 Corinthians 5:21), and He rose from the tomb to conquer sin and death (Matthew 28:1-10; Acts 2:24; Revelation 1:18). God wants you to have the security and assurance of eternity in His presence in Heaven (John 14:1-6).

My heart ached as I read Bob Saget’s statement about the afterlife. My friend, you can absolutely know where you are going. You do not need to hope that “things will work out by Betty’s design — in the afterlife.” You must not “happily defer to Betty on this.”

This sinful, broken world won’t always be this way. Please take time to read the scripture passages given above. There is eternal hope (confident expectation based on the promises of God in His Word); there is eternal assurance all found in the person of Jesus Christ. Please defer to Him!

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

2021 In Review

Many years ago I started the habit of keeping a daily journal. This has practice has given back over and over again in my life. As I reread the entries from the week or month or even perusing through another year’s journal, the reminders of God’s faithfulness, love, teaching, wisdom, care, guidance, provision, and grace abound! There’s also the reminders of joy, sorrow, fun, heartache, ups and downs, the general stuff of life and the moments you don’t want to forget.

With that said, I end this year looking back through my journal to share some of life’s lessons and blessings with you.

  1. Celebrated 40 years of marriage in June with my sweetheart, best friend, and companion. We have done something special on the 2oth of every month since we were married on June 20. Wrote 40 blessings of being married for 40 years.
  2. Celebrated 20 years of ministry at Boones Creek Bible Church via the gift of a month long sabbatical from our church family.
  3. Statements throughout my journal: “By grace, give and live abundantly in Christ today!!” “Nothing is impossible with God!” “God uses weak men.” “What we think of God and believe of Him determines how we view all of life.” “The believer in life should love life.” “Jesus is enough.” “Do we just possess the Word or do we practice the Word?” “The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page.” “Just another typical day in the life of a child of God.” “Victims become victors and the condemned become conquerors through Christ alone!” “God puts His people in the right place at the right time to accomplish His righteous work.”
  4. The joy of preaching through 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Hebrews on Sunday morning!
  5. Family gatherings: Celebrating our 40th anniversary, Pigeon Forge, Thanksgiving and Christmas, to mention a few!
  6. Answered prayer, answered prayer, answered prayer, answered prayer, answered prayer . . . .
  7. Many Thursday entries about the blessings of our small group meeting in our home as we sang, prayed, studied the Word, shared, watch God answer prayer, gathered around the bar counter enjoying fellowship, watching discipleship take place, etc.!!
  8. “Denise had Shiloh here for the morning and lunch and Shepherd here for the afternoon. . . . Alli and the boys came for an afternoon visit. . . . Shepherd went with me to return tables to the church. . . . After running with Andrew, I picked up Shepherd and Shiloh for a DD run and then Dollar Tree for a toy before leaving for camp. . . . Enjoyed watching football with Shepherd. . . . Went to the boys’ home to see them open up birthday gifts—so much fun! . . . . Shepherd and Shiloh stayed overnight with us.” (Do you get it????)
  9. “Although the Utah Missions trip was officially called off today, Andrew reported that all money was refunded! Praise the Lord for directing him to secure Covid insurance for this trip. The teens are learning from this major change in their plans.”
  10. “Grace to preach Hebrews 2:14-18. Wonderful time of worship through communion. Watching our folks worship is such a joy! Congregational singing: Because He Lives, By Faith, O Lord My Rock & My Redeemer, His Mercy is More!”
  11. “Blessing: Received a text from ________________________ saying they were coming through town and wanted to catch up with us! So good to see these dear friends again!” This was a common occurrence through the year!
  12. “After enjoying ice cream cake for Paul’s 41st birthday, they shared their big announcement—-the Lord has led them to foster to adopt! Wow!! Another answer to prayer in the way the Lord would have it, not our way or thoughts!”
  13. “Music on the Square, good times with Denise!” “Denise and I left for Carter Fold to hear Carson Peters & Iron Mountain. Packed house, good concert, great to be back at the Fold. So wholesome, family-oriented, great time to be with Denise!”
  14. “Ran the Tweetsie Trail—beautiful day!” “AT Spivey Gap to High Rocks; Rick & me; snow 6 inches to 2 feet!” “AT Cherokee Flats south to Pearisburg, VA; 22 miles; camped out on Peter’s Mt; Rick & me.”
  15. Read Deep Discipleship (English); The Faith of Christopher Hitchens (Taunton); Calvary Road (Hessions); How to Worship Christ (Carroll); On Pastoring (Charles) and others.
  16. “Tested positive for covid today.”

As 2021 closes, this scripture passage and song encapsulates my year.

Psalm 18:30 – As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

Thank you for reading! More than anything, I trust that the Lord Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior; that you are follower of Christ; that you are secure in Christ for all eternity (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 1:1-2:10; Titus 3:5). If not, please watch the video link in the sidebar above.

Dale

In the School Of COVID

“Sometimes we have to experience misunderstanding from unsympathetic friends in order to learn how to minister to others.” These were part of Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Job 16:4, that resonated in my heart.

Seated by the fireplace reading, grounded again for the third Sunday in a row due to COVID, I found myself replacing the words “unsympathetic friends” with “COVID.”

“Sometimes we have to experience COVID in order to learn how to minister to others.”

How blessed I have been to be healthy for over two years with no colds and only my typical back issues. I’ve been hiking, running, navigating ministry through the pandemic, on and on and on! Then . . . everything changed in one day. Symptoms which led to a positive test, feeling miserable, infusion, recuperation.

What did I need to learn again? I needed a fresh reminder of what it looks like to be a minister of mercy/compassion just like Jesus as demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ (Luke 10:34-35).

What does that look like? Well, here are some thoughts, in random order, that I jotted in my journal to remind me in the days to come.

  • Life changes so quickly . . . live in the moment. That may be all that’s left here. (James 4:14-15).
  • If the Lord nudges you to minister to someone, go. (Luke 10:34)
  • There are times when you are feeling so bad you do not have the energy to pray beyond, “Lord, help me!” If you are strong physically and spiritually, be sure to pray for those who are weak and weary. They need your intercession (James 5:16). Perhaps, call them . . . not to chit-chat but to simply say, “I want to pray with you, and then I’ll end the call.”
  • Ask the Lord to give you wisdom as to something beyond “If you need anything, call me!” 99% won’t call (I’m usually one of those); don’t want to be a bother or an inconvenience. Here are a few acts of service that I was blessed to receive recently: 1) Bring a meal. 2) Send a text saying, “I’m out at the store. What can I bring you?” or “I’m at Dunkin. Want a donut and coffee?” 3) Do some project around the yard or house. It was a refreshment to hear the lawn mower crank up in the front yard. 4) Drop by with some cookies/snacks or leave something in the mailbox or on the front porch.
  • Having said that, accept other’s offers to minister to you. The other night a meal was brought to our front door. Before departing, the gentleman said, “It sure feels good to be on this side of the door” (the giving side).
  • Send a text every other day or so. Sometimes the one who is suffering may not have the strength to read it and respond, but don’t be afraid to reach out, either. Perhaps a card of encouragement in the mail.
  • Store up the Word of God in your mind for times like these, when you’re too sick to read or listen to anything.
  • Consider the caregiver. He/she has picked up the ball for two people all the while serving the ill. They need encouragement and help, too.

How blessed to have a wonderful wife, our dear immediate family and loved ones, close friends, and our precious church family!! Most of all, oh, the goodness of God in the midst of stuff like COVID!

Yes, “sometimes we have to experience “COVID” in order to learn how to minister to others.” Thank You, Lord, for being patient with me and teaching me again to be moved with compassion.

The Season That Stole Christmas

The lights went out on the top and the bottom this year!!

There I sat with my car backed into the parking lot at Target in observation mode. Still in quarantine, my wife made her trek into Target to purchase a gift.

What did I observe? A steady of stream of shoppers entering and exiting their cars and the stores with sad, frowning, hardened faces. Some were walking briskly, some on a mission, others at a snail’s pace. And, what season of the year is this?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—Go ahead; sing it! You are hearing it in your head anyway!

It’s the celebration of good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:11)!

Isn’t Christmas all about joy, cheer, good news, giving, laughter, family traditions, get-togethers, etc.?

As I watched, my finite mind could not fathom all the stories in front of me in this “season of joy.” Perhaps sudden job loss, death of a dear loved one, disappointment in not finding the right gift, the general frustrations of life, cancer diagnosis, home life issues, heart-crushing memories, failing marriages, brokenness, fear, rejection, dread, chaos, thoughts of suicide, sorrow, discontentment, etc.

In the midst of these stories of life, many hoping that this season might bring a little good news, a little cheer, a little “Tender Tennessee Christmas” to take off the edge of the pain, my mind considered my own current “covidness” and was once again reminded that this season is only a mere shadow of the Realty. If my heart is fixed on all the ingredients of the season, I miss the preeminent, transcendent Person of this day, this season, this year, and this life. At that point, I have fallen into idolatry; worshiping the creature (and what the creature creates here) more than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).

You see, the only Story that can completely deal with the root cause of all “the fears of all the years,” which began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), is the Reality of the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who stepped into your life to be your substitute on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-5; 1 Peter 3:18). Life is the Eternal Story, not a temporal season.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV).

Today, tomorrow, on Christmas Day, and the days to follow, listen to and meditate on the Story of hope and redemption, the salvation of your souls, in exchange for the shadows of the season. No matter how good they may be for now, they are only shadows.

Don’t let the season steal what Jesus came to give and restore!

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Additional links for your encouragement today:

21 Days of Prayer (Day #13)

PRAYER & TRIALS (Hunter Addison)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

All of us are probably going through a trial of some type right now. If you are not, count on one coming your way tomorrow. It is the reality of living in a fallen world. However, James teaches us that God is not absent in our trials. In fact, God is doing something through them. We can see what God is doing through our trials in verses three and four. God is producing patience, endurance in us in order that we may be perfect and complete, that is mature in Christ. Maturing in Christ is the reason why we can count it all joy when we face trials. It’s not because the trial is fun or pleasant. It is because through the trial God is transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ. The word for count in the text is an imperative, which simply means that it is a command. Therefore, joy in trials is dependent upon our response. We have the option to obey or disobey the command to count it all joy when you fall into various trials. We disobey the command when our joy is found in our circumstances. We obey the command when our joy is found in God and his purposes for our lives, which is transforming us more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Do we really believe that the greatest joy of our lives is to be more like Christ? To be more patient, kind, loving, gentle, self-controlled, to bridle our tongues, to be slow to speak, quick to listen, to count others more significant than ourselves, to live with our wives in an understanding way, to mature? James is teaching us that we can become victors full of joy in our trials instead of victims full of bitterness, doubt, and discouragement. Trials refine our faith by showing us where we are truly seeking joy, by showing us who/what we are trusting in.

With this understanding of trials in our life, let’s look at another imperative in the text, that is another command. In verse five let him ask is a command. What does this teach us? It shows that if we are to live triumphantly in our trials, we need to ask God for something specific, that is wisdom. Once again, this is a command that has the potential to be disobeyed. Perhaps our disobedience to this command may be the reason why we lack joy in our trials. Disobedience to this command may be the reason why we mature in age but not in Christ. What do we ask God for during our trials? We must be careful here. It is not wrong to ask God for strength, help, and deliverance from trials, just read the Psalms. However, if that is all we are praying for in trials then I think James teaches us that we are missing something very important. James only speaks, in this context, about asking God for wisdom.

Biblical wisdom is not the same thing as what we often think of when we speak of wisdom. We often think of wisdom as knowledge, insight, or perception. We say things like that was a “wise decision” and that statement is typically the same as saying that was a “smart decision.” Often, we link wisdom to intellectual knowledge or insight alone. Biblical wisdom however is focused on the application of a certain type of knowledge to all of life, knowledge of God. Not just intellectual knowledge of God but a personal, relational knowledge of God. This is communicated by the phrase “fear of God”, as it is specifically linked to wisdom in the book of Proverbs. To fear God is to be rightly related to God, to have an inner since of awe toward God and to live obediently to God. In short, it is to take God seriously. Proverbs teaches us that this “fear of God” is the beginning of wisdom. A good definition of biblical wisdom is how to live in God’s world according to God’s Word. This is what James says God desires to give us in response to our prayers during our trials. God wants to show us how we can take our personal knowledge of him and apply it to the situations of our lives. We should think about this as coming to God in our trials saying, “God, I do not want to miss what you want to teach me in this trial.” This prayer is a request, an invitation, for God to get extremely personal with us. It is a request for God to invade the particular details of our lives with conviction and transformative grace in order to mature us into Christ. This is where true joy is found. This is the how we can become victors living triumphantly in the midst of trials.

Trials are like a classroom. God is the teacher. We are the students. The lesson is whatever trial we are facing. The goal of the lesson is maturity into the likeness of Christ. And the way we approach the teacher, is through humble, trusting prayer asking for wisdom. When the bell rings and we walk out of the classroom, we are full of Joy because the teacher delights in showing us how to live in his world according to his Word by answering our prayers for wisdom.

Would you join one another in asking God for wisdom in your trials? “God show me what you want to teach me in this trial.” “God increase my joy by increasing my skill in living a Godly life.”

Finally, James tells us we must believe that God will do this. God will invade our lives with clear answers. When we seek wisdom, we are not mainly seeking knowledge. We are seeking for God to personally show us how to faithfully live in his world according to his Word. God promises to do this “liberally.”

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 ‭

The Utmost Need of the Hour

This evening, our church family will gather via Zoom to seek the Lord’s face on behalf of those affected by COVID-19 and for protection from the same.

What do you do when life is out of control? Who do you call when you have no answers? Where do you find wisdom that is sure, consistent, and always relevant?

Psalm 86 manifests the answers. Sometime today, read this passage. Read a line or two, then stop and meditate on it. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Soak it in. Speak the Word audibly in prayer. Pray with all your heart. Pray desperately, honestly, full of faith.

We must turn from letting COVID dominate our thoughts to crying out to the One Who is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
9 All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Prayer is the utmost need of the hour individually, as a family and corporately as the body of Christ!

So Much!

Wow! What a year!

Something I frequently hear is, “I’ll be glad when 2021 rolls around, and we can get beyond COVID!” or “I am ready for this thing to be over!”

So, let’s say that COVID with its mandates and masks were gone tomorrow, what would you do? What would be different about your life?

Truth is, once that trial and the inconveniences of COVID were removed, another trial would be on its heels.

So, no matter what today holds, we have SO MUCH to be thankful for in comparison to all “the bad,” especially if you are a true born again believer!

This past Sunday in our morning gathering, we sang the old song, “Count Your Many Blessings.” Consider the lyrics:

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 hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

2
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
3
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your Lord on high.
4
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.

How about counting your blessings today? Share them with others. Don’t get caught up in the negative, critical discussions. Be a light that points others to the Theme of themes, the Giver of the Greatest Gift, the Way, the Truth and the Life! God will even give you the grace to rejoice and be thankful (2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:13).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Start counting! You will be surprised at so much!!

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).