Monday, June 1, 2020

WHEN ONE PART SUFFERS


1 Corinthians 12:26
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

                One of the discoveries that we made, as we moved into our new home, was that the toilet in the second bathroom leaked. So, the other day I decided to tackle the problem. I went to Menards and bought the needed items to fix the toilet. Then I began the process of dismantling and reassembling the toilet. As has often been my experience with plumbing, things did not go smoothly. First, space is limited, and so it made working on the toilet more difficult. Second, some of the old parts were reluctant to give up their place. For the next couple of hours, I labored in a cramped space, working at odd angles. Finally, I was able to put everything back together without it leaking. A major victory for me.

                After I was finished, I realized that there was a cost to pay for my efforts that had nothing to do with the toilet. In my efforts to work in the cramped conditions of the bathroom, I aggravated an old foot injury. When I stepped down on my right foot, excoriating pain shot out through my toes and up my leg. For the remainder of that day, I felt generally out of sorts. I was hobbled by this for several days, making other normal activities more difficult.

                Over the past several days, our nation has been hobbled by an excruciating pain. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has erupted into full scale riots across the country. In one way or another we are all feeling the pain of that one incident. Many people have tried to peacefully express their pain, while others have used this as an opportunity to unleash pent up anger and frustration in destructive ways. It was encouraging to hear that many people rallied on Sunday morning to help clean up the mess caused by those who chose violence as their response.

                In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he explained that the church is like the human body. It is made up of many parts, which all work together for a common good. But when one part of the body malfunctions, the entire body feels it. What is true of the body of Christ is true of the community in general. Every community is designed to work together for the common good. When one part of the community malfunctions, the entire community pay the price, as we have seen.

                In the human body, when one part of the body malfunctions, the rest of the body works to bring healing and restore wholeness. When the offending part of the body does not respond, we call this disease. Cancer is a prime example of this. The cells in one part of the body begin to aggressively act on their own, causing damage to the surrounding tissue and ultimately to the entire body. This is what we are experiencing as a nation right now.

                There are parts of our community, on both sides of the equation, who have decided to act on their own. Both insensitive, overly aggressive police officers and unrestrained rioters are a cancer within our society that is damaging the whole. Anger, violence, bitterness and rage only foster more of the same. Brutality by some police does not restrain crime, nor does violent rioting change societal problems. Both are destructive and need to be eliminated. There is a better way.

                Paul gives us the only real answer to the issues that inflame our society. It is found in Romans 12.

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

                What happened to George Floyd and others should never happen. But responding in anger and violence will never change that. There is only one way, to overcome evil with good. Those who went out on Sunday morning to clean up the mess that others caused are good examples of the right response.

                When one part suffers, we all suffer. The Black community is suffering because they feel that they are being targeted and treated unfairly. The police are suffering because they are being vilified and unfairly being painted with a very negative, broad brush. Business owners are suffering because on the heals of the Covid-19 shut-down, their businesses have been damaged and looted. The community is suffering because we all must pay the price for the actions of the few. When one part suffers, we all suffer.

                A healthy body mobilizes to fight disease. A healthy community mobilizes to fight both crime and injustice at all levels. We are in this together.

Philippians 2:4
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

   


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

LITTLE THINGS MATTER


Matthew 25:21
    "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

                The moving truck was fully loaded, we said our goodbyes, and we were off. After 21 months of ministry at Cavalier Baptist Church in Cavalier, ND, our assignment was complete. It was time to hand off the baton to the new pastor and move on. Our journey was a long two-day adventure, as we made our way from near the Canadian border in North Dakota, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and into Michigan and our new home. It involved many hours on the highway, with me driving the moving truck and Suanne following behind in the car.

                Driving a large truck is a new experience for me. I had driven the same sized truck up to Cavalier from Mankato, MN, a journey of about eight hours. On that occasion, the traffic was light and the route straight forward. Driving the truck to Michigan was a different story. There was more traffic and more twists and turns along the way. On any long journey, I am thankful for cruise control. I can set my speed and then focus on other things. That was true on this occasion as well. On each leg of the journey, I set the cruise control and allowed the truck to do the work.

                I am very thankful that for most of our journey the speed limit was 70 mph. I can still remember the days when 55 mph was the max. It seemed like it took forever to get anywhere. Although our 1000-mile journey was still long, it would have been much longer if I had been required to drive at 55 mph. Throughout our journey, at regular intervals, I was passed by other vehicles that far exceeded the posted speed limit. Some gradually overtook me, while others zoomed by as if I was standing still. This is not a new occurrence, but it always irritates me. It is one of those little things that we have come to accept as okay, even though it is not.

                We have all done it, including me. We have all fudged on the speed limit at times. We justify our action by thinking that the police will not stop us for going 5-10 mph over the limit on the freeway, so we use the extra speed to get to our destination a little faster. We excuse our speeding because we are in a hurry or road construction has delayed us and we need to make up the time. It is very easy to rationalize this minor infraction.

                As I was driving, and routinely being passed, the thought came to me about being faithful in little things. There is a spiritual trap that all of us fall into from time to time. We are adamant about being faithful in the big things of life, but we are laxer about the little things. We have come to believe that the little things really don’t matter. Going 10 mph over the speed limit isn’t a big deal, or is it?

                It is the little things in life that eventually form our habits. Gradually, a little at a time, we adjust our attitudes and actions, until we find ourselves in a very different place than we expected. Someone once pointed out that a one-degree variation in an airplane’s flight pattern can mean missing its destination by 100’s of miles.

                Jesus pointed out the danger of over looking what we see as the little things in life in His Sermon on the Mount. He highlighted that our thoughts and attitudes are just as powerful as our outward actions. He said that harboring anger toward someone is no different from murdering them or harboring lustful thoughts about someone is no different than committing adultery. James picked up on this in his letter, when he reminded us that our sinful actions begin with what goes on inside of us. Then he reminds us that to break the law at one point is just like breaking all of the law. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

                My point in all of this is that little things matter. In the parable of the talents, Jesus pointed out that being faithful about the little things is important to God. It is the little things in life that eventually make up the big things. Being intentional about being faithful in the little things is the pathway to true faithfulness in everything.

Ephesians 5:15
    Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,

   



   



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

WHERE’S YOUR FAITH?


Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

                Most people relegate faith to some kind of religious feeling. I was watching a TV show last night where the main character commented that he was going to make sense of a particular situation, not by faith, but by science. His comment highlights the bias that faith belongs exclusively to religion and has no place in the rest of the world. But that understanding of faith is completely wrong.

                Every human being exercises faith on a daily basis. We are hardwired to live by faith, we just don’t often recognize it. The question is not, do we have faith, but in what are we placing our faith. Unconsciously we place our faith in a variety of things on a regular basis. For example, every time we board an airplane, we are placing our faith in the laws of aerodynamics. Every time we get in our car and head out onto the highway, we are placing our faith in the other drivers abiding by the rules of the road. Our faith is tested when things don’t go the way we expect them to go. When that happens, we experience a wide range of emotions; anger, disappointment, fear, apprehension. If our faith is strong, we quickly overcome this temporary setback. If our faith is weak, we change our behavior to avoid those objects of our faith that have disappointed us.

                All of us have an overriding faith system that we use to organize and make sense of our world. This faith system guides all of the other objects of our faith and places them in order. Let me suggest four common faith systems that people routinely rely upon. They are not the only faith systems, but probably the most widely used. They are self, science, community, and religion.

                Many people look to self as the foundation of their faith system. This is especially true in North America, with our rugged individualism. Most of us grew up in an environment that lauded those who could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We pride ourselves in making our own way in life, as Frank Sinatra is famous for singing, “I did it my way.” When self is the basic faith system in a person’s life, they measure everything against their own abilities and perspective. Things are deemed good or bad depending upon how they directly affect the individual.

                Many other people place their faith in science. They see science as the ultimate determiner of what is true and right. If it can be “proved” scientifically than it is true. If it can not be “proved” scientifically then it is false. For many, science has become their savior. They trust science to deal with all of the problems we face in life, from aging to global warming.

                Another faith system that is very common is community. In some Asian countries this is the most prevalent faith system. It has gained popularity in American recently. A component of this faith system is politics. People who put their faith in community are trusting the collective to guide them. They believe that whatever the majority decides, that is the right course of action. They also are depending on the community to take care of them and to supply their needs.

                Of course, one of the most dominant faith systems is religion. By nature, we are religious beings. We are constantly looking for something bigger and more powerful than we are. That something may be viewed as the God of the Bible, the multiple gods of pantheism, or the overriding force of the universe. Depending upon the form a particular religion takes, a person’s life is guided and directed in a certain direction.

                Our own experience tells us that the boundaries between these faith systems are not clear. There is extensive overlap, and most of us dabble in all of these, even when one system is dominant. It is important for us to be honest with ourselves about our own faith system. What is the dominant faith system in our life? What is it that we are trusting above everything else?

                For those of us who are believers in Christ, our dominant faith system is Christianity. At the very core of our faith system is a foundational truth. It is stated in Hebrews 11:6. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Our faith system is anchored in these two truths: God exists and He cares about us.

                We were all created with a God-consciousness. Every culture or people group on earth is in one way or another looking for God. The way that they do this is different dependent upon the culture, but the goal is the same. This is true because God has revealed His reality through this world in which we live. As Paul writes in Romans 1:20, For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

                Even though all people are searching for God, they don’t all choose the same path. Many choose a path of their own making and end up with a god of their own making. The outcome has been all of the alternative faith systems that seek to take the place of faith in God. As Paul tells us, they settled for something other than the real thing.
    Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
    They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:22-23,25

                But it is not enough to believe that God exists. We also need to believe that God actually cares about us. So many images of God are negative. God is seen as distant, uninvolved, angry, vindictive, callous. None of these images align with the God of the Bible. Although God is revealed as the final judge, He is also revealed as loving, kind, merciful, forgiving, and ever present. Out of His great love for us, He sent Jesus into the world to save us from all of the false faith systems that dominate our world.

                Science has much to teach us about our world. We have benefited greatly by what science has done for us. A strong community is a very positive thing. It gives us a sense of belonging and security. Exploring and developing our individual potential is an important part of finding our way in the world. But all of these good things will lead us astray, if they are not placed under the authority of God. To rephrase Jesus words, when we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be ours as well.

                So where are you placing your faith? What is your dominant faith system? What are you looking to to help you navigate this life?

2 Corinthians 4:18
    So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

TIME TO SLOW DOWN


Leviticus 23:3
    There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.

                I realized today that I have been infected by a virus. It is not the coronavirus or the flu virus, but it is very real. It is a virus that infects much of our society, yet it goes undetected or unrecognized by most of us. What is this virus, the social pandemic lurking the shadows? It is the virus of hurry.

                We live in a society that is always in a hurry. We rush through our meals barely even tasting our food. We rush through projects so that we can get on to the next project. We rush through our days without a clear sense of where we are going. We often express our hurry with statements like, I’m so busy that I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Hurry and busyness have become the norm for life in the 21st century, at least in America. We are always in a hurry to get somewhere or accomplish some project.

                For example, I try to start each day with a time of personal devotions. There is no set amount of time that I am required to spend, nor is there a definite time when I must be done. Yet, many mornings I find myself rushing through my devotions rather than being fully engaged. I rush through my prayers so that I can get to my journal. I rush through my journaling so that I can get to my scripture reading. I rush through my scripture reading so I can get to my devotional reading. And I rush through my devotional reading so that I can get on with my day. There are days when I come to the end of my devotions and wonder what I accomplished.

                Hurry is our enemy is so many ways. On the most profound level it stunts our spiritual growth. Like physical exercise, we cannot rush through our spiritual disciplines and hope to gain the maximum benefit from them. By their very nature, spiritual disciplines are intended to be engaged in at a leisurely pace. We cannot truly develop our relationship with Christ on the run. Spiritual growth demands times of reflection, meditation, and listening. Our daily devotions are not a project to be accomplished and checked off of our list. It is to be a time to genuinely commune with God; to let Him speak into our lives.

                Hurry is the enemy of our human relationships. Hurry fosters the superficial. When we are consumed with hurry and busyness, we have little time to really get to know others. Building a genuine relationship with someone takes time, often unstructured time. There needs to be time to talk and to listen. There needs to be time to experience life together; to share common experiences. There needs to be time to process where the relationship is headed.

                Hurry is the enemy of our productivity. Our world continually presses us to be more productive at a faster and faster pace. Unfortunately, those two things actually work against one another. The faster we work, the less productive we become. We make more mistakes. We make bad choices that call for extra effort to correct. Hurry robs us of the purpose and meaning of our work. There is little satisfaction in our work when we are constantly rushing to get to the next project, without any time to evaluate or appreciate what we have accomplished. As a woodworker, I know that hurry makes for a poor end result. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. I get the greatest satisfaction, not from the projects that I threw together in a hurry, but from the projects I invested intentional time and effort.

                Hurry is the enemy of our physical health. Hurry leads to increased stress, which leads to high blood pressure, which leads to coronary heart disease. Hurry is a major contributing factor to excess weight gain. Hurry often eliminates exercise from our routine. Hurry and busyness rob us of the rest we need to function at our best.

                When God designed this world, He programmed in the need for rest. He designed us to need sleep on a daily basis. He also commanded that once a week we would slow down and rest. You could say that God mandated time to slow down. Without being legalistic about the Sabbath, we all need to schedule down time into our lives on a regular basis. God did not design us to be on the go 24/7. God designed our need for rest to remind us that we are dependent upon Him. By intentionally taking time to rest, we are affirming that we can trust God with our lives and our livelihood. Every night when we lay our head on the pillow and go to sleep, we are unconsciously affirming that God is in control of our world and it is not dependent upon us making things work.

                I wonder if God has allowed this current pandemic to occur so that we will slow down and rest. In the Old Testament, every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year; a year of rest when no normal work was done. The people had to trust God to provide, and He did. This pandemic, in many ways, has been an enforced time of rest. Many of the things that consume our time have been placed on hold. Families are spending more time together. Most people are being forced to live at a much slower pace. For many it has been hard to really slow down. They are in a hurry to get past this and get back to normal. I don’t blame them, but I would suggest that maybe they need to change their perspective. We all have a great opportunity to slow down, to reevaluate what is really important in life, and to actually rest for a time. We can waste this opportunity by maintaining a mental state of hurry, or we can take advantage of this time to get our life back in order.

                There is no vaccine against hurry, but there is a cure. It is called rest. Life is short as it is. Each moment, each experience is precious. Let us not miss the many good gifts that God has in store for us by rushing through life. When we get to the end of our life we can look back and wonder what happened, or we can cash in the dividends of a life well spent and well lived. The choice is up to us.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

LONGING


Hebrews 11:13-16
    All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

                The little icon on my phone alerted me that the security camera on our new home had detected movement in the back yard. I clicked on the icon to reveal a real time picture of our deck, with green grass stretching down to the creek that runs through our property. A light fog hangs in the air. I can hear the sound of running water and birds singing. I long to be there.

                Our original plan was to wrap up our interim ministry in North Dakota in mid-April and make the move to Michigan on April 19. Due to travel restrictions related to the current pandemic, those plans have been moved back a month. I understand the need for these precautions, and I am grateful that the spread of the coronavirus has been slowed, but it leaves me with an intense longing for my new home.

                The longing that I am experiencing is only a taste of a far greater and more profound longing for my heavenly home. The book of Hebrews zeros in on this far more significant longing. Hebrews 11 is a Cliff Notes account of many of those who have traveled this journey of faith before us. In the midst of recounting their faith journey, the writer reminds us that their longing was not fulfilled on this earth.

                God implanted in their hearts a longing for something that went beyond the tangible world in which they lived. Throughout their lives they continued to look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Recognizing the spiritual nature of these promises, they lived as travelers through the world instead of residents of the world. They chose not to “settle down’ but continued to follow God wherever He led them. By faith, they kept their eyes on their heavenly home.

                At the end of chapter 11, the writer summarizes the journey of those he has chronicled. He transitioned from those in the past to those of us in the present. He intentionally included us in his story. The promise that these saints longed for could only be fulfilled through the next chapter of the story.

Hebrews 11:39-40
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

                Longing is a part of life. We all experience it. It is what drives us forward, pulling us toward an unknown future. Often our longing gets sidetracked by the enticements of the world. We begin to believe that the tangible things of this world will satisfy our longing, only to discover that they disappoint instead. For a moment it feels like they really do quench our longing, but that experience is short lived. Soon the thrill of the moment evaporates and the longing returns. It becomes an insatiable thirst.

                Satan tries to convince us that we can quench our thirst through what he has to offer. He makes grand promises that pleasure, power, and possessions will satisfy us. But in the end, they only increase our longing. Like drinking salt water, we become more and more thirsty, and more and more spiritually dehydrated.

                On the other hand, God also taps into that longing; a longing that He placed there. But instead of offering us trinkets that cannot satisfy, He offers us Himself. Our true longing in to be connected with God. We long to be welcomed into our heavenly home; the home God designed for us before the creation of the world. As C.S. Lewis tells us, we were not created to live in time, but in eternity. We are always surprised by time, because time is not our natural environment. As long as we live within the confines of time, we will long for something more, something better, something that will last. That longing can only be fulfilled through Christ.

                God wants to use the longing within our heart to move us forward toward the ultimate goal, being united with Him in His presence. When we focus our longing on that eternal goal, we can embrace the joys of this life, not as an end in themselves, but as a means of moving us closer to our real goal. Even the challenges of this life can serve to sharpen our focus and increase our longing for our eventual home. It is those who have their hearts set on heaven that can fully appreciate this journey through life. This journey is not pointless or meaningless. It is preparation for something far better.

                One day fairly soon, I will be settled into my new home. When that day comes, my longing will be satisfied, for a time. That is the way it is with our longings in life. Once they are fulfilled their intensity is extinguished, and they are soon replaced by a new longing. But one day we will enter our eternal home and the intensity and delight in achieving the goal of our longing will never diminish.

2 Corinthians 4:18
    So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

SOCIAL DISTANCE NOT SPIRITUAL DISTANCE


Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

                For many people social distancing is wearing then, very thin. Just this morning I saw a news article about another protest calling for the government to open up the country and allow people to get back to normal. Unfortunately, normal has changed. Social distancing has had a positive effect on the spread of the virus, but a negative effect on the economy. Yesterday oil actually went below zero. Refiners are paying suppliers to take their stockpile off of their hands. I read another article that talked about ten major companies that will probably not survive the economic shut down. That doesn’t even touch on the multitude of small businesses that will close. We are experiencing a very difficult time.

                Most people are doing their best to cope with the demands of social distancing. Yet, we are all feeling the strain. We will all be impacted by the larger issues involved. The way we used to interact with one another has changed, and every indication is that those changes will continue on into the foreseeable future.

                Even as we feel isolated and disconnected from our friends and families, we can also begin to feel disconnected from God. I have always marveled at an almost universal bent toward blaming God for bad things that happen, regardless of a person’s belief or lack of belief in God. Whenever a major crisis like this happens, God becomes the culprit. Satan loves to throw God under the bus.

                The good news is that even though we are experiencing social distancing, we don’t have to experience spiritual distancing. In fact, it is as when times are difficult that many people seek God more diligently. In Psalm 139, David reminds us that there is nowhere that we can go where God is not present. Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, and that includes Covid-19 and social distancing.

                This morning, my devotional guide led me to Psalm 121. It is another reminder that God is not distant from us, even when we don’t feel His presence.

Psalm 121:1-8
I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

                This Psalm reminds us that during difficult times we are not alone. It gives us a strategy for staying connected to God, even as we feel disconnected from others.

                During difficult times, look to God for your strength. Times like this remind of really how weak and vulnerable we are. Over the past century, we have bought into the idea that we are the masters of our world. We are in control of our lives. Yet a small, microscopic virus can shut down the world in a heartbeat. Where do we turn when our vulnerability is exposed? The best place to turn is to the one who created this world. As believers in Christ, now more than ever, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is our help and strength.

                During difficult times, trust that God is still with us. God is not passive during the crisis. God is not distant either. He continues to watch over us. When Paul was faced with his “thorn in the flesh” he turned to God for relief. What he discovered is that God’s grace is more then sufficient to overcome his weakness. God’s grace still is. We all want this virus to just go away, but God has a different plan. His primary goal is not to take away our suffering, but to draw us closer to Himself.

                During difficult times, trust that God is seeking what is best for you. We don’t always know what is best for us. Sometimes the thing that we think is best, upon closer examination, turns out to be negative. Part of human nature is to tell God what should happen and to expect Him to do things the way we think they should be done. When the Psalmist promises that God will keep you from all harm, he is not referring to physical harm. He is referring to ultimate harm, spiritual harm. God cares most about your soul. Our physical lives on earth, although important, are temporary. Our soul is eternal. God often uses difficult times to strip away the superficial and temporary to help us see the truly significant and eternal.

                Social distancing does not have to result in spiritual distancing. Instead, let us allow God to use this “thorn in the flesh” to draw us closer to Himself.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

SOLID FOOTING IN CHANGING TIMES


Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah

                This past weekend was an odd experience for me. It was the first time in my life that I did not attend a corporate worship service on Easter Sunday. There was a definite void; a tangible sense of loss. I think many people are feeling a similar sense of loss, although for different reasons.

                Almost everyone I talk to is talking about the new normal. What will life be like after the Covid-19 pandemic has run its course? Will we go back to the way things were, or will we move in an entirely new direction? Everyone senses that life as we know it is changing, but no one knows what the future will be. We are experiencing a low-level anxiety that is hard to define.

                Next Sunday was supposed to be my last Sunday at Cavalier Baptist Church. We had arranged to pick up a moving truck on Saturday, pack our belongings, and hit the road on Sunday. Now, due to the travel restrictions that have been imposed, that has changed. We have pushed our move back a month, in hopes that by the end of May we may be able to safely make the trip. Yet over the weekend, I found myself struggling with the “what if” question. I actually began to wonder if we would be able to make the transition at all. I know that it was irrational, but it was also real. When everything that you have known as normal is stripped away, it is replaced by uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

                This morning I opened my devotional guide and turned in my Bible to the Psalm for the week, Psalm 46. The first three verses struck me as a very real message from God. In just a few words, the Psalmist reminded me that I have a solid place to stand, even in these uncertain times. I continue to be amazed how often God directs me to just the right passage of scripture at just the right time. I was not intentionally looking for Psalm 46, but God knew that I needed it.

                God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. My hope, my security, my sense of well-being is not to be found in the circumstances that surround me. My strength is to be found in the Lord. As Paul reminds us in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The idea of a refuge is a place of security that we can go to when life becomes insecure. God is that place of security. As He promised several times in the Bible, I will never leave you or forsake you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

                One of the things that causes us to be anxious is that many of the things we have either depended upon or have taken for granted have either been suspended or radically changed. For many people it seems like their world is crumbling. The Psalmist reminds us that even if our world crumbles, we don’t have to be afraid, because God is our refuge.

                This season that we are going through is a real test of our faith. Will we trust God in the midst of this? Will we hold onto the truth that God is our refuge?

Psalm 46:10-11
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah