Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Sometimes the world seems to cave in on you and anxiety, fear and hopelessness set in. God himself is calling you to silent trust in Him and know that He is God – the One who created the heavens and the earth, who gives you life and breath, who loves you deeply and who even sacrificed His only Son to save you from destruction.

When it seems like nothing is working out, when it seems like everything is stacked against you, be calm, be still and know that He is God. He has more than enough, both of weapons and of strength, to preserve and defend you.

Take a minute and calm down. Take in a few deep breaths and turn your heart to the One who holds all things together and is working all things for the good and just sit in that a while.

Faith

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Luke 5:18-20

When Jesus saw their faith, He healed the man and forgave his sin! What? Our faith affects others?!

Like it or not, our faith always affects others for better or worse. These guys risked their lives hoisting a their friend up on a roof, got their hands dirty digging a hole through a dirt and straw roof, and risked embarrassment in front of a huge crowd, and not to forget Jesus who they interrupted, to get their friend healed. How much are you willing to risk to save your friends who don’t know the Lord?

While you may not know someone who is paralyzed physically, I’m sure there are people in your world who are “paralyzed” in their faith. Certainly there are some in your life who have been crippled by fear and anxiety and have lost faith during this time, and they can’t find a way out for themselves. Maybe your faith is the vehicle that brings them to the feet of Jesus so he can set them free.

Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to bring to mind people in your life who are “crippled” in their faith. Write them down on a piece of paper or your phone. Now go and exercise your faith and give them a call and ask how you can pray for them during this time. Sacrifice a roll of your toilet paper and some snacks and drop off a care package at their door with a note telling them you are praying for them and ask if they need anything else.

I feel like the Church does a good job of learning about God faithfully going to Bible study and showing up at church on Sunday, but now that we are “forced out of our pews”, its time to put our faith into action! You may have to get your hands dirty, you might have to risk embarrassment, and you might even need to risk your life but there is a world out their in desperate need of Jesus. If you are a believer, Christ is in you, and while you can’t save anyone, you can bring them to the one who is mighty to save!

Straight to the Heart

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

It is pretty natural that we are oppressed or afflicted, our one desire is to get out from under whatever it is that is ailing us. We fixate so much on getting relief that we many times miss if there is anything God has for us.

Can you imagine the shock on these four friends after they frantically ripped a hole in the roof right in in front of Jesus and risked embarrassment in front of the crowd when Jesus didn’t immediately heal their paralyzed friend? I can just imagine them yelling from the roof, “No Jesus, it’s his legs!”

But Jesus went straight to the heart and forgave the man’s sins. Amazing!

I wonder if during this pandemic if we are too fixated on relief that we are missing what God has for us. What if the Lord wants to use this time to isolate you so he can work on your heart? What if he wants to forgive your sins and release you from the anger, frustration, bitterness, and hopelssness you have been carrying around?

Friend, God is after your heart. Don’t miss it. Spend some time in prayer confessing of your sins and repenting of those actions. Here is a prayer of David you may find helpful…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Now ask the Lord what He has for you during this season and spend some time just sitting and listening. Maybe you are struggling to focus or sense anything. Ask the Lord to give you a word for this time. Maybe the Lord will give you a song or maybe he will bring up a conflict you need to deal with. Continue to listen to Him today. Tune in to what He has for you during this time.

Reverance

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of you holy temple.” Psalm 65:4

We have access to God! I think sometimes we get dull to that fact. Back in the day, only a special group of people, called the Levites, could even get close to the Tabernacle. Even among those few only the priest could enter into the sacred room where God’s presence resided, and even they had to tie a rope around them just in case it was too much for them.

But now, thanks to Jesus dying on the cross, the veil had been torn. And what’s even more mind blowing, is that we are the holy of holies as Christ lives in us! Does our prayer life reflect the magnitude of what that means? Do we approach the throne with reverance and awe?

When I first became a Christian, some 30 years ago, it was popular in Christian circles to say, “Jesus is my best friend.” Some even had bumperstickers on their cars, and I think I even used to use that phrase. While I do believe an intimate relationship with Him is vital, I wonder if that somehow misses the holiness of God. Many times in the Bible, when God came near, people were thrown down to the ground. Again, I am not saying that we should not be in close communion with the Lord, but what I am saying is that we should remember the magnitude of Who it is we are talking to.

It blows me away thinking that I am even “brought near.”

I love the Voice translation… “You invite us near, drawing us into Your courts–what an honor and a privilege! We feast until we’re full on the goodness of your house, your sacred temple made manifest.

Spend some time in reverant prayer as you enter His courts. Enter His presence with praise and thanksgiving, wit reverance and awe, with humbleness and fear, with joy and gratitude. Submit all you are to Him–your mind, your body, your soul, your strength. Now feast on all the goodness of His house.

Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)

There is a quote running around social media supposedly from CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Even though I don’t remember reading this from the book and Lewis may not have written it, I believe it is still worth pondering:

Satan: “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship, and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.”

Jesus: “I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit. I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.”

The truth is there is an enemy who wants to devour you (1 Peter 5:8). He wants to divide and frustrate. He longs to take you out with fear and anxiety.

But then there is Jesus, who wants to give you life! And not just existing and making it through life, but life to the full.

Are you experiencing life abundantly? Where has the thief come in and destroyed your joy?

Spend some time praying against the enemies schemes in your life. Cast out doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, and despair. Replace it with God’s truth for you. Receive the abundant life He has for you.

Riches

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:19

There are many bold claims like this in the Bible: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” and “Ask and it will be given to you,” or, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” If we do not read them carefully we can come to believe that God will give us anything and everything we want. You want a new cadillac? Just ask for it. You want a million dollars? All you have to do is pray hard and believe.

You don’t have to live long to realize that God that is not your Spiritual Santa Claus. You have to realize the difference between needs and wants, and your desires versus God’s desire for you. Now what I am not saying is that God does not give you good gifts. On the contrary, He will give you everything you need, but just not always what you want. Our desires and wants can be dangerous, prone to selfishness and can lead us to consequences we don’t want. If I was given all of my desires, including the sinful ones, I would be in a lot of hurt.

The part of this verse I missed for years was the last part “His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The “riches” in Christ are immense for those of us who believe and have given our lives to Him. “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Mercy, love, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control and the list goes on. Plus there is the promise of eternity in Heaven!

Spend some time in prayer aligning yourself with Him. Take all your wants and desires and place them at His feet. Ask the Lord to give you the true desires of your heart. Place all your trust in Him to supply your every need.

“To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen”

Content

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

It just dawned on me that Paul wrote this while he was in “quarantine” in jail. How fitting for what seems to be such an oppressive time.

For years I thought this last verse, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength,” was talking about conquering something like a race or a mountain climb. It was used several times growing up in sports, especially when our team was up against the impossible. But I never thought of using it for a time like this.

How content are you right now? Contenment does not give way to fear or anxiety or worry. It can’t be achieved by gritting your teeth, and it doesn’t abide by the charge to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” To be content is to be grounded in who you are and to trust, and not just intellectually know, the One who holds all things together.

God can be your source of strength during these times, not just to get you through, but to thrive in this time of quarantine.

Spend some time in prayer and ask the Lord to reveal where you are not content in Him. Confess to Him where you have used other things for strength to make it through. Ask him to help you find contentment in Him.

May the God of peace be with you.

Remember

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; I the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Phillipians 4:8

One of the things I have learned in a many years of walking with the Lord, is how easy it is to forget the good things of God. He can come through for me in the most spectacular way and then, moments later, I’m frustrated with something or lusting after something I don’t have. We are fickle beings.

Paul, who wrote this verse, came to Christ in the most spectacular way. He fell to the ground from the Lord’s presence. The Lord actually spoke to him and blinded him. Then scales fell from Paul’s eyes, and he could see again and was given a new name! Yet even Paul could forget. It is critical for us to constantly remind ourselves of the good things of God, especially in these times.

Remember the times where God has come through for you in a big way: times when you have sensed His peace and His presence, times when you have been awestruck by the power of His creation. Remember when you came to Christ. Remember His faithfulness, His unwavering nature, how everthing He says never comes back void. Most of all remember His love for you for He loves us with an everlasting love. Remember Jesus’s story of the prodigal son where the son blows all of the Father’s wealth, and yet when he decides to come back, the Father runs to him with open arms. Remember the Father’s love.

Remembering is so critical for us to guard our hearts from getting swept away with the world. When I was young in the faith, the big thing my youth leader pummeled into us is the idea of what you put into you mind is what comes out of your mouth and shows up in your actions. What are you putting into your mind?

Take some time to think through what you are filling your minds with through movies, magazines, social media, books, podcasts, television, or the news. If you feel a resistance to this exercise, maybe there is something in the previous list that the Lord is trying to convict you of.

Now spend some time “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Confess everything that you have put into your mind that is damaging or unhelpful. Remember all the good things of God and receive his love for you today.

What is man?

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?…” Psalm 8:3-4

I woke up super eary this morning, for me, early enough to catch the sunrise. It was incredible! Birds singing songs of praise before the light began to show, almost as if they were anticipating the coming day. As the light began to break through their songs grew louder. As color filled the sky they began to move around with grace through the sky seemingly saying thank you to the Lord. 

I admit, I’ve caught probably about less than 20 sunrises (usually backpacking or fishing or hunting), and every time I remember being caught up in the beauty of everything coming to life. It can be a challenge here in Houston sometimes to find the beauty of creation through all of the concrete and power lines. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and sift through the sounds of cars driving by and air conditioner units buzzing and picture yourself somewhere else. 

I admit, I’ve caught probably about less than 20 sunrises (usually backpacking or fishing or hunting), and every time I remember being caught up in the beauty of everything coming to life. It can be a challenge here in Houston sometimes to find the beauty of creation through all of the concrete and power lines. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and sift through the sounds of cars driving by and air conditioner units buzzing and picture yourself somewhere else.

On the contrary when I go backpacking in the mountains of Colorado beauty slaps me in the face, and I get caught up into the majesty of creation and this verse pops into mind. The picture above is from the top of one of the highest mountains in the United States. From the top, you are surrrounded by the views of other mountains for miles, 360 degrees around you (the picture only shows you one part). It is a beautiful sight to behold and yet it is a sobering thought as well. Standing on top of such a great mountain makes you feel quite small and insignificant, and maybe a litte fearful. It really puts into perspective your place before such a great God.

And yet how easy it is for us here in the valley of these times to miss the granduer and might of our God. We spend way more time whining about not being able to get together with our friends or not being able to go to our favorite restuarant than we do thinking about the Lord. You can see it in your prayer life. How much of your prayer is spent asking for what you don’t have compared to the amount of praise and worship to the God who is more than worthy.

Spend some time giving thanks to the Lord and praising Him for who he is. If you are struggling for words open up the Psalms and let them assist you. Picture him on his throne and sit at his feet and place your whole life before him–your heart , soul, mind, strength, spirit. Place all you desires and wants at his feet and worship Him. He is more than worthy.

Tomorrow

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ MSG

I watched the news for the first time again in a long time, and I confess that my mind wandered into worry about our future. It is easy to do in these times.

As I was reminded of this verse, through a friend, my heart instantly released the fear and anxiety. It was as if it was shocked back to life. I began dwelling on all the good things of God–His love for me, His faithfulness, His restoration of my soul when I was in depression.

What is God doing in your life right now? Where do you see him working?

If you struggle to answer it may be because you are filled too much with yourself to see. Ask the Lord what is blocking you from seeing Him. Spend some time casting out all your fears, anxieties, pride, depression, doubt and whatever else the Lord brings up. Then, ask the Lord to open your eyes to see where He is working in your life. If you are struggling to find any evidence of His presence in your life then ask Him to show you where he is working in your church, your family, your community and your world.

I once had a friend tell me that I should always watch or read up on the news, so that I can be informed citizen. He wasn’t far off in his advice. I just believe that “our citizenship is in heaven”, and our tomorrow is much different than what the local or world news would have us believe.

“And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”. Can I get an amen?