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?

Sparrows

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the groung apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are worth more than sparrows.” –Jesus (Matthew 10:29-31)

When many people read this, they have sort of a “Chicken Soup for The Soul” moment where they feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I’m not sure that fits the context of this verse.

Jesus is talking here to the twelve apostles sending them out as “sheep among wolves” to preach the good news. Jesus is not just telling them to feel good about themselves that their hairs are numbered but warning them that they will be persecuted for their faith and to not fear for he has them.

Sometimes, when I read the gospels and the letters to the churches I get caught up in the fact that those must have been crazy times. It was the beginning of the Church and lots of crazy things were happening. But somehow, many of us resigned to the fact that God doesn’t move anymore like that and times are different. But I would argue that God still does move like that and these times are just as desperate if not more so as in many ways the Church is re-forming or is in desperate need to re-establish herself.

Nothing has really changed. Jesus is still sending us out to spread the news that His kingdom is at hand. When Jesus is saying, “Do not fear,” He is assuming we will be on the front lines, putting our lives and our reputations on the line for Him.

The problem is we live in a Christian culture that is pretty “easy.” No one really expects anyone to share their faith because no one else really does. We are not in threat of having our heads chopped off here or even put in jail yet somehow we hold back from sharing the gospel to our friends who are in desperate need of Jesus. Most of us sit at home and read this verse and feel all warm and fuzzy inside and that’s as far as it goes–we keep it inside.

Spend some time in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how you have “quarantined” your faith. Ask him to give you the courage to step out and share your faith. Ask him to put in front of you a person who needs to hear the good news.

This is the perfect time to call your non-believing friends and ask how they are doing. It won’t take long before they will talk about the struggle. Don’t be afraid to share the good news of Jesus with them: how there is hope for them yet! Make it a goal to share your faith with someone this week. You can do it! Use these verses as they were intended–to give you courage to get out there.

Wake Up

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:21-23

What do you wake up to every morning? Stress? Anxiety? Depression? Coffee?

Don’t worry, I’m NOT saying that if you are a Christian that you automatically wake up to God’s immense love for you and if you don’t you are maybe not a Christian. That would probably mean that nobody is a Christian. The truth is that I have woken up with all 4 of those things above; and you can include fear, loneliness, and despair to the mix.

What I am saying is that you do not have to wake up to any of those things. If you are in Christ then you can wake up to hope. But you have to choose hope. It’s not just going to wake you up and slap you in the face every morning. You have to come out of agreement with all that fear and anxiety and whatever else shouldn’t be there and “wake up” to the realities of God.

If you wake up to anxiety you need to “wake up” to the reality that the God who holds the world in his hands is in control. Psalm 94:19

If you wake up to fear you need to “wake up” to the reality that the it is the Lord who goes before you and is with you and He will never leave you or forsake you. Dueteronomy 31:8

If you wake up to stress you need to “wake up” to the reality that God will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

If you wake up to despair you need to “wake up” to the reality that the God of the universe is your helper. Psalm 118:13

If you wake up to depression you need to “wake up” to the reality that the LORD is close to the brokenhearted. Psalm 34:18

If you wake up to loneliness you need to “wake up” to the reality that the LORD is always with you. Psalm 16:8

If you wake up to coffee you need to “wake up” to the reality of bad breath and stained teeth.

What did you wake up to this morning? If it is anything other than the love and compassion of God then take captive those thoughts and make them obedient to the true reality of God’s immense love for you. Wake up people!

Mercy

“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy still to others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” Jude 1:22-23 NLT

When all this pandemic began to hit, I was very skeptical. I saw and heard of others beginning to freak out and rush to the store and buy up toilet paper and canned goods. (I know of one friend who bought 100 cans of Wolf chili.) I confess that my response to all this wasn’t very great. I made fun of them, reveling in the jokes of many on social media and coming up with my own. That was until I read this from a friend…

Prayer from a Pandemic
by Cameron Wiggins Beim, of Washington

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.  
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.  
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between 
preserving their health or making rent.  
May we who have the flexibility to care 
for our children when their schools close 
Remember those who have no options.  
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no place to go.  
May we who are losing our margin money 
in the tumult of the economic market 
Remember those who have no margin at all.  
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.  
During this time when we cannot 
physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace
 of God to our neighbors.  Amen.

After reading this, I came to the horrible realization that those I had made fun of, in jest, they were simply struggling. My heart broke when I realized that some of my friends were gripped with fear. And even though I felt more solid and unwavered by the crisis at the time, there were many people sinking in despair.

My response missed the mark, and I spent some time confessing my sin to the Lord. Then I began reaching out and talking with people I knew were struggling and prayed with them and offered them hope. To my believeing friends who were waivering in their faith, I reminded them of their true identity. The fact that if everything crumbled tomorrow we’d be ok as our home is in heaven. To my unbelieving friends I offered this same hope–that they don’t have to be given over to fear but that there is more to this life.

Spend some time praying to the Lord. Beg for mercy where you have waivered in your faith, whether it was fear or pride or both. Ask the Lord to bring to mind those who are struggling who you can show mercy to.

I want to point out one more thing about the end of the verse in Jude. As you are showing mercy to others, you need to be careful not to get pulled down with them. I have a friend who feels like it is his duty to text me every scary update from the virus and I have to be careful not to join his fear. I have to remind myself, yet again, that my home is not here.

Identity

“…Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

How are you feeling about yourself today? Fearful? Anxious? Confident? Loved?

Chances are this crisis has turned your world upside down. For those of you who are extroverts, you are learning how to be ok with being alone. For us introverts, it’s easy for us to live in a cave so the challenge is to find ways to reach out. But I’m curious, now without being able to be around larger groups of people, without the pressures to fit in or be somebody, how has this affected your identity and value?

Has this led you toward depression or has it been a relief for you? One of the huge blessings of this time for me has been an escape from society. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone because I hardly see anybody. This “time off” has exposed a lot of the pressure I impose on myself to be someone or to fit in.

I am reminded this quote from Henri Nouwen, “As long as we keep running around, anxiously trying to affirm ourselves and be affirmed by others, we remain blind to the One who has loved us first, dwells in our heart, and has formed our truest self. But we can also open our eyes. We can see a way forward.”

Spend some time praying and ask the Lord to expose where you have gone astray in your search for identity. Confess to him where you have gotten off track. Ask God to remind you of the ways He has loved you and values you then sit and listen to what he might bring to your heart for at least a minute. You can do it. Ask Him to silence all the other voices in you head and only hear from Him. Now receive the Father’s love, see a “way forward” and go into the world with a recovered identity.

Petition

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:6-7

Don’t be anxious about anything?! Surely Paul, who wrote this a couple thousand years ago, is out of touch or is out of his mind. Surely he didn’t know about crises like this one we are going through now.

I’m certain Paul did know about a crisis like this one and far worse than this one when he wrote this. Sorry, you are not off the hook.

One of the best ways I know to not be anxious is to do what he says next, pray. But what does it mean by petition (or as other translations put it, supplication). But what in the world does it mean to “petition” God?! (and “supplication” is even more confusing!) Now, as I confessed before, I was not the best English student, so the first thing that comes to mind is getting people to sign a petition for a cause they are passionate about (sorry I do not have an example for supplication). I am a limited country boy stuck in the city so I am going to let Jesus explain the petition…

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly…” – Jesus (Luke 18:1-7)

So now that we’ve covered petition, how do we get the peace of God? When you pray do you get the “peace of God which transcends all understanding”? Have you ever received this kind of peace that you can’t logically rationalize in your head but is supernatural? In my experience, the biggest problem is that we get in the way. Our prayers are usually confined to what we understand or what we have experienced. But the peace “that transcends all understanding” goes beyond what we can understand or maybe have experienced. So if we are to receive the peace “that passes all understanding” we have to believe that something supernatural can happen.

Spend some time in prayer. Petition God to help you with whatever you are struggling with. Repent of your need to understand everything and open yourself up to God’s supernatural ways. Maybe you need to “keep coming to him” with your plea.

Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way…” Psalm 46:1-2

Has God been your refuge, a place you can run to, in this time a trouble? Has He been your strength? Has he been “a very present help” to you lately?

I admit that sometimes in my life I struggle with these questions. And it is not because God isn’t all those things, but usually because I’m too wrapped up in my own ways of “medicating” through difficult times.

Last night, I watched Fox News and then NBC News for the first time, I think, since before the last election. I know, I’m a bad person or a crazy person. How do I stay informed?! Truth is that I have been fine. But last night, watching the news, sent me reeling. So much information and so many stories of stress and heartache that I started freaking out. I don’t see anyone watches the news, or listens to it on the radio, without running into despair.

You’d think I’d tell you to stop watching or listening to the news or to stop getting on social media or the Internet and filling your minds with panic. And while I don’t think it’s a bad idea to at least cut down on your consumption, it’s not the total problem. The problem is that we are running to the news to find peace. We are escaping into social media to find rest. We are frantically searching through the internet to find help.

I’ve been walking with the Lord for over 30 years now, and have seen God show up in amazing ways in my life and in the lives of others–so much so that my belief in Him does not waver much, and yet, I still wander off. I find myself scrambling for answers or for peace in other things. I create my own constructs in my head to deal with my current problems (or especially my recurring problems), so much so that I miss the God who is our “ever-present help in trouble” and my “refuge and strength.”

Spend some time confessing that you turn to other things to be your help. Ask the Lord to be your refuge and strength, and to be your very present help in this situation. Now, don’t just finish reading this and move on with your day. But actually stop and sit with the Lord in prayer. Make sure your give all these things over to Him and set him on the throne of your life.

Dwell

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4)

How are you dwelling these days? Has anyone ever asked you that? Haha me neither.

All joking aside, I believe David, who was called a “man after God’s own heart”, had boiled down his desires to one thing. Well, it’s actually three but the Bible didn’t say he was good at math. I kid, but I believe the word “dwell” encapsulates the other two. To dwell means to live. How do we live in the house of the Lord when we are stuck here on this earth? Maybe that seems like a silly question, but it has taken me many years to answer it and I believe I have a lot more to learn!

So how do we dwell? Well, to start, we need to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Maybe that’s hard for you. I have found the Psalms as a great way to do this. Or sometimes I walk outside and see the beauty of creation (although sometimes a bit of a struggle in the concrete Jungle I live in) and turn my heart towards the one who created it. Sometimes a worship song can help or even a non-worship song sometimes leads me to turn my eyes on Him. Sometimes I find the catalyst is my wife, not only her outward beauty but her inner beauty as well. You can use practically anything as long as you turn your gaze to Him.

The last thing is “to seek him in his temple.” Now, I’m not just talking about a “quiet time” where you read a little scripture or a devotional and pray, “Lord, thank you for this day…”, and a few other small arrows at heaven hoping God will hear you. Now I am not talking saying that Scripture is not important. On the contrary, it can be vital to helping you accomplish this. But it’s not just getting knowledge in our heads but using Scripture to help illuminate the beauty of God. I am also not saying prayer is not important. It is also critical but maybe we do too much talking when we pray.

What I am talking about is sitting in silence, closing your eyes, and turning your gaze upon Him and just sit. If you are struggling to be quiet in your mind maybe turn on a worship song and let the words lead you into the very presence of God and once you are there, worship him.

Try it out! For many of you, you have a lot more free time on your hands so you might as well use it to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Get alone somewhere and ask the Lord to quiet your mind. Remove all the thoughts of things you need to do today. Turn your gaze toward him and seek him in his temple. And once you are there, just sit. Or in the words of David, “Dwell in the house of the Lord”

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling. He will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5)

Treasure

“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” -Jesus (Matthew 6:19-20)

At first glance, you may be saying to yourself, “Duh, put your treasure in heaven!” But maybe we should stop before we move on and take inventory of where our treasure truly is.

How have you been doing with the current crisis in our world today? How has the stock market crashing affected you emotionally? Businesses are shutting down and potentially will not be able to pay the bills. Schools have shut down maybe for the summer. Vacations are either cancelled or have the threat of being cancelled. Have any of the recent events caused you to despair? Have you been freaking out?

This verse ran through my head as I heard of many people rushing to the store to buy toilet paper and canned goods. While that may seem ridiculous to some, I wonder if we are not doing the very same thing in our hearts. Maybe the problem has been going on long before this pandemic. Are you satisfied with the house or apartment you live in? The car you drive? The career, or lack thereof, that you have built? Your bank account? Your boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, children?

If fear or anxiety has gripped you or you have had a loss of hope or maybe even feel hopeless, then maybe it’s a sign that you are making too much of this world. If you find yourself many times longing for what others have or embarrassed by what you don’t have, maybe you are making too much of a life for yourself here on earth.

Spend some time confessing to the Lord where you have stored up things for yourself here on earth. Ask him to help you put your hope in heaven.

Maybe you stocked up on way too many supplies. Could you give some of that away? Even at the potential of not having enough? Why not give some away to your neighbors? Give some of your canned goods to the homeless. Give me some soft toilet paper for crying out loud! (my wife bought the crappy kind (no pun intended)).

Grounded

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have…” 1 Peter 3:15

In these tumultuous times, when the world seems to be falling apart, we need to be careful not to get pulled down with it. On the contrary, this is our time to rise above and offer hope. But how do we have hope when things seem pretty hopeless? Peter offers us an simple solution. We need to be grounded in Christ.

Spend some time this morning setting apart Christ as Lord of you life. Give him control of all your fears, anxiety, desires, wants, needs. Surrender every aspect of you life to him-your spirit, soul, mind, body, strength. Let the Father’s love envelop you.

Now go and offer hope to a world that desperately needs it.