Enough

www.bible.com/1713/mat.6.25.csb

What is enough? Something that I’ve discovered over the course of the last few months is that I have enough clothes. I have more than enough clothes, so much so that since Goodwill finally opened back up, I have been able to donate a dozen bags of clothes. I don’t know how I’ve been able to gather so much, but over a lifetime, with a little here and a little there, It’s not much of a mystery.

I suppose this is the first time I’ve had to do a purge. I possessed a hoard of clothes that just don’t fit me anymore, or needed to be discarded for one reason or another. But I’ve never lacked having enough clothes to wear. That is a blessing. And I know that it comes from the Lord. I also know that I am blessed to live in this nation, because there are many places in the world where having a week’s worth of clothing is considered a luxury.

So I’ve never really worried about what I am going to wear. Neither is food that much of an issue here, and there is always plenty of water. By those standards, I have no reason to worry. If there is a land of milk and honey, then we certainly live in it. And I know it is because of God’s blessing over and over, blessing our land for being founded and continued as a Christian nation. I also know that this is eroding, and our ability to supply food and clothing are also being affected.

My wife went to the grocery store last night and told me a grim story. The beef was mostly gone. What was left was overpriced. I have heard this isn’t because of a lack of beef, but the break in the supply chain. COVID19 has affected everything, but in this case, it seems to have affected the processing plants for the big meat packers the worst. I think as Christians we ought to have our eyes open on this. We have been so blessed for so long, that these interruptions become noticeable. Christians should notice when these basic blessings are interrupted. I think we ought to remember this, because when these things take place, we know that our nation is gently coming under judgment.

It is something that is a long time coming. Anyone familiar with the Scriptures know that Israel stumbled repeatedly, and the Lord sent invaders to chastise them until they fell to their knees and repented of their sins, and then then God restored them. This is a cycle we see repeatedly in the Scriptures. In our case, military invaders are always a threat, but not a serious one. Rather, it is the political invaders, the social invaders, and the medical invaders. Our politics are constantly being subverted, to where today we are willingly closing churches (for health reasons). Our social system is being overwhelmed because strangers and foreigners are overwhelming our social structures (and politicians support this subversion) while veterans and homeless are ignored. Our medical system is being overwhelmed, not only by diseases entering in through illegal  immigration but also in more subtle ways, like COVID-19. We may not be a nation overcome with military invaders, but we have invaders nevertheless. Like Rome, our chief problem isn’t that we aren’t the most powerful nation in the world. In many ways we are. But it is the chinks in our armor, the gaping holes where other kinds of invaders creep in and engage in rot and corruption within.

As a Christians, I want you to first be aware of when our basic blessings like food and clothing are being affected. This is a sign that God is placing our nation under judgment. But second, like Daniel (Dan 9) and Nehemiah (Neh 1) we must intervene for our nation before God. We must pray for national repentance, and national forgiveness. As citizens of this country, enjoying the freedoms we enjoy, we cannot ignore the fact that our nation is being eroded, and the strongest power we possess isn’t at the ballot box, but at the altar of prayer. You cannot afford to sit by and shake your head. This isn’t something that is happening to someone else. This affects all of us.

I encourage you as a believer to pray for our nation. Pray against this virus, yes, but also pray that the Lord stays His hand on our nation. Pray that the Lord preserve us for a while longer, that we appeal to His mercy, not because we are good, but because He is.

Dear Father, please hear our voice today. Father please spare our nation. Please do not lift Your hand from our leaders or our nation. We know that if you do, disaster follows, because by Your hand we are blessed. Please Lord, hear our prayers today. May You offer mercy. May You heal our land. May Your judgment complete its perfect work, but that You save Your people, and let this nation once again stand for Your great Name! In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Frenetic

www.bible.com/1713/isa.26.3.csb

That word describes the pace of life these days. No, it’s not because life is moving so fast. In fast, life is much slower now than it used to be. No, rather this word describes the state of living today. Every day we are given new rules, new rules for COVID, new rules for work, play, even worship. Unless your eyes are glued to the news, you will something, usually something important. It is to keep one’s ear to rail, knowing the train is coming, and waiting until the last second to move, because they don’t want to miss it. It is that tense.

But it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of how deadly you think this virus is, or how important it is to social distance or wear a mask, there’s really nothing in this world that can save you. I mean, according to some, this virus escaped from a lab. It brings to mind the idea of a prison break or something, but a lab like the one this virus was in is designed to keep the little beasts inside. Yet this virus escaped containment from the most secure place viruses like this are kept. I don’t live in a virus lab. I doubt you do either. Is there anything you can do better than a lab to protect yourself?

Do we have reason to be afraid? Probably. Should we take precautions? What could we do better than a lab to protect ourselves? So, ought we to worry? Why?

There are thousand things that could kill me every time I go out my door. And yet I have a God that protects me from all of them. I don’t worry about it. He gives me peace and shelter under His wings. Trust in the Lord isn’t for the fearful or the worriers. You can’t save yourself by worrying. You can call upon the One who can save you and protect you. With God, the only thing to fear is Him.

If you are a lion tamer, the only thing you worry about it the lion. You don’t worry about your blood pressure or your heart rate. Your mind is focused on the one thing that could kill you at any moment, the imminent threat. All your other worries fade into the background.

If you are a God-feared, all of your other worries ought to fade, because you have only one concern, to please the King of the Universe who watches your every move.

Heavenly Father, though perfect love casts out all fear, I pray my fear of You eclipse any other fears I have. I pray that my chief goal be to please You, and that all other concerns and worries of life will fade away. I know You control the future. You control the tiniest of particles to the largest stars. No virus escapes Your attention. I pray for You protection today as I work and serve to please you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faithful

www.bible.com/1713/heb.10.23.csb

Though we often use the word “faithful” in religious contexts, there is another context that is used almost as often. That is marriage. More to the point, the antonym of this word is often used in the marriage context, “unfaithful”. And that word can bring some folks to immediate depression and anxiety, so I apologize if that word has negative connotations for you.

Recently I spoke to an individual who was truly suffering because of unfaithfulness. Though this person had never formally committed to any of the relationships, this person noted that every one ended in unfaithfulness. And this fact destroying this person. It’s one thing when boyfriends and girlfriends step out on you because there are no formal commitments. That is frowned upon nevertheless because there is an expectation that a person will be “faithful” as long as they are dating until they break off dating or break up. That is acceptable. But it is unacceptable for a person to go and date another person while they are still dating the first person. That kind of individual gets a reputation. But it can be devastating for the first relationship because there is an assumption of faithfulness.

It gets worse in marriage. And the consequences become even more drastic. In marriage, there is a formal commitment made in front of witnesses. This formal commitment the couple to monogamy, and no others will be allowed in the implied sexual relationship between the two of them. “Unfaithful” is what we call it when that covenant agreement is broken. The consequences then also include separation, divorce, destruction of assets, and children, as well as broken family relationships. It is more widespread and more far-reaching, but obviously, I don’t have to tell some of you that. You’ve lived it.

But it is in this marriage context that we find meaning for “faithful”. I hope you have all been witness to marriage relationships, if not your own, where both husband and wife have been together for decades. It is a good picture of faithfulness because we see that it was not all good. Sometimes faithfulness is hard, even impossible, if not for the bonds of marriage keeping them together. We faithfulness is forged and well-earned, not without effort. Faithfulness sis oftentimes the more difficult path, and one less traveled.

So it is with God. With God, our journey with Him is forged into stronger bonds of trust. As we encounter increasingly difficult terrain, we find our faith tested, and His faithfulness to us returned in answer to our prayers. We find God more faithful, more devoted, more true, but not without effort. We find that the answers to our questions are immediate, but they do come in time. We find the One who promised is faithful and will continue to be faithful, even when it looks like He is not. God never forgets you.

Heavenly Father, today there will be times where it seems You have forgotten me. There will be times I will feels at the end of rope pulled by a sailboat in the dark. I will not see You, just the rope, and I will be forced to trust the rope without seeing the boat to pull me in. There are sometimes Lord when I doubt You are really there, whether You are really listening. But it is at those times I need to still the storm, because it is not all around me, but it is in my soul. And I pray Lord help today to still the storm in me, so that I can clearly see the path before me. Thank You Lord for being faithful. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Sorry Saturday

www.bible.com/1713/psa.30.5.csb

What always strikes me about the events of the Passion is the disbelief of the disciples. None of them believed Jesus would rise from the dead. None of them believed that this one final prophecy of His would come true. No one stood outside the grave waiting for His appearance (except the Roman guards of course). No one anticipated His return, or prepared for it. In fact, the only preparation you see is the women, taking more spices to the tomb early on that Sunday morning, in further preparation of the body, and probably to see his face one more time before corruption set in.

All of the disciples huddled together in that Upper Room. While other families were together and celebrating the Passover, doing as families do, the disciples were afraid. They were scared that they would be found out. Who knows where Judas went. I don’t think at this point they knew what had happened to Judas since they saw him in the garden two nights ago. Maybe Judas was going to betray them all?

Imagine the self-recrimination taking place. If only I had known Judas better. If only we spent more time talking to him. How could he betray Jesus? Did Jesus know? I can imagine a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on in that room on that Sabbath day. There would have been angry words, short tempers, and we would probably have seen these disciples at their worst, but bonded together by their fear. They surely wouldn’t separate now, because someone else might be a traitor too. They wouldn’t dare let each other out of their sight.

There would have been discussion about what to do next. Peter might have been the first to suggest to go back to Galilee and resume the fishing business. Their might have been some remembrances and stories told. “Remember the time Jesus said, …” They might have laughed and chuckled at a familiar event or too, or when they remembered the consternation of the Pharisees and Sadducees just a few days ago, only to remember it was those same that condemned Jesus to death, and then all would be quiet again.

They were all mourning. They were grieving at the loss of a man who had done nothing wrong. He had in fact been more right about more things than all of them. And was He really the Son of God? There was probably some discussion about that subject. How could the Son of God allow something like this to happen to Him? There might have been the topic of leading an insurrection, no doubt lead by Simon the Zealot, but then they would remember that that wasn’t Jesus’ way. Peter would point out his incident in the garden with Malchus, the High Priest’s servant and his ear. ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” even though they had the two swords.

Sorry Saturday would not have been a lively day, but it certainly prepared them. They all needed the rest, and their hearts were being prepared for what was coming by a Heavenly Father and a Holy Spirit who was reminding them of the things Jesus said. They were receiving comfort in the midst of their sorrow, because the Father was still there with His Son’s chosen, keeping them safe until the Plan could be put into effect.

Like those disciples, we don’t know what’s coming. Though we’ve been told over and again that Jesus is coming back, it’s been so long that we are no longer certain. But Jesus has not left us. His presence is always with us. unlike those disciples, we know the end of that story, and the Living Jesus is with us today. His return is not just promised, but certain. His presence is always and forever. We need not wait for the end of the world to preach a risen Lord. He is risen, and today we have hope because of it.

Lord Jesus, we are reminded those millennia ago that there was a day when the world wasn’t sure You were coming back. We are glad You did. And may we continue to worship You today because You are Living and Active, You are present and working in us today. Thank You Jesus for rising from the dead and being our Savior. May wherever I go be a time I am with You. In Your holy Name I pray, Amen.

Fear

www.bible.com/1713/ecc.12.13.csb

Apparently there’s a lot to be afraid of nowadays. Here in Kentucky. We have been told to be afraid of church, bars, restaurants, large gatherings and non-essential travel? Why? Well, there’s a nasty virus out there that we can’t see that lurks in the potential breath of strangers. It’s here to make us sick, even to kill us if we are exposed to it. We’ve got to wear masks, seal ourselves off from social contact, and stay HOME.

Now we are flattening the curve and exercising social distancing out of an abundance of caution. There, I managed three social buzz-phrases in one sentence. It’s making me sick.

I have had two opportunities to leave town cancelled, one this weekend and one the next, because the virus has caused fear in others to cancel events and shut down venues. Instead of getting out of town, it looks like I will be staying in town for the duration. The lack of mobility is starting to wear on me. Even the idea that I can’t anywhere because nothing is going to be open is grating in my nerves. So what’s a guy to do?

Solomon suggests that we fear God and keep His commandments. This is the end of the law. This is the goal of all that has been written. Maybe I’ve needed to rant a bit, and I thank you for reading this far. And maybe all of this is to point out to us what’s really important in this life. Priorities are changing. We need to review those priorities in light of our walk with Christ. What is it to be a Christian in the middle of all of this? I think it means more than watching TV and moping around the house. Now is the chance to catch on your Bible reading, break out that study guide you’ve been meaning to get into. Catch up on a sermon series you’ve missed online or offer to help in your community in any way that you can. Call some elderly folks in your church and see how they are doing. You know they’ll appreciate the visit.

Lord help me today to see the opportunities that lie ahead for those who follow You. Help me to be the Christian I need to be today despite the circumstances. Show me the opportunities before me so that I can continue to serve You faithfully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

It’s Demons!

www.bible.com/1713/jas.4.7.csb

Once in a while you come upon one of those cases where nothing works. Meds don’t work. Sound reasoning from the Scriptures does no good. What’s left? Behavioral modification, psychoanalysis, extended rehab, nothing is effective to change the heart. If you know Jesus, you know that Jesus is the only one who can change the heart, but a person must also choose Jesus. Jesus wants to change everyone, but only those who let Him can receive that change.

But you know who doesn’t want that change? Do you know who wants you to stay just the way you are in depression and anxiety, in anger or self-destruction? It’s Demons! The devil has every interest in seeing you destroy yourself. He wants to take you away from God and will do all in his power, as God allows him, to destroy your sense of self-worth, your feeling of forgiveness and grace, especially your peace. He will sense his henchmen to take you down, through whispers, through oppression, through others who will hurt you.

And yet here is this promise in the Scripture. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. You must choose God. And in that choice you have the power to resist the devil. You have the power to choose not to listen to him or his minions. You have the power to resist him and his spiritual poverty. It is in your power to choose, and in that choice, many find healing. Because sometimes it isn’t a biological problem or a thought problem, but it’s demons. Demons will steal your joy and impoverish your spirit. They constantly tell you that life isn’t worth living and that you are alone. They will isolate you and corral you to believe that you are the only one with your problem.

You must choose to believe the truth. Jesus loves you and had died for you. Jesus has given everyone because He loves you. Even now He longs for you. He calls to you. Amidst all of the voice of sorrow and despair, Jesus’ is the only one speaking hope into you. Resist the devil. He will flee. Resist the darkness, and light will flood in. Resist the voices. They don’t love you. Submit yourself to God and enjoy His love and grace.

Dear Father, I know I’m not much. But with you, I am something. All my life the enemy has tried to tear me down and make me feel like I am worthless. I know that’s not true. I am valuable because your Som died for me. I have been bought with a price, far more valuable than gold or silver. Help me see that today, to resist the darts and wiles of the devil, and embrace your grace in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Fear

www.bible.com/1713/psa.56.3.csb

Ever been afraid? A few years ago when I was in college, I got stranded on the interstate for a bit because I ran out of gas. Of course it was night and it was raining. Which is actually the perfect time to run out of gas, really. After waiting with my flashers on for an hour or so, nobody stopped, so believing the next exit was just a little further, I got out to walk and get gas. I walked for a while until a trucker had pity on me and picked me up. After getting to the gas station, I got some gas and I got a ride back to the car. After my ride left, confident I was ok, I put the gas in and got in to turn the key. Nothing happened. Not a whimper or a sigh. That’s when the fear started to take hold. I started to pray. ”Dear God just let this car start!” Still nothing. Fear turned to anger. I got out and slammed the door and started walking again. This time, a state trooper pulled up behind me and asked me if I owned that car back there. I said I did and he offered me a ride to the next station. An hour later I was back in my car with a wrecker go jump start me. Once the motor turned over, I was able to make the rest of my way back to school. It was a journey I will never forget.

Did God send both the Trucker and the State Cop? Probably. In this situation that was out of my control, I prayed. I prayed when the gas ran out, praying for just a little bit more in the tank. I prayed as I sat by the side of the road and waited for someone to stop. But God didn’t answer my prayers by bending the laws of physics. He answered with simple, ordinary means.

Nowadays, I face work and financial pressures. That same fear still bothers me from time to time but then I remember all those times that God had already prepared the way, prepared the people I would see, and is preparing me for new challenges. When I am afraid, I trust God for the things I can’t see. Because I know He is always there for me.

I pray your Monday is a good day.