Hey YOU, it’s a GOOD Day !!!

Well today is GOOD Friday. No matter what is going on in our world remember what can truly dissipate any BAD we go through is the GOOD God has extended to YOU ! If you have been in church for any length of time you are not at all unfamiliar with what was GOOD about that Friday some 2000 years ago. Yet at first it sure didn’t seem GOOD to His disciples who walked the earth then. The arrest in Gethsemane in the early hours of that Friday, the sham trial that followed, the painful scourging of His bare back and taunting by the Roman soldiers, the chanting of the crowd before Pilate in “Crucify Him, crucify Him !”, the slow and arduous trek through the Via Dolorosa towards the hill of Golgotha where He was nailed to a cross to slowly, painfully and shamefully perishing before a mocking populace as they walked by. No the day was not exactly GOOD to the casual observer or believer then !

Slowly He moved towards death as His very life blood flowed out and finally He uttered one of the few things He did that GOOD Friday when He said “It is finished !” (Jn.19:30). Tetelestai is the actual word He spoke and its quite fascinating. It is in the Greek perfect tense and so what He meant by using that very tense was what I have done is GOOD for those who accepted His sacrifice then once and for all time !! There is no need for a redo or a “mulligan” as the golfers say. There’s some GOOD news, don’t ya think? When the days are BAD just remember the GOOD God has secured for YOU !! What a GOOD time we have come to this week upon hearing things look to be improving in our world but even if it wasn’t we as Christians have something GOOD we can celebrate today and every day because YOU have a GOOD God Who paid the price for all your sins !! Have you told Him thank you lately for the GOOD He has done and will continue to do for YOU? What a GOOD Friday that day turned out to be, what a GOOD day this one truly is too !!!!

Hydroxychloroquine may be good but there’s something else even more EFFECTIVE !!

If you have read the Bible you know that there is peppered throughout its pages instances where God has allowed plagues or pandemics to occur. Some have been initiated directly by Him as in the plagues of Egypt prior to the exodus. Others have been instigated by Satan as in the book of Job. But all have been permitted by the Lord to draw men closer to Him !

The prophet Joel begins his book by telling us about a plague that God directed of waves of insects who would absolutely devastate the land. The very first words of the book are a stark call to LISTEN to what God is doing. Do you remember as a kid when your Mom or Dad raised their voice or used your middle name? It was an attention grabber ! Well that’s what God does here: “Hear this, you elders, give ear, all inhabitants of the land ! Has such a thing happened in your days?” The last great pandemic we have faced as a world happened around a century ago in the “Spanish flu”. “Elders” now would have to answer, “Nope, can’t recall such a happening in my many years !” This one is beyond what I have ever experienced in all my decades of living and it’s got my attention !!

But why is He judging His people so? It’s clear as you read on that things were not all that great in their world and God was using the plague to shock them out of their lethargy and spiritual indifference. He goes on to say “Awake, you drunkards, and weep and wail all you drinkers of wine” (vs5). And the spiritual leaders are also commanded to “put on sackcloth and lament” because the “grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God”. (vs.13). Today God has permitted the closing of His churches from congregating normally ! Has any of what has befallen us awakened you spiritually yet? Today is a special Sunday which we call Palm Sunday and the next of course is Easter yet a virus plagues the entire planet in such a way that it is dangerous to meet in groups and worship until such time as God allows it to end !

In a time when we are to especially focus on the greatest most compassionate act ever to grace our world, in the Creator Himself dying for us there has been in us at times a callousness about it all. Oh we go to church year after year, we have our certain traditions but have we left our first love? More babies died because of abortions in our country just a day ago than in even the coronavirus, yet do we care or have we become accustomed to the great and heinous sins in our nation on a daily basis? Are we trusting in Dr’s Fauci and Birx to solve the coronavirus pandemic or have we forgotten that trust is to be in the Lord rather than men? Well God’s remedy may come in part through some wonder drug but ultimately the antidote for what plagues us is not the latest and greatest vaccine but what Joel wrote on vs.14 “Consecrate a fast, call a SOLEMN assembly, gather the elders and ALL the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and CRY OUT TO THE LORD” !!

It is time for us to repent of our national and personal sins, time for politicians to stop lining their pockets and lying to hold on to power, time for the media to let go of the hate and do honest reporting, time for businesses to serve their fellow man, time for churches to preach the Word without apology rather than cater to the whims of men, time for believers to stop being preoccupied with our agendas and engage faithfully in His local church and LIVE for His agenda !!!! We often hear this verse around Independence Day but it is so very appropriate this day “If My people which are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and WILL HEAL their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Its All a Matter of Perspective

Isn’t it utterly amazing how a microscopic organism such as a virus can wreak so much havoc and change our perspective?! COVID-19 has really changed many people’s way of looking at things now. We are more conscious of what we touch, to wash our hands, to keep our distance, the importance of maintaining a healthy immune system through a nutritious diet and exercise, etc. I heard one doctor say that you will 99% not get the virus if you wash your hands regularly and refrain from touching your face ! That should chance how you look just at some very simple habits you engage in to make the needed changes to be more healthy !

On a lighter note though, I saw an ad recently for a cheeseburger and fries and the company in the ad is noted for their food being very unhealthy and so we don’t frequent it. And in the words of comedian Jim Gaffigan, if you ever seen him, “Hey fella, I like Burger King !” I have to admit not being able to go into a restaurant now and order a cheeseburger really tweaked my take on chowing down on a Whopper !!

But in all seriousness, what about how you look at life now? Just this morning I read a story of a former all-pro football player in perfect health who contracted the virus because he’d been playing golf with a man who had tested positive and how it then changed his outlook on the danger of the virus and the frailty of life ! James said that our lives are but a vapor (4:14), they are like that wisp of smoke you see wafting up from a campfire that appears then disappears so fast. This being the case, have you accepted Christ as your Savior? I do not wish to check out real soon from life here by touching something that is deadly but here’s the deal, if I do I KNOW where I am going and I KNOW I will leave this life and body for a new and eternal one. This greatly reduces the fear and provides a peace nothing in this old world can provide ! The alternative is to live in such dread of what could happen with no hope, no peace, and no joy. So it’s one thing to have enough toilet paper in a stay at home ordered situation but quite another to prepare for death itself and be certain of your eternal destiny !

Now if you have truly been saved, are you living like you really have been? Are you modeling the perspective that comes from one who truly believes that even though life here is short and oh so frail that God has the antidote for perfect health that will endure throughout all eternity?!! Even the best of believers will have anxious moments but let them only be moments ! When they come focus on the precious and calming truths of the Bible to change your perspective for the better. Remember how Peter walked on water as long as he was looking at Jesus but sank when he did not? You have a serious obligation and a powerful opportunity now to lead others to Christ and show them just how real and right a faith in Him truly is !! So, when others around you exhibit great anxiety, step in and show them your Lord by a calmness and faith as you ride through this storm and introduce them to Him. All storms are temporary, God offers us all something peaceful and lasting so keep that in your sights !!!

The Pandemic of Indifference and the Vaccine of Prayer

In the Gospel of Luke the eighteenth chapter starts with Jesus emphasizing that we ought to pray and not to become weary in this. Many churches have for years had midweek prayer meetings, a service which seems to be considered by many believers now as “optional” and not as important as it was to our brethren of yesteryear or even a generation earlier ! But prayer, as with reading the Bible, is one of the major disciplines for a growing Christian for in any thriving relationship there must be good communication. In prayer we actually get to speak to the Lord and He with us when we read His Word (amazing !!). Yet how many times have you heard a sermon about prayer and thought “I should be better about this!” ? Our mind then can search for a reason we haven’t been more diligent in prayer and so we may come up with “I am just too busy right now”.

While there is great cause for concern in a pandemic there is also great spiritual opportunity for God’s people and prayer should be at the core of this in our thinking and in our practice !! Most of us may have more time right now in this “forced pause” allowed by God to slow us down and get back to the basics of the Christian life. A longer quarantine affords more time to establish good habits and rid ourselves of wrong ones. There is much to pray for now, your nation, yea your world, needs your prayers. God’s people are crucial in this war against this unseen enemy (and I’m not just speaking of a virus !). Why not start a Pandemic Prayer List right now and write down as many requests as God brings to your mind and divide that into seven areas (one for each day of the week) so that you cover a wide range of requests and people every week !! For example, pray for God’s will to be done through this, for medical personnel, the sick, the leaders of the nations of the world and our President and VIce-President, for churches struggling to make it financially, businesses, the many now unemployed, counselors, police. You can take the rest from here !!

But how about one more thing to pray about? That I and my nation are drawn closer to God. It may be repentance is needed for a lifestyle that has not been all that pleasing to God, you may’ve been too busy for God even though you went to church (which He has now removed for who knows how long?), your love may have waned for Him and been replaced by self, things of this world, even your family! You see one will not truly pray in a heartfelt, powerful way if your love for God is not above all your loves !! So if you find that you haven’t prayed as you ought and you have “fainted” in this the simple powerful correction is to admit it to Him and ask His forgiveness and to commit to Him that He will be first in your heart by communicating with Him each and every day !! If you have been praying diligently, stay at it, don’t let the enemy discourage you, we are in a battle and the pandemic of spiritual indifference is all around us too and God is counting on you to pray “always” !!

God’s Protection Song

I have seen several people allude to Is.26:20 now in light of the stay at home orders several Governors have been issuing during the pandemic we find ourselves in at present. The verse says “Come, My people, enter into your rooms, and close your doors behind you: hide for a little while, until indignation runs it course.” While we are fond of fitting our current predicaments precisely into Scripture it is important we rightly divide or understand the Word of truth ! Did God understand from ages past exactly what we’d go through in the spring of 2020? Of course, He knows ALL. So it’s better to look at this verse and chapter as to what it really means and how it truly applies to benefit from the full impact of what God has said.

The chapter is actually a very positive one for those who are true believers. It is a “song of God’s protection” for those who are His children ! In the not too distant future we’ll rejoice that we live in a place where fear does not rule and disease is not present. In our current pandemic the cities of our world are rife with the coronavirus, hospitals are becoming more crowded and anxieties are high as we pray and do all we can to protect ourselves from becoming a statistic – not so in the day Isaiah writes about here !

Its here in this city that the gates will be open to all who are righteous. So have you been saved yet? He wants you to be protected from more than a virus, from the very scourge of hell itself ! But if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord a virus you might experience for a time but you WILL enjoy bliss forever due to God’s amazing grace !!

And yes, God does at times chasten this old world in our time to draw hearts who have strayed towards Him. Think of the millions and millions of babies aborted in our nation alone, the many churches and people in them who worship the way they please and think its ok with Him, the apathy and indifference even amongst Christians who trudge off to church each week simply out of duty rather than devotion or the many who He has truly saved who view church as “optional” (“I don’t feel like attending today”, “I have this event to attend on the Lord’s day and I feel bad for going” but still choose that over God’s house !!). As this current trial continues to plague us its a good time to spiritually evaluate exactly where you are at with your relationship with Him and repent of anything you need to and commit to a closer walk with Him.

The present situation is temporary, that I can say from the testimony of Scripture. But the Lord is gracious and desirous that you as His child come out even better through it which is why He says “Come, My people, enter into your rooms. . .until the indignation runs its course !” He offers His protection now to you just as He warned His people the night of the Passover to place blood on the doorposts and be spared from death then. So just be wise in the current trial (keep washing those hands, don’t touch your face, be thoughtful and prayerful towards others around you, stay worshipful!!). And He PROMISES better times ahead, times of unprecedented joy and blessing to any who would trust in Him ! So don’t let the virus rob you of His peace and joy for you even now because He’s still on the throne and He has a great, great love for YOU !!

REAL Help for your Fears !

Perhaps one of the things making people the most anxious through this coronavirus pandemic is “fear of the unknown”. Scientists and medical experts freely admit there is still much to learn and a panicked public hangs on to their every word looking for hope and for concrete answers. In a similar fashion, death and what is beyond it cause many to have the same fear of the unknown yet as Easter approaches remember that is what Jesus’ resurrection has dealt so convincingly with !

If you have truly been saved you know what I mean, you KNOW the salvation of your soul is a very real deal. You KNOW the evidences He has given to you when you made that critical decision. Yet you cannot prove it to someone else, this is God’s way: each person must place their faith in Christ ! The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “But without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him, for, and He that cometh to God MUST believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb.11:6). So once you do place your faith in Him, no longer in you and your ideas and your meager attempts to appease a perfect, holy God, God is THEN a “rewarder” to YOU. The Greek word speaks of a person who pays you wages. You do what’s REQUIRED of you and then you receive what should legitimately be given. God also tells us in Acts 17:30 “. . .but now God COMMANDS all men everywhere to repent” ! God gives us all a free will so we can obey Him or not but He is expecting us to repent just as that thief did who did end up in heaven ! When we do sincerely admit to Him we are a sinner and ask His forgiveness and ask Him to be our Savior it is then that the fears we have can convincingly start to be quelled !! This is part of God’s personal reward to YOU !!!

Maybe you were a germaphobe prior to this pandemic and now you are truly freaking out, maybe you worry about money to pay the bills, keep your home, or you are really fretting about your family and how ever will they make it, will they get sick, when if ever will we have church again, and the list can go on and on and on ! If you have been saved there is no need to stay worried for God is in charge of things and YOU are His child and the special object of His love and concern. In fact He is at work right now and doing something glorious though we may not see it as yet ! I heard this phrase years ago but it so bears repeating at this time, “I may not know what the future holds, but I KNOW Who holds the future” !!! Do you KNOW Him? And if you do, take a moment today to call someone and help alleviate their fears by reminding them that God is the answer to ANY fear of the unknown any of us may have !!!!!

Shakin’ up but Shapin’ up !!

It is strange to have a routine of decades change so dramatically and suddenly ! I sit in my office early on a Sunday morning writing a devotional blog when normally I’d be prepping for actual church services. But in light of the worldwide pandemic God has, in His providence, allowed a halt to this and so much more we are accustomed to experience. People’s lives have been shaken !! In my last sermon a week ago we took time to look at James 1:1-4 to encourage our church that no matter what may befall us God is in complete control at ALL times and for our benefit !

If you haven’t already done so, look up these verses in your Bible and then also if you haven’t already been doing this week spend a few moments after you read the passage to take stock of what good you have seen come out of this global trial just this week AND what potential good do you foresee? Grab a pencil and write down as many as you can before you read on here !!

So, some things I have noticed thus far are a slow down in life itself: from the normal rush to “get things done” there is more of a focus on allowing God to “get me done”! More time for family, even more concern for friends to text them or give them a call. A deeper prayer life seeking Him out for not just people close to me but people afar, for the world itself as they too struggle with fears, sickness, and of course the very important issue of their soul’s salvation. In times like these, there is a great desire in people for peace and real answers and so the potential to see vast numbers of people saved is much more real now. So we must be earnestly praying not only for a cure for a physical threat but the great spiritual disaster looming on the horizon to the millions in our world and hundred in your own area who as yet do not know Jesus as their personal Savior. Take the extra time you have now to spend good time with the Lord and then reach out to people around you who ARE afraid and looking for hope. You may be surprised the conversations this can lead to and the people you have prayed for a long, long time who are now ripe for the gospel !

Your routine is different and God has permitted it in His infinite wisdom and loving plan, so “count it all joy” and allow Him to make a glorious difference in YOU today !! Determine this will not shake you, this will shape you more into His dear image !!!

Invisible Foes, Invisible Friends !

One of the things about this coronavirus that is so unsettling is that you cannot see this enemy ! Therefore medical experts are teaching us to assume the virus is on everything. With this in mind you are much more careful not to touch surfaces where it may be lurking. They do not want it to get it on your fingers and then later touch your face thus allowing it to enter your body via the nose especially and wreak its havoc. So they are rightly educating us about the power and pervasiveness of this unseen physical enemy.

On the other hand we as believers have another invisible consideration spiritual in nature and instead of unsettling is quite settling in the Person of God but also in the persons of His holy angels who He has protecting us just as the writer of Hebrews said in Heb. 1:14 “Are THEY not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Let’s unpack this and drink from the comforting well of God’s Word and find some solace to help you through this pandemic !

I capitalized “they” to emphasize that there are MANY of these unseen and incredibly powerful angels which God has created for good and as the verse shows, for YOUR good ! They function to minister and that word “ministering” was used of those public servants in the days of Jesus who ministered in the Temple (such as Zacharias the father of John the Baptist). And note too the word “all” meaning no angel is off on his own agenda but is actively doing God’s bidding even now and “FOR them (that is, YOU, if you are born again !!) who shall be heirs of salvation !! Isn’t this heartening knowing that God Himself has not only told us WE have invisible, powerful agents protecting and ministering on our behalf even if we don’t see it or them?!!

Satan and man can be behind dastardly schemes to frighten and cause harm to people but God is in complete control at ALL times and He has a vast unseen (to us) army at His disposal with each on mighty in power, intelligence and goodness FOR us !! So the next time you fret about some unseen “bug” focus on the unseen blessings God has just for YOU !!!!

HAPPY about this whole VIRUS thing?

For those who came to church recently I preached a message from the first four verses in James so if you have a Bible handy take a moment to open it and read those verses but before you do take another moment to ask God to open up your understanding to what you are about to read.

Now the point I’d made in my sermon was the need for us as believers to be calm amidst life’s hysteria or as James puts it in the KJV “divers temptations” (various trials) ! The current pandemic we face in our world with the coronavirus certainly falls into this category ! As a child of God you know you shouldn’t stay worried or be a poor example to those around you. You know you should especially at such times display an air of peace rather than panic. James counsels us to “count it all joy” or decide such events to be a good thing ! Amazing and odd advice from our perspective since when we are under duress the most normal thing to do is fixate on the problem at hand !! The word order is significant in the original language here as “joy” comes first and God’s point is instead of dwelling on the problem we should be delighted that no matter what you are going through as a Christian you are on the winning team ! Oh you have some setbacks in this life but cheer up because you will eventually come out on top due to Him !!

As I told our church it’s kind of like recording a favorite team’s ball game and sitting down to finally watch it after the fact but also knowing they won. You aren’t as fazed when they mess up because you KNOW they are going to win in the end !! You can be at peace even if they fumble the ball, right? So with our trials, if we REALLY believe God is greater than any trial and we are His child, well then you’re going to come out ok in the end !! So, keep plodding ahead doing His will, display an attitude of peacefulness in your testimony. People are going to need to see such folks in the days ahead with so much uncertainty about a virus, toilet paper (ha !) & any old “divers temptation” that comes up. Its YOUR opportunity to draw them to the Lord, now that is a really good thing !!! When you look at it this way you can even find joy in some foreign virus !!!

The Coming Storm

The entire Northeast is bracing itself for an impending blizzard. Snow is predicted to come fast with many many inches too. Stores have been crammed with people bringing home needed supplies to weather the storm ahead. A wise precaution in advance of such an event !

But we Christians know there is an even greater emergency for those who as yet do not know our Lord. Most are unaware of the eternal doom ahead for them, some scoff at the notion of an actual hell yet Jesus had much to say about this and gave His very life to save us from the wrath to come !!

If you have been truly born again you know the change that took place that day you gave your heart to Him and the crisis has been averted for you. For this we must ever show our appreciation and adoration to Him. Yet like those many who are unaware of the “eternal blizzard” or the rest who mock it He is counting on YOU to share the same message of the gospel someone told you. Think of it, some who will not darken the door of a church can be placed near you at work, in your neighborhood, or even in your own home and God is desiring you show Him to them (so pray for God to help you be that Christlike example to them). The person you have a brief encounter with as you go out may be contemplating suicide and God has given YOU the needed supply to avoid their own personal eternal storm !

Jesus commanded, yes commanded, us as Christians to make disciples for His kingdom when He said “Go, YE therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt.28:19). It’s a brand new year filled with all kinds of possibilities before you. This snowstorm will pass, but the eternal calamity for those unsaved will not until someone has the heart for God to share the greatest, most powerful message of the universe which He entrusted to us as His children for those who so desperately need it !! GO YE ………… !!!!!!!!