Will you tire of this Manna?

In life, it is very easy to become discontented. The things that we should be thankful for become the things that we gripe and complain about the most. We don’t have to look very far to see this type of unrest in our culture, and within our own lives. Just look at sports fans. They win a championship one year, and if they don’t win one the next, they are disappointed. Same in our careers, our marriages, our lives in general. We are restless. We are unsatisfied. We have an insatiable appetite for more. If we are not moving forwards, our thoughts are that we are moving backwards, or becoming stagnant. What if instead of always striving for more, we were content with what we had, and if what we had, we saw as undeserved and provided by the gracious and good hand of God? This is the thought that the Lord put on my mind this morning.

I have been restless. Unsatisfied. Angry. Frustrated. Sad recently. Why? Because my life at the moment is not what I hoped it would be. I want more, and I have struggled to be content with what I currently have in my life. In my job. In my relationship status. In my overall outlook in life. I have just wanted more. And I have struggled to be content.

This morning as I laid in bed, tossing and turning, I heard the Lord (not audibly) but in my thoughts say to me, “Will you tire of this manna?”

It was an odd, but pointed question from the Lord. The reference to the manna made me think back to the story of the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament, and how the Lord provided them with manna, bread from heaven. After days though of this same manna, the Israelites complained, and asked for something else.

Two thoughts came to me from this story. The first was that the manna was a gift and provision that was undeserved. The second thought was that even though the Israelites were being provided for and sustained physically by this manna, they grew tired of it. Instead of being thankful for the undeserved provision of the Lord, they were not content in what they were given.

In the question that the Lord asked me “Will you tire of this manna” what he was really asking me was three things: a) Do you recognize the good undeserved gracious gifts in your life? b) Will you be grateful and content in these good things? c) Or will you stay in this constant state of frustration and unrest because you refuse to recognize and be grateful for what you have?

Specifically what He was asking me was will you be thankful for the job that you struggle to be present for because it provides you with financial income, a place to live, food to eat, and means to live? Will you be thankful for the season of life in which you are single, and will you learn to be content in that? Will you stop coveting and being frustrated with others because they have what you want? Will you ultimately recognize all the things that you are not thrilled with in life, and will you hunt the good, and see the good and gracious golden nuggets that I have placed within each and every thing in your life? 

I think the Lord encourages you to do the same today. Here are some helpful questions to digest.

What in your life can you be grateful for?

What good gifts has the Lord provided for you that you struggle to see as a gift?

In what ways today can you recognize the good and gracious hand of the Lord on your life?

Wherever you are at in life, will you be intentional about hunting the good?

I believe that being content in life begins with recognition, and then gratitude. Recognition of what we have been given that is totally undeserved, but graciously provided. And then open and vocal gratitude of those things.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Whether you have much today, or whether you have little, rejoice in what you have. This is where being content begins.

Blessings. 

Joyful Submission

Our world is a mess. Ravaged by the Coronavirus. Divided by inequalities and racism and prejudices. Divided by politics. Earthquakes popping up in South Carolina, and bombs going off in Beirut. It’s out of control. And usually when we feel out of control, our natural human inclination is try to once again gain control of the situation, but as I have found, and maybe you have found to be true too, the more we try to control a situation, the more we feel out of control, and our frustration and despair rises. Our only hope for joy and peace in the midst of turbulent times (as well as good times) is to recognize that we are not in control, but there is one who is, Jesus, and joyfully submitting to Him.

I like to have control over my life, and it’s difficult to give over that control to someone else. It’s hard to trust someone that much, and that deep, that you are willing to give up any and all control over your life, and let someone else lead you. But this is what Jesus asks us to do. To die to ourselves, and live for Him, and His Kingdom. I struggle with this because I want to control my life. I want to control my happiness, and my career, and my direction. But the more and more that I have tried to control my life, the more and more that I have been frustrated and angry because at the end of the day, I see that I have no control over my life really whatsoever.

For example, I can take precautions to not get COVID. I can wash my hands, social distance, and wear a mask, but this does not ultimately determine if I get it or not. I can do all the right things health wise, and still get it. I know people who have. Thankfully I have not. Or on a less serious note, I can go through a drive thru to get food, and I can give them my order, but that does not determine that they will get my order right. At the end of the day, I am in the hands of God, and in my flesh, that is a frustrating, and maddening prospect. That when it truly comes down to it, I control nothing. I make decisions, and have free will, but at the end of the day, God is the one who has the final say in all that happens.

I was at church small group a couple weeks ago, and was just in a place, where I was feeling the frustrations of seeing more and more that I really had no control over my life. That Sunday we had talked about humility, and that humility is the recognition of who we are in light of who God is. On that Wednesday, we read this passage, Psalm 135:1-12, that really produced in my heart joy.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord,
give praise, O servants of the Lord,
who stand in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.
For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and of beast;
who in your midst, O Egypt,
sent signs and wonders
against Pharaoh and all his servants;
who struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings,
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
and gave their land as a heritage,
a heritage to his people Israel.

As I read this passage, I pictured myself in the story with the psalmist as he is recounting all that the Lord does. And in the psalmist, I didn’t hear in his voice or tone anger or frustration at the fact that it was not him who had control, but God. What I heard and saw was this peace and joy and submission to the recognition of God’s sovereign control over all things, and the Psalmist resting in this. What I heard and sensed was true freedom. An exhaling of breath.

I took the liberty of underlining in this passage what the Psalmist recognized that the Lord controlled:

  • The Lord chose Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own possession
  • He makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth
  • He makes lightning for rain
  • He brings forth the wind from his storehouses
  • He struck down the firstborn of Egypt
  • He sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants
  • He struck down many nations
  • He killed mighty kings
  • He gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

Now this is not an exhaustive list of all that God does, because that list would be way, way, longer. But these are ways in which the Psalmist recognizes the sovereign hand of God.

Depending on what side of the coin you are on, this passage can be either frightening or joyful. As Jonathan Edwards pointed out, it is a frightful thing to be a sinner in the hands of a Holy God. On the other hand, if we are a beloved son or daughter of God, then seeing that we don’t have the control that we thought we had, but that it is God who does, should bring us joy and peace. Why? Because ultimately the God who is in control of all things is a good and loving Father, who cares about our well being, and everything that He does, whether it is painful, or stretches us, or is uncomfortable, is ultimately for our good. That is why we, like the Psalmist, can joyfully submit, because we know our good and loving Heavenly Father is holding us, and that He knows best. He sees the full picture.

Now the real question is for you and I is, will we submit?

Will we stop trying to hold onto this perceived notion that we are in control, and instead recognize who we are in light of who God is?

Will we recognize that when we joyfully submit to God, to His plan, His will, it’s ultimately the thing that brings us the joy and peace that we’ve been looking for all along? 

I know I still struggle with this. Struggle to let go, and rest in His sovereign control over my life. On a side note, just because I’m saying that God controls all, does not mean that our decisions and choices don’t matter. They do. And we are still responsible. But ultimately God brings to pass all that He sees fit. And all that He sees fit is absolutely perfect and good.

My prayer for myself and for you would be that we would trust God fully and deeply like the Psalmist. That we would recognize that we are not in control. And instead of getting frustrated and angry, or despair at that realization, that we would instead joyfully submit all our anxieties, questions, anger, frustrations, to the Lord, and rest in His all encompassing love and control. He is good. He is loving. That is why we can rest in His presence, and know that He has all of this under control.

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Blessings.

 

I lift my Eyes to the Hills

From the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic to the loss of millions of jobs to the reminder that systemic racism still exists within this country, 2020 has so far been a tumultuous year. The turning upside down of our world has revealed what is truly in our hearts: fear, divison, prejudice, selfishness, anger, as well as a myriad of other things. And I think it’s safe to assume, that if we are Christians, or at least, if we believe there is a higher power, we are asking the question “Where are you God?”

Where are you God while this pandemic runs rampant through our country, causing illness and death, and loss of jobs?

Where are you God in the midst of continuing systemic racism within our country?

Where are you in the lives lost due to police brutality?

Where are you God in the midst of the looting and rioting?

Where are you God in the midst of my struggles, my fears, my anger, and the injustices that I face?

I was encouraged through Psalm 121 this morning that God is right here. He does not slumber or sleep. He keeps us.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
 
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

This particular psalmist is on his way to worship in Jerusalem, and he can see the city at a distance, but still has aways to go. He asks the same question we are asking now, “Where does my help come from?” And he gives the answer in the next verse. The Lord! That’s where my help comes from! After all, He is Creator of all, both heaven and earth.

“What he is telling us is that his gaze did not stop when he looked upward to the hills but that he looked beyond them to God, who made the mountains.” (Boice)-quote taken from: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-121/

Another helpful quote: “The City of God, and the Temple, are to be desired and delighted in; the mountains upon which they rest are to be remembered. But not from them does help come to distressed souls; it comes from Jehovah.” (Morgan)-quote taken from: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-121/

He continues on to explain why the Lord is His helper. That the Lord will not allow his foot to be moved. That the Lord will establish him. Not only that, but the Lord does not sleep or slumber. He will carefully watch over those who are His with a loving and watchful, ever vigilant eye.

In verse five, we see that not only is God our helper (vs. 2), the one who establishes us (vs. 3), and the one who is ever watchful (vs. 4), but also that God is our keeper.

“This psalmist is so absorbed in the thought of his Keeper that he barely names his dangers. With happy assurance of protection, he says over and over again the one word which is his amulet against foes and fears. Six times in these few verses does the thought recur that Jehovah is the Keeper of Israel or of the single soul.” (Maclaren)-quote taken from: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-121/

Within this context, the Lord would protect the traveler from the brutal rays of the middle eastern sun, and provide for them shade, comfort, relief on their journey. Also throughout the night, the Lord would protect them and watch over them.

Within the last two verses, the psalmist concludes his thoughts. The Lord is not only our helper, the one who establishes us, the one who watches over us, and protects from physical harm, but he also preserves us.

He does this is in three ways: 1) He keeps us from evil 2) He preserves our soul 3) He preserves in our daily dealings. While living in this fallen world, we will face evil, yet, if we are in Christ, that evil cannot undo what God has established. Secondly, God will preserve us til the end. Lastly, not only til the end will God will establish and hold us firmly, but in our daily lives, both in our going in and coming out, God will preserve us.

I love this quote by Charles Spurgeon: “Three times have we the phrase, ‘Jehovah shall keep,’ as if the sacred Trinity thus sealed the word to make it sure: ought not all our fears to be slain by such a threefold flight of arrows? What anxiety can survive this triple promise?” (quote taken from: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-121/). 

So, if we are to summarize Psalm 121 from what we have examined today, we can see that God is our helper and keeper. He not only establishes our feet, but he also watches over our steps. He not only watches over our steps, but He preserves us, both in our daily and spiritual lives. And He holds us to the end.

I know that right now, life is very, very difficult in so many ways, and even as I write these very words, it is hard for myself to believe them to be true. But my prayer for myself as well as for you would be this: Lord, help my unbelief. Help me to believe that you are my one and true helper. That you establish me, and keep me, both now and forever. There is nothing that can separate me from your love. Help me. Help me with all that is in me to believe this to be true.

I’m thankful that God is our helper. He is our keeper. That He is near even in this season of life. A season filled with uncertainties. A season filled with chaos, confusion, worry, fear, and anger. A season filled with righteous indignation towards the wrongs done towards our own brothers and sisters and families. Now, more than ever, Lord, may we lean on you as our helper and keeper, and believe that you are here with us right now, as you have always been.

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Blessings.

Confidence in Our Destination

People a lot of times say that life is about the journey and not so much about the destination. While I agree with this to an extent (that there is much to be learned and gained along the journey), I think this season of life has shown us all that the journey is not always how we thought or planned it would be. It’s not secure and it’s not stable. However, as Christians, even though we don’t know all the details of the in between, we can be certain of the ending of the story. We can have confidence in our destination. 

I’ve recently been rewatching the new Hawaii Five O, and it’s fantastic. There are so many plot twists and turns with each and every episode. It’s difficult though to watch at times because some of my favorite characters are put in positions where I don’t know whether they will make it out alive or not. It’s nerve wracking. Yet the benefit of rewatching a show is that I know the ending. So, in those moments when it seems uncertain what will happen, I can remember the ending, and remember that even though I don’t remember a lot of the details of how they got there, that in the end, they will all be okay.

The Apostle Peter writes along similar lines to a group of spread out, exiled Christians who are facing extreme persecution in 1 Peter 1:3-9.

He writes: “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter’s encouragement to this worn out, stressed out, spread out bunch is to remember the Gospel. Remember that God the Father, through Christ, in His mercy, has given them rebirth. Remember that they have an inheritance kept in heaven for them that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Remember that they are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time. 

Therefore, in light of all this, Peter calls for the believers to rejoice! For though they are suffering, their suffering is not only temporary, but it also has a purpose: to test and strengthen the genuineness of their faith. Through these trials they will come out stronger, and in the end they will receive praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Peter commends them for their faithfulness. Though they have never seen Jesus, they love Him. And even now, in the midst of the suffering and persecution that they face, even though they can’t see what He is doing or where He is at, they believe in Him And His promises. It is in this belief that they are filled with inexpressible, glorious, joy. In this, they are obtaining the outcome of their faith, and the salvation of their souls.

What an encouraging and pertinent passage for us as believers in this time of uncertainty. While there is much that we don’t know, there is also much that we can. We can know that in His mercy He has saved us and given us rebirth. We can know that there is an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, kept by God Himself, greater than we can even imagine. We can know that God Himself will keep us and guard is til the end. We can know that suffering is temporary, and that it has purpose. We can know Him, love Him, and believe in Him even though we have not seen Him physically. And all this knowing should cause us to rejoice.

So today, child of God, rejoice!! For your present as well as your future is secure in Christ. While others put their hope in finite, fading treasures, we put our hope in God, our rock, who will bring us safely home. 

On a side note, today is my 200th blog post, and I just want to give all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father for His faithfulness to me, and the gift of writing that He has bestowed upon me. I am unable to be and do what He has called me to do without Him. Over these past eight years of writing, while much has changed, two things have remained the same: my ever present need of Him, and His continuous faithfulness to me. I am thankful for Him showing me over and over again how much I am in need of Him, whether I am on the highest mountain or deepest valley in life. And I am also thankful for His continuous faithfulness to me. I have been blessed far more than I deserve, and I am thankful for all the people God has placed in my life that have helped encourage me, guide me, and love me as God has loved me. I am thankful that God is continually completing in me that which He started eight years ago, and I am truly blessed to be able to share this journey with all of you.

Blessings.

Faith in What is not Seen

We live in a world that loves to see to believe. We believe only if we can see, feel, touch, and experience. We need something tangible. We need to have reasons for our findings, and data that can back up those reasons. Like Thomas, we demand to see the nail marked hands and the speared side of Jesus before we will budge from our unbelief. Yet, Jesus says those who have believed despite not seeing are the ones who are truly blessed. Because ultimately on this side of heaven, faith is not seen, but it is the hope that we hope in.

This season of life has been upending for a lot of us. We feel as though the rug of comfort, stability, and security, has been pulled out from under our unsuspecting feet, and a lot of us are reeling. We’re struggling with the sudden loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of our freedoms, and the uncertainty of the once so certain future. And yet in spite of all this, in spite of all the turn over and turmoil, God remains the same. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is us that have forgotten truly that faith is not guaranteed continuous sight, but hope in the faithfulness and promises of God, even when we cannot see them. Last night the Lord provided me with a really good example of what this looks like.

Before bed each night, I make sure that our front door is locked, and then I take out my contacts. But even after I take out my contacts, I still want to (in my anxiety and fear) go back to the door that I have locked to check and see if it’s locked, and sure enough it is. Why is that? Because even though I know in my mind that I have locked the door, once I take my contacts out, from a certain distance, I cannot see that the door is locked, and so it produces anxiety. And so I return to the door, many times, before I finally believe that the door is locked in spite of me being able to see at a certain distance whether it actually is or not.

I think this example portrays many times how we approach faith. We believe that Jesus is good and faithful as long as we can see Him working. As long as we can see Him moving in us, and protecting us, and keeping us, then we rest easy that He is with us. Our struggle with faith comes when we cannot really see what He’s doing, like during this pandemic. We begin in these times to question the goodnes and faithfulness of God when we cannot truly see Him in action. Like many of us, even though we believe faith is there, and we can see a blurry outline of it, we begin to question the hope that we have when faith is not as clear as it once was.

I love the Apostle Paul’s declaration here in Romans 8:18-24 of God’s faithfulness, in spite of his inability to see it clearly:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I love Paul’s confidence here in the unfailing faithfulness and goodness of God. Though he and other’s are experiencing sufferings, these sufferings are temporal, and not only that, but also these aren’t worth comparing to what is coming. He says we’ve only been given the firstftruits, a taste, of what is to come, and we’re groaning for that day when all will be made right. So what do we do in this already but not yet period of redemption? We hope in what we do not see, believing in the faithfulness of God, believing in the love of God, believing in the truth of the Father, and we wait eagerly with patience for our full redemption.

Paul writes in another Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Here is the good news in the midst of the uncertainty of the times that we face. While we do not see Christ fully now, we will one day. Our view of Christ that is dimmed now, as if we are looking through a miror, will be fully clear. So we rejoice in the fact that God has graciously revealed Himself to us, even just in part, and we have faith in the hope of what we have truly hoped in. Even in the times when we cannot see that hope clearly, we continue to hold onto that hope and faith with patient endurance knowing that our sufferings here on earth are finite, and that one day, if we are in Christ, we will see Him, and know Him fully, even as we are now fully known by Him.

Jesus says in John 20:29 in responce to Thomas “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I don’t know where you are in this season of life. What hurts, disappointments, tensions, and struggles you are facing. But know this. If you are in Christ, what you see now, if only dimly, is enough to carry you to the end. Hold onto to that hope, and don’t let your own blurry vision or dimness diminish the hope that you have in Christ. Right now, we only see in part, but one day, we will see in full. I pray that you will hold onto that hope, and that the hope of the gospel and faithfulness of Christ will carry you throughout your entire life joyfully, humbly, and graciously, leading others to experience these same things along the way.

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Blessings.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I am physically near sighted and because of this I wear contacts which give me the visual clarity to see things that I otherwise would be not be able to see. Yesterday I was changing out my contacts, and was opening up a new box to replace them. Usually within the box there is a container for the right eye, and for the left, as well as usually a third empty container which gives me the prescription of each eye. I have an astigmatism (one eye being stronger than the other), and therefore have separate prescriptions for each eye, so it is important to have that third box as a guide to know which container of contacts is for which eye. Yesterday I did not have that though, and just had to guess at which container was for which eye.

I put in my contacts based on what was comfortable, and I thought I could see pretty well. As I went throughout the day, what was most comfortable though, ended up not being what was most beneficial. Though my eyes were comfortable, my vision was somewhat blurry. I could see pretty well, but ultimately I could not see the best that I was intended to. Why was that? Because each eye required a certain prescription contact, and each contact was intended for a specific eye. Because I had placed my contacts in the wrong eyes, the prescription that was intended for one eye was instead being used for an eye that it was not intended for, and vice versa. Thus, the contacts that were designed to give me clarity, ultimately blurred my vision. It wasn’t until I switched my contacts to the right eyes that I could see as my doctor had intended me to see.

How true this is in life. We many times take our sight into our own hands. We attempt to see the truths of life on our own. Without a guide, we wing it. We find what’s comfortable, and that becomes our truth, all the while not even knowing that our vision is blurred, and that we truly cannot see. We need a guide. A guide that will take our blurred vision to life and give us sight.

In Psalm 23, the Psalmist speaks to this guide that we have in Jesus:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23)

We have always needed a guide, but even more so now, in this season of pandemic, loss, and uncertainty. I’m thankful that we have that guide in Jesus. Our shepherd who will provide for us, and lead us to green pastures of spiritual nourishment. Our shepherd who leads us to rest and the restoring of our souls. Our shepherd who leads us in the right paths for His glory and His name’s sake. Our shepherd who will walk with us through our darkest valleys, riddled with fears, anxieties, hurts, and disappointments, but who will be our comforter through it all. Our shepherd who will prepare a table before us, even within the presence of our enemies. Our Shepherd who has steadfast love and kindness and goodness that will follow us all the days of our lives. This is the Shepherd and guide that we need.

I hope you will be encouraged today that life is not aimless, purposeless, or void of meaning. It may feel as though everything in this season has been stripped away from us: our freedoms, sanity, even health, but we can always count on Jesus being our good Shepherd, who will guide us through the hard times, rejoice with us in the good, and lead us to good paths even in the uncertainties of life.

Here is a link to our Sunday Sermon:

protecting-shepherd

Picture taken from: https://padreperegrino.org/2017/04/

 

Blessings.

Lessons in the Midst of a Pandemic

We are all living in quite a remarkable time in history. The sudden emergence of COVID-19 has had an impact on the lives of each one of us, whether it be big or small. Anywhere from losing our jobs, to the inconvenience of stores being closed, the sickness or losing of a loved one, to the fear, panic, and uncertainty that it has brought. Still even in the midst of this dark season of life, with the uncertainty of the future hovering over us each and every day, I think there is much to be gleaned and thankful for. Here are some things that I’m learning, remembering, and thinking on currently.

COVID-19 has reminded us that we are not in control of our lives or our future

Before this virus hit, many of us went about our daily lives. We worked, shopped, ate, drank, and lived, not imagining in our wildest dreams that there was something coming that would interrupt everything. Now, just a few months later, our entire lives has been shifted. Our well beings have been questioned. The things we put our hope and security in don’t feel that hopeful or secure at all anymore. I think it has reminded me, and hopefully you, that we are not in control of our lives, or are futures. In Proverbs 16:9 it says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We can plan our future, live in our present, but only God knows truly what will materialize in our lives. I think more than ever, this virus, has allowed us to step back and see how little control we have. 

COVID-19 has reminded us that life is finite and shorter than we’d like it be

If I would have asked you before this pandemic hit, how long you thought you’d live, I’m sure a lot of you would have said a long time. The hope I think for all of us would be that we would live a long and healthy life. COVID-19 though has interrupted that perspective, and instead reminded us of how finite life is. To put it into perspective, since the first presumed Corona Virus case on November 17th, 2019, according to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ there have been 393,284 cases worldwide resulting in 17,161 deaths. It’s easy to look at numbers and see already that that is an alarming amount, but let’s break it down further. Each one of those 17,161 people who died were individuals. Individuals with families, dreams, jobs, friends, and in a matter of a few short months, their lives were over. James writes in James 4:13-14, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Our lives here on earth, as James writes, are but a vapor, a mist, that comes and goes. We cannot live as though we have tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come, and sadly this is the reality for many of our brothers and sisters around the world.

COVID-19 has reminded us that we take for granted things and people that we should be consistently grateful for

I recently took a trip to Hawaii to visit my best friend and his wife, and just to enjoy some vacation and rest. It was a much needed trip as I was very burnt out. And when you’re burnt out and tired, it is very easy to find fault and complain about a myriad of things. One of the great and unexpected benefits of the trip though was that I began to appreciate things again, and remember just how truly blessed I was. For me, leaving Hawaii was not difficult; I was ready to be back home. To be back in church, in small group, and other activities that I had seen as a burden beforehand. By the time I returned home though, the Corona virus was in full swing. Our church and small groups could no longer meet in person because of the health risks that it brought. Stores closed. People were laid off. Thankfully, I am still able to work from home and function fairly normal. But as I’ve been processing the changes that have taken place in my daily life, and the lives of those around me, I thought back to all the times that I have skipped small group and/or church, and how if I had known this virus was coming, would have I missed all those times? When church and small group were readily available I took them for granted, but now that they aren’t easily accessible, I realize just how precious and important they truly were, and I miss them a lot.

COVID-19 has reminded us of the depravity and selfishness of man

If you turn on the tv, or walk into any store, you can see the present chaos. For example, I walked into Sam’s at one in the afternoon last Friday to find 300 people there grabbing up all kinds of supplies. So many supplies in fact that entire shelves were empty. I was at the register waiting in line, looking around at the scene before me, and I noticed a middle aged wealthy looking man who had brought up with him two huge things of toilet paper. He rang up one, but then, the self check out would not let him ring up another. You could tell that he was visibly upset as he motioned to the attendant nearest him, who then informed him that he was only able to buy one thing of toilet paper at a time. I watched him as he got more and more angry, and eventually took his toilet paper, and left the line. This is just one of the many examples of what is happening in our country currently. In times of crisis, people begin to fend for themselves and themselves only. This is the depravity of man on full display. Not to say that there aren’t good things, and people helping out in this time of need, but that overall, we as a people are only concerned about ourselves and our assets and well beings, so much so that stores have had to start implementing rules of one of each item per customer, and setting aside certain hours for senior citizens to shop. Aside from the shopping aspect, my generation, since we are not affected as much by the virus, has continued to live our lives as though nothing is going on, congregating together, and going out in groups, even in spite of the health risks to others that we pose.

COVID-19 has revealed how much we are truly afraid of that which we don’t know

What is one word that could describe this pandemic that we all experience? Fear. And it is very pervasive throughout our country and world at the moment. Some cope with this by staying constantly plugged into the news and the sources that are ever changing, wanting to be on top of all the latest chatter. Others cope by disregarding all warnings to self isolate, and continue to go on about their daily lives. Others cope by joking about all that is going on, and thinking to themselves this will not happen to me. Others cope by being super cautious and guarded, not even leaving the house for fear of being infected. Deep down though, below all these coping mechanisms though, there is fear. Fear that we could be next. Fear that we have no clue what is going on. Fear that someone we love may be infected or even pass away. This virus has brought about so much fear in our country and world.

COVID-19 has provided the Church with a very tangible way to share the Gospel of Christ to an unsaved World

I believe that every person comes to a point in their life where they realize that they cannot do life on their own, and at this point, they have two choices. They can surrender, or they can keep on trying to do life on their own. For some, it takes some really difficult circumstances to show them that they are in need of something or someone greater than themselves. While this virus is terribly awful and horrific, it has provided an amazing opportunity for us as the church to share the hope of the Gospel with a scared and reeling world. Many are coming to the place now, maybe for the first time ever, that their future is uncertain, that their control on life is non-existant, and that the things that they have placed their hope in are actually not secure at all. Now is the time for us as the Church of Christ to be the Church. Now is the time to share with those that while the loss of our jobs, the dwindling of food, the uncertainty of the future, and the fear of the loss of our lives is terribly frightening, that we have a God who is in control, who we can put our hope in, even in the midst of the storm. Now is the time to serve those who are hurting, and love on those who are needy. We have such a great opportunity here to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to do so while proclaiming the restorative power of the Gospel of Christ.

COVID-19 has reminded us how much we need others

This time period in history, we are more divided maybe than we have ever been. But now more than ever, we need each other. We may not be able to be face to face in person with each other all the time like we used to, but now, more than ever, we need to be intentionally reaching out to each other in the midst of this difficult time. This is hard. It’s upsetting. Angering. Annoying. Inconvenient. Heartbreaking. And we need to be able to talk about it. So do. Talk about your fears, your hurts, your disappointments. Talk about your sick loved ones, and your jobs that you have been laid off from. Love on each other, serve one another. Self isolate, but don’t completely isolate. We need each other.

COVID-19 has reminded us that God can use anything to transform the hearts of His people

Many times in the midst of pain and confusion we ask the question “why.” Why? Because we want understanding. We want things to make sense. Because if there is no understanding, and there is no sense, then there is frustration. As my pastor put it on Sunday, we would never choose to write pain or suffering into our stories, but many times it is in that pain and suffering that our hearts are transformed. We may not know what the purpose of this virus is, or why all these people are dying, or why now, or why here, but we can be certain of one thing, that in this pain, suffering, and uncertainty that we currently face, that God is doing a work in us to uproot sin in our lives, to challenge the fears and distrust that we have towards Him, and to truly transform our hearts so that we may know Him more.

COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Our world is usually a very busy place with people rushing here and there and yonder. Restaurants, cities, buildings, and streets are usually teeming with people. Meetings are happening on the hourly, dates, coffee meet ups, etc. Now, everything is pretty quiet. Streets are fairly empty, shops and restaurants are closed except for take out and drive through. Churches are closed. Small groups are cancelled. Most people are working from home, or are no longer working. Schools are out. And it is all very unsettling. But what if we looked at things from a different perspective. What if all this was an opportunity to slow down? What if this time is for quiet? For thinking deeply? For reading? Resting? For spending time with family that we wouldn’t have otherwise? Even though this time is quiet, we can still redeem it. I’m planning on finishing up my M-DIV during this time. Maybe for you it’s about mending a relationship. Or growing deeper in your relationship with Christ. Or realizing for the first time that you need Christ in your life. Or learning a skill, or enjoying a hobby. What would God have you to learn in the quietness of this season of life? Don’t let this time go to waste. Use it purposefully and intentionally.

COVID-19 has reminded us God is still in control even when we cannot see Him

Lastly, I want to remind us that inspite of everything, God is still in control. Mark writes in Mark 4:35-41On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

We many times, like the disciples, at the first sign of trouble, question the power and love of God. I know many of us are asking this question right now. How could God truly love me if he allowed me to lose my job? How could He truly care if he let’s my loved one die from this virus? How could he truly be in control as it seems that this world is in chaos? These are all good questions, and okay questions to ask. It’s okay to wrestle with God in this, but it is also good to know that He is in control, that He loves us, and that He is working all things for our good. It is in this place, if we will surrender our doubts, anger, frustrations, and confusions to Him, that we may find rest.

Conclusion

I hope that this blog post was an encouragement to you as we all try to work through these uncertain times together. I hope that you will be encouraged that even in the midst of our fears, and our uncertainties, that we have a God who loves us, who cares for us, who is in control, and who is working all things for our good. I will leave you with a word of encouragement.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). 

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Blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Day

In life, I alot of times miss the present moments. I miss the present joys, the present blessings, the present conversations because I’m either too focused on what happened in the past, or what is yet to happen in the future. I’m so preocupied on the hurts, the pain, the loss, the frustrations, that I miss out on the joy of the moments. The real and raw joy and peace of just sitting there and smelling the roses so to speak. There are always good blessings in life even when we are in seasons of hurt and disappointment. But I struggle to see them. I struggle to see them because I want to be past this season of life where the struggles knock at my door daily, and where the thoughts haunt my dreams. But even here, there is good, because God is here. I just have to stop and slow down for two seconds to know and be known. To look around on a snowy day and hear nothing but silence and the peace that that brings. To be in a job that can be frustrating at times, but realizing the purpose of this job, and the stability that it brings me. To be thankful that I have time to read and watch tv and sleep and rest. To be thankful that I have a church, a family of believers that love me. To be thankful that I have a family that loves me, and continues to love me. To be thankful that I have people that invest in me, and to be thankful that even in my emptiness that God still allows me to encourage others. To be thankful for the friendships, and the season of singleness. To be thankful for my brother and the apartment that we share together and the friendship that we have formed. To be thankful for the financial situation I’m in, and the ability in a few weeks to be able to go and see my best friend in Hawaii on paid vacation. It’s the little things that get us through the difficult, dry seasons, where faith is difficult, and hope is scarce, but I’m thankful for the little things. I’m thankful that Jesus hasn’t given up on me. I’m thankful for His continual reminder to me of His love and His plan. So for me, the goal is simple: Be thankful, and enjoy the moments, even in the midst of this season. There is so much to be thankful for, and my prayer is that I would enjoy the blessings of the Lord, and not be discontent with what He has given me here in this season and in this moment.

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I see you

Dear child of Mine, 

I see you. I see you at all times and in all places. I see you in your hurts, habits, and hangups. I see you in your wrestlings. In your confusions, and in your stuckness. I see you in the morning time too exhausted to get up. I see you lost for words. I see you in your distractions, your frustrations, your anger. I see you. Even though you may struggle to see me, to see me present, active, living, in control, and all powerful, that does not negate the reality that I AM. You, child of mine, are only able to see what is in front of you. On the contrast, my sight is infinite. I see up ahead and around the corner. I see deep into the valley as well as high as the mountain peaks. I see you, and I have a good plan for you, whether you believe me or not. You cannot even fathom what I will do, but I can, so trust me. Trust me in the exhaustion. Trust me in the hurts, loneliness, frustration. Trust me when you think you’ve got it under control. Trust me. I’ve got you. I see you. In my grace, because I know you are often forgetful, I will remind you over and over again of who I AM. Not only that, but I will remind you of who you are, and who I’ve created you to be. It may come through a timely text or phone call from a brother or sister of yours, from My Word, but just know, that when you need it most, I will provide. And it will be right on time within the right means, so that you may receive it with grace. It will be just that little tap on the shoulder that you need. I see you child. I’ve got this. You are not alone. You are loved, infinitely greater than you could ever imagine. 

Picture taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/172192385726571157/

Love, 

Father God