Neither Ignorant nor Fearful

SQ_LightOfWorld_750x750

I have noticed two very contrasting views of the current pandemic. Some speak out in an apathetic tone almost in a way to scoff at the coronavirus. I’ve heard claims from people about COVID19 not being a big deal or that its a media-driven hysteria that’s not really worth worrying about. These are those who refuse to take precautions and who may even make fun of or ridicule those who do. On the other end, there are those who are in a sheer panic. They’ve stocked up and barricaded themselves. They are the ones emptying the shelves of the grocery stores and feeding the worldwide anxiety. Both extremes shield themselves from reality. and for followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t find ourselves in either one of these camps.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 NIV

Ignorance is never a beneficial approach to…well…anything. People who downplay the significance of this pandemic are simply promoting a lack of respect and compassion for those whose lives have been shattered and the wreckage it has left behind in their families. More than likely, their own convenience is driving much of their attitude. No doubt, many have been forced to make huge sacrifices. This is difficult on so many levels. For Christians, our hearts should be turned towards prayer for the hurting and action to do what we can to help those in need. The last thing Christians should ever be doing is complaining and downplaying while so many have been devastated. The coronavirus IS a BIG deal. Let’s promote mercy and be considerate of others. That’s wisdom from above.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Fear cripples people. It’s so hard to watch somewhat riddled with worry. It consumes their thoughts. They believe that the worst is not only probable but imperative. For a Christian to be paralyzed by fear is contrary to the very Spirit within us. Whether it’s through heavenly wisdom or heavenly power, the believer is driven by compassion and love and the pursuit of peace. Fear prevents people from those things. And so does ignorance. In this time of hardship that’s ravishing the world, let’s not be part of the problem by being ignorant of fearful. Let’s be lovers of peace and truth. Let’s hold fast to the anchor of our faith…Jesus…and share Him with the world. In the darkest of times, the light of Jesus’ followers should shine brightest.

Peace in Christ loved ones

Eyes on the Prize

1459717102577

What matters most in life? Is it our health and wellbeing?  How about our legacy? Maybe it’s the good things we do for others or the longevity of our time here on earth. All of us answer the question solely based on our worldview. Our worldview informs our place in this world and the purpose of our existence. It’ll determine the things we pursue and how we measure success. It’ll either help us through hard times or leave us blowing in the wind. In the challenging times that we live, we need to be able to answer this question.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

For believers in Jesus, our view of the world and our place in it should never change. Viruses, wars, famines, human trafficking, and all other hardships and evils don’t have to alter our perspectives. When God created mankind, he gave them a place in all of creation. That place is to rule alongside Him. Humanity is ingrained with the calling of bringing God’s kingdom to His creation. The above passage in Colossians reminds us to stay focused on that calling…to keep our eyes heavenward. As people all around the world are suffering, the opportunities for the Kingdom of Heaven to be extended on earth are even greater.  As emotions are reeling and anxieties are rampant, Christians need to be that steady voice of hope and victory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

Our command to love has not changed. If anything, people are more desperate than ever for sincere love and generosity. As I see people rush to the stores to hoard supplies out of pure self-preservation, the need for selfless love has rarely been more obvious. People are buying things they don’t need and putting at risk those who actually do need them. In tough times our truest character is revealed. The time is now for Christians to rise up and be a beacon of hope and light during these dark days. As people gather all they can, we need to be giving all we can. As people fear uncertainty, we need to proclaim the certainty of God’s love for them. As the pain of loss ravages families all over the world, we need to be sharing the peace that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the face of economic trials, we need to be reminding the world of how God provides for His children.

If it wasn’t before, it should be obvious by now that our lives are in the hands of another. And that’s actually a good thing. We don’t need vaccines nearly as much as we need repentance. Government bailouts are great but what we really need is more humility before our maker.  God redeems lives. God sustains life. And we need to spend our days participating in His mission of love to a hurting world. Let’s do our part to shine for God’s glory because that is what matters most in life.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.    Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Jesus and the Unknown

jesus-walking-on-the-sea-john-6-19-21-gustave-dore

I don’t think that Jesus meant for life as His disciples to be safe. His invitations included picking up our cross and following Him, going to the ends of the earth, reaching out to the outcasts of society, loving our enemies, hating sin, crucifying our selfish desires, leaving what we know, and waging a spiritual war that sees people freed from bondage. None of that is safe.

Every single day we are met with choices that either lead us into His presence or distract us from it. Just like Peter, a disciple of Jesus had the choice to walk out on the water to meet Jesus or let security keep him in the confines of the wooden vessel. We either step out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus or we stay in the boat and ignore His call. We can’t do both. But to step out of the boat enters us into the unknown. Will we sink? Even worse, will we drown? Or will He give us the ability to walk on the waters?

The boat is safe. The known is safe. But the call of Jesus brings us to the precipice where we can leap and allow Him to give us wings or turn and walk the safe and spiritually dull life. Our faith is not meant to be kept to ourselves. His love is not something to be selfish with. That faith and love should move us into action. We should be speaking up, standing up, rising up for truth and love. Forget political correctness. The world needs spiritual correctness. The world needs to see people brought to life by the power His love. The world needs us to get out of the boat. The world needs us to forsake our comfort and reach out.

We can walk the day to day grind with our blinders on. Or we can choose to keep our gaze out for others in need, for opportunities to disrupt our routines, and moments to sacrifice on behalf of others.  Perhaps the reason so many of us get weighed down with boredom or worldly concerns is that we’ve lost sight of our Lord’s call…to love Him and to make His love known.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Peace in the pursuit

20181209PM_-_CALM-1

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV

I once heard it said that our level of faith can be measured by our level of contentment. Contentment is one of those things that may seem pretty allusive at times. But perhaps that’s because our faith wavers at times. With the highs and lows of this life, we can sometimes have a difficult time maintaining this steady sense of calm. That’s usually due to the fact that our calm is based upon the conditions we find ourselves. When we allow our emotions to be on a roller coaster our actions will most definitely follow suit. The game-changer for all of us is that God will come through in our hardest times and in our greatest times. It may not look the way we expect or plan for ourselves. God remains the same despite our circumstances and when we live from a place of trust in Him then we can remain in that steady calm sense of satisfaction. No matter how much we have or how little, no matter how hard things are or how easy, God loves us. Through life in Christ, we can have all the riches of His grace. Praise God for that!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Philippians 4:12 ESV

Paul could say this with confidence because he had lived it. He had gone from a wealthy man of power in the priesthood of Israel, enjoying the comforts of that life, to walking the missionary path. He had to work hard to continue each journey. Along the way, he got beaten down, ridiculed, and imprisoned multiple times. Paul lived a life of extremes. And through it all, he kept his eyes of God. His path on the way of pursuing Jesus mattered more than what obstacles popped up along the way. For me, that’s where I hope to be. Despite any health problems, stresses with bills, the burdens of work, or any other trials that may come up, I want to maintain that steady peace that comes in the pursuit of Jesus.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Rest is a Mindset

peace-of-mind

It doesn’t take a nap to rest. We don’t have to be stationary to be revived. Some of my greatest moments of rest are while I’m working out, or washing windows while plugged into a sweet podcast, reading a good book, or The Good Book. I can rest while helping others or running a class of 30 high school kids or playing with my own children. Truth is, we can rest anywhere. Rest has nothing to do with activity, and everything to do with thought. While physical rest is important, mental rest is what our bodies thrive on.

Focus on Others

Perhaps the greatest drain on our lives is worrying about things, anything, everything. Most of the time we are worried about ourselves.

 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4 ESV

Focus on Heaven

Life from the perspective of eternity radically changes a lot. Temporary circumstances don’t carry quite as much weight when we realize that our life never really ends. Every soul is eternal. Life spans aren’t an average of 75 years, they’re forever. Even our most difficult trials are but a blink of an eye in light of the glory to come.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

Focus on Mission

For the follower of Jesus, we have one mission, to love and lead. Jesus demonstrated what sincere godly love looks like. Then he asked us to do the same and to lead others into a relationship with Him.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31 ESV

Focus on Identity

In Christ, we’re all a new creation. We have received acceptance and unconditional love. We all screw up but that can never change who we are…we are His. A lot of stress comes from trying to prove ourselves or earn love and acceptance from family, friends, or coworkers. But we already have love and acceptance from a far greater source.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Brothers and sisters, may you find rest in what He’s done, Who He is, and who you now are. You are free, loved, and accepted. You have a purpose and value. There is meaning to your life, a life that lasts forever.

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.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

The War of More

It doesn’t seem to matter what store we are in, my kids ask for something. They don’t even need to know what it is for them to beg and plead for it. It’s frustrating. Very very frustrating. I’m sure I did it as a child. In fact, I remember wanting to go to the stores with my grandma because I knew she’d get me something. My kids are the same way. As are the rest. Because humans are that way. Young and old, we want stuff. Most of which we don’t need. But stuff is fun, attractive, and entertaining.

I can’t despise my kids’ desires for things, because I have it too. Anyone that says they don’t is not being honest. I told my wife on the way home one day, “I don’t blame our kids for wanting new toys, because I have a list of things in my mind that would be fun to have.” The difference between being an adult and a child is that you have to get those things yourself and money is not always available. Also, you’ve learned to live without and the difference between need and want. While indulging still occasionally takes place, maturity overcomes most whims.

I had a serious talk with my children (one of many) about wanting things. I tried to explain that it’s a perfectly natural emotion, but it needs to be managed by wisdom. I also said that they wouldn’t be getting anything new until they were content and grateful for what they already had (which is a ton). They tried to ensure me that they were grateful, but their behavior far overshadowed any words they could speak. When the begging ceased I softly said, “you will know that you are content when you no longer feel you need anything new.”

When the Bible speaks of contentment, uses some extreme examples. Examples that are very convicting for child and adult alike. Here are some of those examples.

Food and Clothing

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In our current situation

Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our weaknesses and being insulted for the cause of Jesus

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

With what we have

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬

it honestly feels like a war most days. The pull to want change or new things, or to no longer have to deal with our weaknesses, or for people to just love Jesus and stop hating on Christians. But for those who love Jesus, nothing more can be given to us than that which we already possess…new life. The Christian is free, alive, new, and filled with hope and purpose. The Christian has been given the gift of eternal life. God has paid the ultimate price for humanity but all humanity wants is more.

There is nothing greater we can be given than what God has already done for us. We are so consumed with the temporal and material that we struggle to see our true need which lies in the spiritual. Once my kids get one thing that they feel they can’t live without, their thoughts are on to the next. Christians cannot be guilty of the same. The one thing we can’t live without has been given to us…Jesus…and our minds should remain on Him. That’s what I want to teach my kids. But first, as the war rages on, I have to make sure I’m living it too.

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 ‭ESV‬‬

Wherever you find yourselves, may your hearts be at peace brothers and sisters.

Waves or Glory

glorious-heaven-background_njd-yfut__F0000.png

There are a lot of things to focus on in life. So much competes for our attention; some good some not so good. It’s easy for me to become consumed with things, whether it’s a task, my family, or concerns that have been weighing me down. Whatever it is, it can draw my attention for quite some time. Lately, I have had some really heavy things that have been filling my mind. I’m sure you, reader, can relate. If not now then at some point in your life. It can really seem like a tempest at times. Wave after wave crashing on or around you with no immediate signs of relenting. It never lets up so you can never get dry. You feel cold and exhausted just trying to keep your face towards the horizon. The concerns are mounting to point that you begin to wonder if they will ever become insurmountable.

That is an extremely bleak picture. One that I’ve found myself walking through at several moments over the last few years. I also believe it’s easy to get there. To let our minds drift to such dark and hopeless places. To try and carry so much weight that our knees are buckling beneath us. Weight that we were never meant to pick up in the first place. And while it’s easy to get there, it can be equally as easy to escape. Perhaps escape isn’t the best word. To ‘rise above’ seems to fit better. It all boils down to choice. Circumstances actually have nothing to do with it. Bills, health problems, difficult people, homelessness, and even the death of a loved one, can hold no power over us that we don’t surrender to it.

Recently, we finished up celebrating the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles. It was first instituted by God back in Leviticus 23, more than a few thousand years ago. But it carries every bit of the significance today that it did back then. A quick rundown of the Feast for anyone who isn’t familiar with it. In the Old Testament context, the feast reflected God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and their temporary dwelling and wandering on their journey to the promised land. It also pointed to the tabernacle that was constructed for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. Fast forward to the arrival of the Incarnate God on planet Earth. Yeshua is described as the Word of God made flesh dwelling among us. The word for dwell is literally to tabernacle. The Feast also carries with it a future importance. In the book of Revelation, it is said that Heaven and Earth will unite as one and God will make His dwelling among us forever. We spend a week celebrating all of these awesome things.

On one of the evenings, I was sitting under our makeshift tabernacle (which people construct as a symbol of the Feast) in our backyard. It was really dark out but we had strung up lights on our tabernacle so it was pretty bright underneath. As I sat there, contemplating all the heavy things life had been tossing our way, I decided to open up my bible. I picked John chapter one and here is what I read:

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light. The true light, coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God. They were born not of a bloodline, nor of human desire, nor of man’s will, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.”

John 1:1-18 TLV

Everything in that passage spoke to me, not just where I was physically, but where my life was. Here I was, surrounded by darkness, but covered beneath the light of the tabernacle. The symbolism of that was huge! If I were to walk out from under the tabernacle, I would have difficulty seeing my way around the backyard. But where I sat, everything was as clear as day.

All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

It didn’t matter one bit how dark it got outside, the light that I was in would not be changed. That’s life in Jesus. I started thinking about how I’ve been spending so much of my thought life wandering around outside of the covering of His light. I had been focusing so much on all the difficult things in my life and it was beating me down. But here I was, reading God’s word, illuminated by the light of the tabernacle, at peace.

We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My eyes had been looking at all the wrong things. Who can blame me right? Well, I can. I had felt like I was in a sinking ship, all the while missing the point of my life. When God wrapped Himself in flesh and walked on this Earth, we were given the ability to behold His glory. Not just in a past tense, but even now. At any moment, we can look at the glory of God in Yeshua. Are you kidding me? Can we even understand what that means? Apparently, I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t gazing at His glory. Not even a little bit. I was looking at everything else. I was beholding the waves crashing over the sides of my boat.

These few precious moments under my tabernacle did so much to alter where I was mentally and how I felt physically. It was one of those experiences that I’ll always remember. I was able to catch a glimpse of His glory during a fall evening in Colorado in my backyard. How amazing is that?

I’m a J.R.R Tolkien fan so sometimes I can’t help but find spiritual illustrations in the movie adaptations from his books. Here is a scene from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. To set it up a little, the town is under attack by the Dragon Smaug. It’s burning to the ground and only one man stands in the way of him killing everyone in Lake Town. Bard, the Bowman, and his son are stranded atop this tower and come face to face with the evil creature. This scene is so full of meaning. First, the world is falling apart around them. The danger is very real and there is every opportunity to despair. Everything could come crashing down at any moment. But Bard looks at his fretting and fear-filled son and says, “Stay still son, stay still.” In the moments that follow, Smaug continues to try and strike fear into their hearts and make them come to terms with their imminent demise. As the son, again shaken by the situation he finds himself in, turns to look at the approaching beast. Just then his father says, “Look at me son, you look at me.” It’s then that the son looks at his father with confidence and the surroundings seem to fade in significance. Shortly after, Bard slays the dragon Smaug with one precisely placed shot of an arrow.

I know it sounds cheesy but my eyes seriously started to well up when I watched that scene. I couldn’t help but find myself in the place of the boy, caught in life’s difficulties, wanting to look at them and fall apart at times. But then hearing the gentle voice of my Loving Father call me to be still and to look Him. In those moments, like the one I had under tabernacle that night, I am in a state of complete peace. Everything around me might as well be burning down, but I am still when I look at Him. His light beats back the darkness and the darkness will never overtake it. The key is to behold His glory and not the waves crashing around us. I’ll finish with one last scene. Only this one comes to us from the Bible. A man named Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is about to do the impossible. He is going to walk on water.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

I used to focus so much on how Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. I would talk about his lapse of faith and how he focused on the waves and wind rather than Jesus, and that’s when he got into trouble. And all those things are true. And all of us have been Peter more times then we care to count. But what I want to leave you with is what Peter said when he found himself sinking and how Jesus responded.

…beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…

If you find yourself sinking because of the pressures of life cry out, “Lord save me,” and that’s exactly what He’ll do.

Peace brothers and sisters