6 Reasons to be Grateful for COVID-19

Our world is currently experiencing an enormous challenge in the shape of this quickly spreading virus. Some people have become extremely fearful. Often this fear takes the form of lashing out in anger or hoarding items they perceive to be essential.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Rather than give in to these things, I entered my prayer closet and sat with God awhile. When I came out, I realized that I could be grateful for even this. Here are six reasons that I am grateful the COVID-19 virus came along.

  1. It makes me humble. I am not as strong as I like to believe. The world tells us that we are strong and powerful, that we can do anything. It also tells us that we deserve everything, so we should go out and get it. Reality is, I am not powerful at all. I am weak and I am afraid. Yet God is All Powerful.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9
  2. It makes me remember God. The most important things in life are not buying a new shiny car, or going to the next big party. The most important things in life are God, people and showing love in tangible ways.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37
  3. It gives me an opportunity to stand up and encourage other people. The Oxford dictionary defines to encourage as to give support, confidence, and/or hope to another. Some synonyms are to uplift, inspire and motivate. A community or society of people can withstand and accomplish SO much, if they strive to encourage one another daily.     “Encourage one another daily.” Hebrews 3:13
  4. It gives me an opportunity to show grace to others. People are scared and not acting like themselves, but they are doing the best they can. Neighbors, companies and corporations are made up of people who are doing the best they can. The customer service person on the other end of the line has probably had a harder day than I have. A gentle and patient voice can go a long way to helping others make it through their day. Rather than lashing out in anger or suing people for not being perfect: take a deep breath, smile and tell them ‘Thank You’. I want to be known as a person who made it better, rather than a person who made it worse.
  5. It gives me time for concentrated Bible Study and Prayer. Instead of running to more meetings and meeting friends for drinks, I now have time to find a quiet place where I can open my Bible and search the scriptures. I can now sit at the feet of the Almighty God of the Universe and praise Him for his Power and Love. I can ask Him for His will and for direction in my life. If you draw close to Him, He will draw close to you. He is only waiting for you to open the door, then He will come in and meet with you. (Rev. 3:20)
  1. It gives me time to read a great book. There are so many out there!
    1. https://www.kingsenglish.com/newsletter This is a fantastic independent bookstore that has a newsletter (Inkslinger) with reviews of some wonderful books. Check it out!
    1. https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/ Even more books to view here!
    1. https://www.christianbook.com/page/christian-books?navcat=Books This site has so many books available, it would take years of secret little viruses to get through them all.
    1. https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/264.Books_That_Everyone_Should_Read_At_Least_Once  This list of classics is full of high-quality literature that will never go out of demand.

“Social Distancing” will not always be with us – but for now, let’s focus on, and enjoy, what we CAN do, not bemoan what we cannot.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

No matter where we are or what we are doing – we can always spend more time with God!

“Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Cor 1:3

Please share a suggestion or a story to tell about a positive way someone is spending their days.

Invisible Forces

The evil king of Aram was out to kill the king of Israel and plunder the countryside. 2 Kings 6 Time and again he plotted where and when to attack the Israelites. Yet the king of Israel was warned each and every time and made well his escape. When the evil king was notified that Elisha the prophet was the source of the military leaks, the king sent horses and chariots along with a strong army force to get rid of the man of God.

The Arameans surrounded the city where Elisha and his servant were staying. In the early morning, Elisha’s servant stepped outside to begin preparations for the day – there was the enemy army! They were all around!

The servant ran back inside and shouted at his master, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?”

Elisha was not concerned. “Don’t worry about it,” he told his servant. We have a bigger army than they do. As a puzzled servant stood there with a muddled look on his face, Elisha prayed. “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

The servant did not know what was out there. Even the enemy army did not know what was out there. Yet God had provided all that was needed – more than what was needed. They just couldn’t see it.

For we live by faith, not by sight.   2 Corinthians 5:7

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  2 Kings 6

Chris Tomlin wrote a wonderful song about this “God of angel armies.”

The chorus goes like this:

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

Listen to the entire song here:

Angels are real. Angel armies are real. But most importantly, God is real. Pray and ask Him to open your eyes.

The Passion of Jesus Christ

The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper is an amazing book. The subtitle is: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die.

Reason #6 is To Show His Own Love for Us.

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

[He] loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

John Piper writes: The death of Christ is not only the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure. The early witnesses who suffered most for being Christians were captured by this fact: Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). They took the self-giving act of Christ’s sacrifice very personally. They said, “He loved me. He gave himself for me.”

John continues: Surely this is the way we should understand the sufferings and death of Christ. They have to do with me. They are about Christ’s love for me personally.

This book has changed the way I view Christ’s death and his resurrection.

What does Christ’s death mean to you?

How do you see his resurrection?

7 Keys to Teaching Children About God

Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. 

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.

  1. Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
  2. Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
  3. Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
  4. Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
  5. Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
  6. Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
  7. Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.

Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.

What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.

The Word of God

The word of God is the heavy Bible that is sitting on my side table. Nestled inside a decorative cover, it sits just to my left on top of a pile of magazines I haven’t had a chance to read.

Yet, the word of God is so much more!

The Word of God is God himself.

            In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1-2  (NIV)

The Word of God is also inside me.

            The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart. Rom 10:8

We often refer to Jesus as the Living Word. He is in us.

Jesus said:

             I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20

Therefore, God’s Word is living and active inside of my heart right this very minute. The Word speaks to me if I listen closely.

It has taken me many years to learn how to listen to God’s living Word that is inside my heart. There was a time in my life when I began to get serious about hearing from God. I gave away my T.V. and stopped my internet service. I spent my evenings reading scripture, praying and worshiping. Those times were very rich. Sometimes three hours sped by, feeling like five minutes. I slowly learned to hear the gentle voice of God.

I have never heard the audible voice of God, but I have friends who have. One friend tells the story of how he was sitting in his regular spot in his favorite bar, on the day of his daughter’s birthday. God literally spoke in his ear. “Is this how you intend to spend the rest of your life?” My friend turned around, looking behind him for the source of the voice. No one was there. He got up and walked out the door, leaving his sitting on the bar, half full. To this day he has never entered a bar again.

 This work of commitment and active listening is not easy. It is hard work. I had to make the decision every single day. I spent many hours that year sitting at God’s feet. I often took notes on what He was telling me. I read and reread the New Testament. I studied the Old Testament as well. I wanted to be sure that what I was hearing from God was truly Him, and not simply my own desires.

Once I learned to discern His prompting, I returned to a busy life of serving people at church and in my community. I do have a T.V. now, but I am careful to not let it devour my time or fill my mind with desires of the world. I stop often and spend time with God, listening.

How much time do you spend listening for God’s voice?

This Season of Giving

When I hear the phrase “Season of Giving” I immediately think of all the gifts I need to buy for my family before December 25th. Yet the other day I was reading through the book of Luke and came across chapter 12. In verses 33 and 34 Jesus gives us a straightforward command. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

Give to the poor. I find it interesting that this command comes on the heels of the section where Jesus commands us not to worry about having enough. It appears Jesus is saying ‘God knows we need food and clothes, therefore go out and give to the poor.’

Isaiah 58 also talks about sharing our food with the hungry, providing shelter to the poor wanderer, and clothing those who are naked. James1 likewise commands us to care for widows and orphans.

Give to the poor. I love giving Christmas gifts to my family, but no where in scripture am I commanded to do so. I am told by scripture to love and provide for my family (1 Timothy 5:4). But…my family can hardly be described as poor. Our pantries and closets are bursting at the seams.

Give to the poor. Actually, Jesus said to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” I do have a couple of automatic donations that come out of my checking account every month, but the money I give does not require me to sell anything. I have been challenged this year to give more. Much more.

See the source image

I pray that you will join me in this challenge. When you give to a large ministry through mail or online, be sure to check out its rating with groups like GuideStar and Charity Navigator. Don’t forget local needs as well. Local food banks and community organizations touch people right where you live. And it is great to give money, but they also need volunteers to give of their time and talents.

Join me in reaching out to the widows and orphans this Christmas season—and all year long.

Give, but give until it hurts.

Mother teresa

Here are a few ministries which I support and highly recommend.

  1. CompassionInternational  https://www.compassion.com/
  2. Special K Ranch   http://specialkranch.org/
  3. Four Corners Home for Children (Navajo Ministries)  http://www.fourcornershomeforchildren.org/

Leave a comment: Which ministries do you recommend? Why are they important to you?

God Heard Me

Psalm 116: 1-2

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

Both verses make it clear. Because God heard me, therefore I love him. Cause and effect.

Love and trust grow between two people when they genuinely hear one another.

God Hears Us

When I feel that God is far away from me, that’s when I know I need to pour out my heart to Him. One time when I was going through a particularly difficult situation, I dedicated every evening to Him. I gave away my T.V. and spent every evening reading scripture and praying. Sometimes hours would go by when it felt like only a few minutes. Did God immediately solve all my problems? No. But I did feel His presence in powerful ways! I cried out to Him in pain for 18 months. Then He blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

When you are in desperate straits, pour it all on God. He wants to hear it.

Speak to Him in the silence of the night.

Cry out to Him throughout the day.

Pray while you take a fast walk through a park or go for a hike. The added exercise will combine with your prayers and amazing things will happen.

We Must Hear Others

Love and trust grow between spouses when they genuinely hear one another. Listening to our spouses shows that we love them and that they are important to us. When our spouses feel that love, their love for us will also grow.

Friends also need our undivided attention. Our lives have become overfull of activities and social media which means little time is left for deep friendships. God created us for relationships with other people, face to face relationships. Texting is convenient but it will never replace loving someone enough to sit down and look them in the eye and say, “I am here for you.”

Listening is not an easy thing to do. Lynda D. Elliott, in her book The Counsel of a Friend, said, “Listening may appear easy or even passive, but really ‘hearing’ another person may be the hardest work you will do.”

How to Listen:

  1. Pray first – Ask God to help you truly hear that other person.
  2. Focus on them – Set aside your own thoughts and judgements.
  3. Watch – Look for body language that reflects their thoughts and feelings.
  4. Notice – Take note of their feelings. Are they feeling angry, sad, guilty, frustrated, hopeless or something else?

 

Listen beyond their words. What is in their heart? Don’t try to “fix” them or their problem. If they want advice, they will ask for it. Till then just listen. Just love.

DSCN1471

Desiring God

Several months ago, I stumbled across an amazing website: desiringgod.org.

Daily articles are written by solid, mature and wise Christians. The articles range from practical everyday topics to deep devotionals that touch our hearts. Some examples of recent articles are:

Oct. 4 – Do You Pray Against Temptation?

Oct. 3 – The Most Repeated Verse in the Bible

Oct. 2 – What Will Make Our Children Happy?

Oct. 1 – What Does Prophecy Look Like Today?

Dec. 21, 2016 – What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas (Okay, so it’s not recent but you must agree, it is essential.)

Besides articles desiringgod.org has a myriad of resources for everyone, from the business person to the stay-at-home parent, from students to ministry leaders. In their own words, here is their mission:

Most people in the world have no experience of deep and abiding joy.

Even though it is something we all desperately long for, the assurance that true happiness can be known — fully and forever — is a hope that billions of people live every day without. This is a tragedy.

Desiring God is on a mission to change that.

We aim to help people everywhere embrace a profound truth that changes everything about life and eternity:

You were created for something greater than yourself. You were formed for something awesome and magnificent.

You were made to know glory — God’s glory. And the deepest longings of the human heart can be fully satisfied by pursuing that glory. In fact, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

Thank you to all the staff who put so much time and work into encouraging us in our daily walk!

What is your favorite Christian website?

 

close up of tree against sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going to Egypt

Jeremiah 39 – 43

Locked in chains, he was pulled along with the other prisoners. They were filthy and starving. The smell alone was enough to make him wretch. They stumbled down the broken streets. Jerusalem, his home, had just fallen to the Babylonians. It was 586 BC and the prophesied fall of Judah had finally come. Jeremiah’s heart was broken.

The captain of the guard rode his horse up and down the columns of captives being marched to Babylon. He shouted orders to his guards, first in one direction, then in another. His eyes fell on Jeremiah the prophet. “This is all God’s work.” He told Jeremiah. “The disobedience of your people has brought the justice of God. But today I will free you from the chains on your wrists. You may choose anywhere to live. Don’t worry, you will be taken care of wherever you decide to go.”

Jeremiah, along with the others who had been left behind, settled under the newly appointed governor, Gedaliah (GEH-dah-li-uh). He promised peace and security. The few remaining people moved into the empty towns. They worked the vineyards and the orchards. The wine and fruit they harvested overflowed.

A top officer for the deposed king, Ishmael had eluded the Babylonian army.  He returned to meet with the new governor, to talk of the country and the people, to share a meal. Between the second and third courses Ishmael and his men rose, drew their swords and struck down Gedaliah.

News of the murder spread like wildfire. The people could talk of nothing else. “Why did he do it? Surely the Babylonians will make us pay! They will come and burn the fields and vineyards. They will carry us off to exile along with the others! We should run away. Quick, we can get half way to Egypt before they get here.”

Someone in the crowd shouted, “Ask Jeremiah the Prophet what we should do!”

They went as one people – the army officers, the greatest nobles and the poorest field workers.

“Please, Jeremiah. Pray that God will tell us where we should go and what we should do. We will do everything God says. Whether we like it or not, we promise to obey.”

Jeremiah locked himself into his prayer closet, fasting and praying.

One day. Two days. Three days…Ten days. Then Jeremiah heard from God.

He spoke to them as one people – the army officers, the greatest nobles and the poorest field workers.

“This is what God says to you. ‘If you stay, I will bless you greatly, your enemy will have compassion on you. If you disobey and run off to Egypt, your enemy will overtake you and you will never see your land again. Do not go to Egypt.’”

The arrogant men stepped forward. “Jeremiah, you are lying! This is a trick. We are going to Egypt.”

 

How often do we pray for God’s will and direction in our lives? How often do we rationalize away our obedience? God’s judgement came on Judah because of their disobedience and when the people ran away to Egypt they took their disobedience with them. God promised them that if they went to Egypt, they would never see their homeland again. The Babylonians did indeed invade Egypt in 568-567 BC.

Lesson From Jeremiah

  1. Commit time to prayer. Jeremiah did not hear instantly from God. He spent days praying and listening. Sometimes it takes weeks or months. Never stop praying. Luke 18:1-8
  2. Listen for God’s voice. Prayer is conversation. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we listen. Still your busy thoughts and turn your attention to God, wait expectantly for His answer. Be still and know that He is God. Psalm 46:1
  3. Obey. Instead of looking at your own circumstances, worried and fretting, take God’s hand and walk in obedience. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. John 14:23

 

Bullets of Satan

Why is it that accusatory thoughts repeatedly float through my mind?

Laying in bed in the early morning, just waking up, the room gradually growing light. The thoughts begin their work.

Remember when the kids were small, how you over punished them that one day? That was terrible. You were a terrible mother.

            Remember when you were in college, there was that one study group with that girl you didn’t like? You sure told her off, that was so unchristian like. She will always remember you as the mean one.

Remember how you were so demanding of your ex-husband? No wonder he couldn’t put up with you. You ruined that marriage.

If I let myself begin my day after this barrage, I find that I take out my hurt feelings on my family and friends. Yes, I have made mistakes in my life, I do have regrets. But no, I was not a terrible mother, I did not ruin my marriage. Those are lies that Satan builds out of our humanness. Those bullets of Satan change me into a demanding and unforgiving person.

When I refuse to accept those lies, turn to Scripture and ask for God’s help—everything changes. Christ fills me with a love for others, and myself. I turn my thoughts to the new creation that God has made in me.

Remember last week when you gave groceries to that single mother and her kids? You were a godly friend.

Remember the forgiveness you have received through Christ and in turn forgave that harsh word that flew out of your friend’s mouth.

Remember when you taught Sunday School and the kids were amazed at the story of Gideon? You passed on the Word and the Love.

Laying in bed at night, just before I fall asleep, the bullets of Satan also begin their work. No! I refuse to listen. And you can too.

I pull out my Bible and read. Satan’s bullets disappear.

Take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Ephesians 6:16