Time To Re-Focus?

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“As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”  (John 9:4, NIV 1984).

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “They were disappointed but believed they could solve the problem.  So they started earlier, stayed longer, and worked harder.  They kept doing the same things over and over again and wondered why things didn’t get better.  They were beginning to realize the difference between activity and productivity.”  (Adapted from “Who Moved My Cheese?” By Spencer Johnson, M.D.).

Activity or productivity? Start earlier, stay longer and work harder.  Doing the same (unproductive) things over and over, but things don’t get better.  Sound familiar?  Jesus knew there was much work to be done, and that His “night” was coming.  But He never confused the important with the urgent.  As a result, with merely three years of ministry, He completed the work that the Father gave Him to do.

How are we doing?  We are called to follow in His steps.  Are we starting earlier, staying longer, and working harder, but getting nowhere?  Maybe it’s because we are doing things in our own strength and wisdom?  Striking out on our own?  Straying from the path?  Losing sight of our calling?

My Advice – How can we follow in His steps if we are not keeping our eyes on the path He followed?  Maybe it’s time to refocus

Chariots of Fire

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When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” 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 6:15–17, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How many times in our lives have the angelic hosts protected us from harm?  We clearly have no idea.  But if His eye is on the sparrow, I am certain that nothing escapes His attention when it comes to us.  And if when troubles do come (“in this world you will have trouble“), they need not dishearten us (“take heart, I have overcome the world“).  We can learn from them.  We grow character during them.  We can be witnesses through them.  Because nothing touches us that does not first pass through His hands, and which His grace is not sufficient to sustain us through.  And when “the time has come for [our] departure,” may we be able to say that we have “fought the good fight, [we] have finished the race, [we] have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – It may seem at times that “those who are with them,” or that which is against us, are more than “those who are with us,” or that which is for us.  But it just “ain’t” so.  We may be tempted to say “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  But we should open our spiritual eyes and not “be afraid.”  For “if God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31, NIV 1984).

Saddle Up!

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This is a charge given specifically to Joshua.  What could he possibly have to fear?

  • He Succeeded Moses, the only person that God spoke with face-to-face.  Talk about a tough act to follow.
  • But because Moses messed up, God did not allow Moses to lead the Israelites into the promised land.  Something that Moses had been anticipating for over forty years.  Better not mess up, Joshua.
  • And now Joshua was being told to cross over the Jordan to lead these “obstinate, stiff-necked” people to battle multiple kingdoms (Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites), drive them out, and take possession of the land.  No small task for a group of wandering nomads.

Yet Joshua “saddled up anyway.”  Why wouldn’t he have wanted to run the other way?  Not because of the subject of his  faith (capability of accomplishing the task at hand), but because of the object of his faith (capability of the One commissioning him for the task at hand). “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Do you have a tough act to follow?  Are you afraid of messing up?  Do feel inadequate for the task you face?  I know this charge was given specifically to Joshua, but I believe we can appropriate it for ourselves.  “Have I not commanded you?”  If God calls you to it, He will see you through it.  So, “be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”  Because “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV 1984).  If God has indeed called you to it, you don’t have to scared to death. Saddle up. Ride to victory, not retreat.  He “will never leave you nor forsake you.

Alone, Yet Not Alone

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Then Jesus’ disciples said,  “this makes us believe that you came from God.” “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:30–33, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Where I live, we are beginning week two of being “scattered, each to his own home,” which we have “affectionately” come to know as sheltering in place.  Many of you around the world have been at it much longer than we have.  And while I work in an industry that has been deemed “essential” (but not nearly so noble as a front-line responder), I have been fortunate enough to work from home.  Fortunate, because my wife fits into four different high-risk health categories (you can read about her in “All About Eve”), and the less exposure I bring home to her the better.

We all deal with isolation in different ways, some of which are depicted in this Sunday’s “amusings” above.

  • Tom Hank’s in his movie Castaway created an imaginary friend Wilson. More recently, he self-quarantined with another Wilson, not so imaginary.  Coincidence?  Or life imitating art?  Whatever, it certainly was an improvement, despite having to deal with the coronavirus.
  • Some (the toilet paper hoarder) take isolation to the extreme, thinking only about themselves.
  • Some self-impose isolation within isolation (the cell phone communicators), not taking advantage of the opportunity to bond with loved ones.  Of course, this could have been just about anyone’s dining table before COVID-19.  How sad.
  • Others go into total meltdown (fear and hysteria), losing perspective, reason and common sense.
  • Not depicted are those who recklessly throw caution to the wind, putting themselves in needless danger. But more importantly, exposing innocent others by their selfish abandon.

For those of us with an eternal perspective, it is difficult to say at this point whether this pandemic is the express will of God as the “beginning of birth pains,” or the permissive will of God as Satan casts his evil “spells,” knowing that his time is short.  Either way, God is Sovereign.  And we know the end of the story, because it has been revealed to us (“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace“).  Revealed through another who was also spending time in isolation.  “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see.”  (Revelation 1:9–11, NIV 1984).  Is this the beginning of one of the things he saw?

My Advice – Whatever the reason, these are the circumstances that we are faced with.  We did not choose them (although they are one of the consequences of the choice made in the garden).  The question is how will we face them?  We’ve looked at just a few of the “faces” of isolation.  What will your “face” look like?  Will you be overcome, or will you be an overcomer?  Whether in isolation alone, or alone with loved ones, we are not alone in our aloneness. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Take heart, brother and sisters, and be at peace in this time of distress.  “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  (Revelation 22:12–13, NIV 1984).

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

 

Our Good Neighbor Sam

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Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends [neighbor].”  (John 15:13, NIV 1984).

[Wanting] to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:29–37, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Know anybody named Sam?  You may not think so, but you probably do.  In some respects, they are ordinary people, just like you and me.  In other respects, they are quite extraordinary.  Selflessly they go about their daily “routines,” just like you and me.  But unlike you and me, each and every day they may be called upon to lay down their lives so people like you and me can go on with our routines.  Each and every day, many do just that.  We see their faces on the news and in the newspapers after they have made that “no greater love” sacrifice.   We pause for a moment and grieve.  Then we return to our routine, all because they broke their “routine” for neighbors they never met before.

My Advice – And who is our neighbor?  Maybe we ought to cast the net a bit wider?

What’s Your Bedrock?

Screenshot (1440)Caption:  A typical family, as they “shelter in place,” worshiping in spirit and in truth via FBC of Sycamore livestream on Sunday, March 22 @ 10:30am.  FBC Sycamore Livestream

The magistrates ordered [Paul and Silas] to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:22–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings –  Greetings from northern Illinois (the “s” is silent), where we are sheltering in place.  Yesterday Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7. “My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision.

I don’t mean to disparage science (after all God created the science behind His creation) but our bedrock is, and always has been to rely upon God.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Even when we “shelter in place.”  Maybe it will be an inconvenience.  But we have not been “stripped and beaten.”  We have not been “severely flogged.”  While some may feel like it, we have not been “thrown into prison.”  Under such extreme circumstances, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  We can do the same.

A final musing: “the other prisoners were listening to them.”  During these scary times, the world around us is listening to and watching us.  What are they hearing? Are they hearing griping, complaining and wailing, or are they hearing positive, reassuring words of encouragement and hope about the God we trust?  What are they seeing?  Do they see the same kind of fear that is gripping the world around us, or do they see calm, peace and assurance?

My Advice – Our circumstances have changed.  Our attitude, behavior and outlook need not change. Our bedrock is on “Christ the solid rock.”  Be like Daniel. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree [executive order] had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.”  (Daniel 6:10–11, NIV 1984).  In Illinois, for a season, we cannot come together in person to worship, as is our custom.  But we can still gather together “virtually” to worship in Spirit and in truth “just as [we] had done before.”  And that’s what really matters.  And as you do, remember, people are listening and watching what the Christians do during “such a time as this.

God bless, and have a “yabba, dabba do time,” and draw closer to God and your family  whether you are required to shelter in place or not.

 

What Keeps You Up At Night?

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?”  (Job 38:8–11, NIV 1984).

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”   (2 Samuel 24:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matthew 6:25–27, NIV 1984).

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthews 10:27–28, NIV 1984).

My Musings – So what does keep you up at night?  What are the things that you worry and fret about?  Have they added “a single hour to his life?”  These are troubled times for sure.  Not as troubled as they will become as Christ’s return grows close, but troubled nonetheless.  But one thing we should never lose sight of is that God is still on His throne, He is still sovereign.  Troubled times come and go throughout history, a consequence of the fall.  But just like the “proud waves” God can say, and often has, “this far you may come and no farther!”  Or like the He commanded the angel afflicting Israel, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.

We may never know why certain troubled times come into our world.  And like Frodo, we may “wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkien).

So what do we do with the time that is given us, especially in such troubled times?  We need not fear the times or the trouble.  Concern yes, but fear, no.  For such things can only “kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

My Advice – Remember, no matter what we face, God is Sovereign.  If you know Jesus Christ you have nothing to fear, not even fear itself.