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.”

 

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.

When No Is Good

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1–2, NIV 1984).

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28–30, NIV 1984).

As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NIV 1984).

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love.  (1 John 4:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No – in no respect or degree. No is probably the third word that toddlers learn to say after, after mama and dada.  Typically, no is not something we want to hear or be told.  Typically.  But not always.

  • No Condemnation – “For those who are in [accepted] Christ Jesus.” He took our condemnation upon Himself.  If we are “in” Him the condemnation is gone, being already paid for once for all.
  • No Temptation – Once we are in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit lives within us, making it possible for us to “just say no” to temptation.  “He will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear.”  Often we do, but we do not have to.
  • No One – “Can snatch them out of my hand.”  We are firmly in His grasp and He will never let us go.  No one has the power to loosen His grip on us.
  • No Eye, Ear or Mind – Can see, hear or conceive “what God has prepared for those who love him.”  There is no end to His benevolence towards His children.  It is beyond our ability to fully comprehend and beyond our wildest imagination.
  • No Fear – In love.  The only fear one could possibly feel from a loved is the loss of their love.  Never will He leave or forsake us.  Jesus did not go to the cross for a “romance” that would not last.

My Advice –  There really is no way anyone should ever want to say no to this kind of a relationship.  Say yes to no.

 

Be Strong In Your Weakness

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When the apostles returned…Jesus…took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.  Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there).  (Luke 9:10–14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “You give them something to eat.”  If there were about five thousand men there, the total crowd may have exceeded ten thousand, when you include women and children.  Jesus was giving the disciples a task that they had inadequate provisions (five loaves and two fish) to complete and no apparent solutions for (insufficient funds to buy the food).  But He took what they did have, blessed it, multiplied it, and made it work.

My Advice – Whenever you are facing a seemingly insurmountable task that God has placed on your heart, do not be discouraged.  Do not focus on the problem, focus on the One who gave you the “problem.”  Is He faithful?  Is He Able?  Is His grace sufficient?  God will not call you to it, if He will not see you through it.  You may feel inadequate to the task, but maybe that is the point.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, NIV 1984).

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NIV 1984).

Got the Grumbles?

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The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  (Exodus 16:1–3, NIV 1984).

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  (Exodus 2:23–24, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Funny how people tend to remember the past in the context of what they are experiencing in the present, often making the past seem better than it was.  After all, sitting around pots of meat eating all the food they wanted, doesn’t quite seem to coincide with groaning in their slavery.  Image what it would have been like if they had social media.  But before we’re too hard on the Israelites, I’m sure each of us has done something similar, albeit perhaps not so egregious.

As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we should be learning, like Paul, “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, NIV 1984).  For like Paul, their will be times when we experience “what it is to be in need,” and “what it is to have plenty.”  (Philippians 4:12, NIV 1984).  What we will learn to keep in mind that wherever we are, or whatever we are going through, the Holy Spirit still resides with in us.  He hears all of our groans and relates them to the Father.  When we experience the good times. He needs to hear our praise as well.

My Advice – Always remember that God is Sovereign.  While not everything we encounter in life will be good, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28, NIV 1984).  Do you love Him?  Have you answered His call?

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Want to grow in your relationship with Christ?  Check out my “Got Spiritual Milk?” blogs.  The complete Bible Study can be purchased at my “Store.”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on March 8, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

 

Who Can Stand?

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You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”  (Malachi 2:17, NIV 1984).

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. (Malachi 3:2–3).

My Musings – Wearied. Having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted. “How have we wearied him?”  By calling evil good (things that are offensive to God), and accusing God of not being good when we witness things that are unjust in our eyes (things that are offensive to us).  How arrogant (self-righteous) can we be, measuring God’s righteousness by our standards and by our so-called “knowlege?”  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”  (Job 38:2–3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – We need to be very careful about what we approve of and what we complain about.  Why?  Because one day, maybe soon, the Righteous Judge will appear. “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” Unless Jesus stands with us, no one.

 

By Whose Great Strength?

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No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.”  (Psalm 33:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No great kingdoms of the past have survived to this day retaining their former splendor, power and influence.  My country has “In God We Trust” on its coin and currency.  Having come into its own as the current great “kingdom” after World War II, unrivaled in military power and economic strength, its seems that our trust is more on these things than it is in God.  As the text above so clearly states, it is vain to place our hope in these things.  He raised us up, and He can bring us down.

My Advice – This applies on a personal level too.  Make sure your hope and trust is in the Lord God Almighty.  Anything else is illusory.  “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV 1984).