Can You Be Thankful For Nothing?

Screenshot (1506)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:35–39, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We are all experiencing separation these days.  Separated from jobs, daily necessities, appropriate healthcare, family and other relationships, to name a few.  How comforting to know, for those who are in Christ Jesus, that there is nothing “in all creation” that can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Not now (“the present“) or ever (“the future“).  Thus far in this pandemic, many have already faced death.  As the days go by, many more will have to “face death all day long.”  But again, “neither death nor lifewill be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sadly, there are many that do not have this assurance because they are not “in Christ Jesus.” For this reason, it is important that while the Church has had to retreat in “shelter in place” and “social distancing” that “it” finds creative ways to connect with those who do not share its hope.  And “it” means you and me.

My Advice – Who do you know who needs hope?  Do they see in you the hope that they lack?  Does it make them want to have that same hope?  Pandemic or not.  COVID-19 exposure or not.  None of us know how much time we have left.  So let’s be the light in the present darkness, lighting the way for others, as once upon a time others lit the light for us.

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.

 

The Secret Every Baby Knows

Screenshot (1475)

My Musings – To be content is to accept or to be satisfied with ones circumstances.  Perhaps the best image of contentment is that of an infant or small child in the arms of their mother.  No matter what else may be going on around them, they feel safe and secure – content.

Paul is writing from prison.  Death is imminent by execution.  One would think he had little to rejoice about, much less greatly.  To reassure the Philippians, who were concerned about him, Paul related to them that he (in jail and facing execution) had no needs.  He had, in fact, learned to be content whether in need or in plenty – whatever the circumstances.

Of course, whether we are in want or when we have plenty – each circumstance presents its own challenges to being content.  When we have, we have a tendency to want what we do not have, leaving us discontented.  When we have not, it seems only natural to be discontented.  Yet often those in need are more likely to be contented than those who want.

So what is this big “secret” that Paul had learned?  Do not focus on the circumstances (“in need” or “have plenty“), focus on the relationship (“through Him who gives me strength“).

My Advice – One might be tempted to think that Paul, being a giant in the faith, couldn’t possibly understand our circumstances.  Think again.  Better yet, read the following written by Paul.  “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”  (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NIV 1984).

So, if he can, we can.  But not in our own strength, but in Him who give us the strength to be so.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 24, 2019. 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.

Carried On To Completion

Screenshot (756)

My Musings – “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Really?  Well, family  certainly.  Friends, possibly.  Partners in the Gospel?  Well, maybe not every time.  But you see they don’t always share equally in the partnership.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”  With joy?  All, all, always?  Well maybe not all my  prayers.  Maybe not all of them.  Maybe not always with joy.  But you, know, some times they disappoint me.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  Confident?  But you don’t know them like I do.  They’ve wandered.  They’re inconsistent. They’re far from complete.

Always Thankful – We have the family, friends and partners in the Gospel that God put in our lives.  And He put us in theirs.  If we are not thanking God every time we remember them, maybe it is us who are not sharing equally?

Always Pray With Joy – In all our prayers, if we don’t pray for them with joy, maybe we aren’t as thankful as we should be.  If we were, wouldn’t we always be joyful when we prayed for them?

Confident of Completion – If God did begin the good work, He will bring it to completion.  If we lack confidence in this we are focusing too much on the wandering and inconsistency and not enough on the “author and perfecter of our faith.

My Advice – Always thank God when you remember the people in your life.  They are a gift to you and you are a gift to them.  Pray with joy in all your prayers for all the people in your life.  They may not always make you happy.  Don’t let those periodic lapses and disappointments rob you of your joy because of them.  Place your confidence in God. That He will complete what He started in their lives.  Don’t let their temporary detours cause you to lose confidence in their ultimate destination.  Be encouraged.

Read the text again.  Wouldn’t you like to have people in your life that are like Paul?  Then why not “do unto others what you would have them do unto you?”  What would our family, friends and Gospel partnership relationships be like if we did?  Talk about thankfulness. Talk about joyfulness.  Talk about confidence.  All wrapped up in a passion for Christlikeness.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 8, 2019.  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 too.

 

 

A Mind Full

Screenshot (522)

My Musings – Carl Sagan wrote, “There is nothing unusual about the earth. It’s an average, unassuming rock that’s spinning mindlessly around an unremarkable star in a run-of-the-mill galaxy – ‘a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.'”  Yet on this “unassuming rock” in this “great enveloping cosmic dark” God placed the crown-jewel of His creation – Man.  We know (Carl Sagan notwithstanding) this, because of all His creation only man was made in His image.

All of the other “work[s] of [His] fingers” are beyond our comprehension, because our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite.  And yet “these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14, NIV 1984).  Who indeed?  Incomprehensible to us, yet still “how faint the whisper we hear of Him!”  The infinite is still merely the “outer fringe of His works.”  Try and wrap your head around that!

Which brings us back to the Psalm above, which is attributed to King David.  In the midst of all that has just been so inadequately described, “what is man that [He] is mindful (Attentive; regarding with care; bearing in mind; heedful; observant) of Him?”  That my friend, is a mind full indeed!

My Advice – “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:12, NIV 1984).

Joyful Prayer in All Circumstances

1 Thessalonians 5:16Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – If we continue in prayer, through the good times and the bad, if we thank God for the good and thank Him for being with us in the bad, we can learn the secret of being joyful always.

My Advice – Don’t let the pursuit of happiness be your primary motivation. It will disappoint you because happiness depends upon circumstances. Rather let the pursuit of joy be your motivation. You can have joy despite the circumstances.

Dancing & Crying

screenshot (351)

Luke 7:31-36“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“ ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Sometimes my Sunday text, leads me to a comic to help illustrate it.  Other times, like the comic above, I find a comic that amuses me and I search out a text to go along with it.  I liked this week’s comic, but finding a text was challenging.

I wonder if sometimes my readers find my Sunday diversions into the “comic section” amusing or offensive?  Maybe some think I should stick with the “editorial page.”  I like to think we can find a word from God in both sections.  I, for one, am thankful that God blessed us with the ability to laugh now and then.

My Advice – Life has plenty of moments when we have to sing the dirge and cry.  Let’s take the opportunity when it comes to play the flute and dance.