Deep Waters

It was one of those hot August afternoons that found Jess and I fly fishing on the Blackfoot River.  When one needs childcare for such activities, one can’t be as picky as one would like!  Thus, we were fishing on a day that was more suited for swimming or floating the river.  There was little surprise in the fact that we were catching nothing.  Finally, as we stood by a particularly deep and slow pool of clear, cool water, Jess could no longer take it.  She put down her fly rod, kicked off her shoes, and dove into the inviting water.  She sighed in relief as she came up out of the water refreshed and rejuvenated.  Little relief would have been found from a small trickle escaping from a barren rock!  It was the deep waters that gave relief!

Likewise, we are at a time in history when it is only the deep waters of God’s Word that give relief.  We are at a time in which all other words are but a small trickle from a barren rock!  I have been very much reminded of this as all the cute little sayings and memes that so characterize our day have stood out to me all the more as shallow and of little value.  I shared on Sunday the Yogi tea “word of wisdom” that stated “Let things come to you.”  Hardly sound advice in these times!  Today, I encountered yet another one on the inside of a chocolate wrapper.  It was supposed to impart wisdom to me with the phrase, “Laugh it off”.  Again, hardly appropriate for the day!  These “words of wisdom” which seemed shallow to me before only appear all the more so now!

We have been living in a time of great intellectual shallowness for many years now.  Sadly, this has not left the church untouched.  The Christian community is often relying upon things such as 5-minute devotionals and, for lack of a better term, “cute Christian phrases”.  The problem in all of this is now deeply exposed in the face of the hardship many are now facing.  Trying to deal with major issues like the effects of Covid-19 with a phrase from a Christian meme is like to trying to jump into a trickle of water for refreshment on a hot day!  Times such as we are in remind us of our need for the deep waters of God’s Word!

Consider how the Psalmist wrote of God’s Word in Psalm 119: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (92-93).  “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Through Your precepts I get understanding.” (104).  “I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your Word!” (107).  “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your Word.” (114).  “Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, Yet Your commandments are my delights.” (143).  “Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to Your judgments.” (156).  “Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.  The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (159-160).  Do you see how the Psalmist understood his need for God’s Word?

God’s Word is the deep water we desperately need!  Only the Word of God can bring true refreshing and rejuvenation.  Only God’s Word can stir our souls with deeper affection for Him and one another.  Only God’s Word can truly give us perspective for the God who is True and knows all things authored it.  Only God’s Word can show us the beauty of Christ and the hope of the Gospel.  Only God’s Word can give us peace in times of turmoil.  Only God’s Word can revive the downcast heart.  No wonder David wrote in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul!”  Dive into the deep waters of God’s Word and find refreshment for your soul!

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Discombobulated:  What a great word!  Just saying it over and over again out loud will probably bring a smile to your face!  It is a much under-used word!  What does it mean?  Webster’s dictionary defines it as feeling confused and disordered.  Many Americans right now feel discombobulated and you probably do as well!  It is okay to admit “I feel discombobulated right now!”  The Covid-19 situation has caused much discombobulation.  Why?  As Christians, it is helpful to examine why and not just simply try to push the feeling out of the way.  Remember the Psalmist in Psalms 42-43 wrestles with his unrestful thoughts, asking “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  As he wrestles with his thoughts honestly, he begins to bring his unrest into submission to God who is his help and hope.  Likewise, as we honestly address our discombobulation, we can bring it into submission to our God who is our help and hope!  So why do we feel discombobulated?

First, we like control and right now many of us feel very much out of control.  We can’t even get toilet paper!  We are being told we can do this and can’t do this.  We are no longer in control of where we go and the schedule we keep.  Many are being told they can’t go to work while all are told they can’t go out to eat or gather together with friends.  Not having control is very disconcerting for us and recognizing this is important.  Perhaps why it is so disconcerting is because much of our concept of control is simply an illusion.  The only one who is truly in control is God!  Thus, we must humble ourselves under His hand and entrust ourselves to Him.

Second, we like comfort and avoid discomfort as much as we possibly can.  This is an especially idolatrous area for Americans.  We have large homes, nice cars, health insurance, and a massive choice of food!  We have grown to like comfort and I am certainly no exception.  Times I have been in inner-cities or in other countries, I have been uncomfortable.  I remember sleeping in a poor area of Mexico with bugs crawling on me all night long.  I was not comfortable!  But, when comfort becomes an idol in our hearts, we sin when we don’t have it or we sin to get it.  We must remember God has not called to comfort but to follow after Christ.  Remember what Jesus said to those who wanted to follow Him!  “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58).  The call to follow Christ is a call to die to self (Mark 8:34-38).

Third, we want answers.  The information day we now live in has produced in us an insatiable desire for answers.  We want to know what is going on and why.  In fact, many even demand answers, as if they are entitled to them!  Yet, we must confess that the desire for answers is part of what it means to be made in the image of God.  As humans made in God’s image, we have the ability to reason, to think, and to plan.  So, we can recognize that wanting answers is part of what it means to be made in God’s image.  But we also must remember there is only One who has all the answers and we are not Him!  God alone has all the answers and therefore when we do not have the answers, we must entrust ourselves to God who does.

Fourth, we want certainty.  We want to know that when we wake up in the morning, our home will still be there, our family will still be there, our job will still be there, and the things we enjoy doing will still be available to us.  We want to know our health will stay the same and the health of those we love will stay the same.  However, nothing is certain.  In fact, this is one of the great downfalls of sinful humanity!  Peter writes in II Peter 3:4, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”  In other words, sinful humanity thinks nothing will change!  Yet, history has proven that things are always changing.  The desire for certainty isn’t necessarily a wrong desire.  We just often desire certainty in the wrong things!  Thus, we must cling to the things that are certain; God’s Word, God’s promises, the Gospel, and love of God.  There is a reason God is regularly called our Rock!  “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

Fifth, we desire fellowship.  This is one of the most difficult things we are experiencing right now.  God has made us with a deep desire and need for each other.  This season is showing us how true that is!  Again, this is part of being made in the image of God!  The Triune God exists in fellowship!  In the Garden, God explicitly said, “It is not good for man to be alone!”. Hebrews 3 warns us that sin festers in isolation and it is regular fellowship that keeps our hearts from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  We need each other and not having fellowship readily accessible is challenging, grievous, and lonely.  Thus, in this time, we must use whatever means are available to us to continue to pursue fellowship, even if it is not in the fullness we are used to experiencing.  We also must remember that we have fellowship with God through Christ and must therefore strive after Him all the more in this time!  We are never alone!

Finally, we want to know the outcome.  Questions float regularly through our minds such as, “Will I get sick?”, “How many will die?”, “What will the economy do?”, “Will I lose my job?”, or “How long will this last?”.  I have seen many headlines touting to project outcomes and I have purposefully ignored those articles.  We don’t know the outcomes and thus to try and speculate what they will be only breeds further uncertainty, false hopes, and fear.  How many times have we been told the outcomes by experts, only to discover later how far off they were in their projections?  There is only One who knows the outcomes and that is our sovereign God!  Isaiah 46 reminds us that God alone declares the end from the beginning!  Only God knows the outcomes!  And (don’t miss this) the most important outcome He has shared with us.

There is coming a day when the Lord Jesus will return (I Thess. 4:15-18).  He will gather His people to Himself, we will be given resurrected bodies, sin and death will be defeated, and we will be victorious with Christ (I Cor. 15).  We will dwell for eternity in the new earth with our Lord and Savior, free from suffering and death, in perfect fellowship with God and one another (Rev. 21-22).  We may not know the outcome of Covid-19, but by God’s grace, we know the outcome of history!  And we should note, that when Scripture reminds of the outcomes it tells us things such as, “Comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18), “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58), and “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).  Yes, we feel discombobulated!  But let us submit this to the Lord and hold fast to our God who is our Rock!

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Don’t Waste Your Social Distancing!

I find it ironic that my last post was called “Thankfulness and Toilet Paper”.  Fitting.  Never before have we been so thankful to have toilet paper in the cupboard!  We are living in a unique time in which the virus Covid-19 has changed the way most of us live, including the way we shop for toilet paper.  During this time, we have been asked by our government to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the new virus Covid-19.  This presents a unique challenge for Christians in the local church as the Gospel calls us to live lives together and resist the temptation to live in isolation.  So, how do we navigate these times?  Scripture calls us to do all things to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17, 23).  How do we practice social distancing, to the glory of God?  How do we not waste this time?  Here are some suggestions.

First, use the increased down time to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word.  People often say they struggle to read their Bibles because they don’t have time.  It will be interesting to see if those same people, who now have increased time on their hands, will indeed read their Bibles!  Time in God’s Word is always crucial for the believer, but even more so in times of uncertainty.  We desperately need the perspective God’s Word gives us on who He is, who we are, and where history is going.  Psalm 119 states, “My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your Word”(28) and “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your Word has given me life”(50) and “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.”(92).

Second, take the time to pray.  Pray for one another.  Pray for your family.  Pray for the Lord to move in a mighty way during this time and for the Gospel to go forward.  Pray for the Lord to strengthen you and take away fear or anxiety you may have (I Pet. 5:6-7).  Pray for our church and ministry to continue.  Pray for our missionaries who are serving in difficult conditions.  Use the increased time alone to seek the Lord more diligently in prayer.

Third, be active and purposeful.  If possible, don’t just sit on the couch and eat Oreos!  Use this time to be out in God’s Creation, hiking, walking, or biking!  God has designed us in such a way that time in His Creation is good for our souls for in Creation we see the hand of God (Psalm 19:1).  Also, it is important to remember physical activity is good for our bodies.  It is also a time in which you can talk with the Lord in prayer.  Consider ways you can serve your family or someone else through doing a project or craft.

Fourth, take advantage of increased time with your children.  At this time, schools are closed and many are home with their children.  Don’t waste this special and unique opportunity!  Use the time to study God’s Word with your children, read them a book, such as “The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe”, play Legos with them, or play games with them. Think about adventures you could do with them, such as visiting a historical site, hiking along a creek, or fishing in the river.  This is a time when they could look back with fondness on the time the schools closed for a virus because they enjoyed special time with their parents.

Fifth, limit time on your phone and computer surfing social media and news outlets.  This really won’t be a helpful and beneficial use of your time.  Get the basic information you need for the day and then focus on other things.  Constantly reading article after article on Covid-19 will cause your mind to constantly dwell there and miss many other important things in your life.  As frustrations mount, I am seeing more and more unhelpful articles and social media posts.  Remember Philippians 4:8, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Sixth, when you go out, go with the joy of the Lord!  We are living in a time when people are really fearful.  Be a light to those you come in contact with through a smile or encouragement.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I went to Wal-Mart for some groceries.  An elderly woman was helping me at the checkout and she commented that she told her boss that, as an elderly woman, she should be getting hazard pay.  I smiled at her and just simply said, “Well, I’m glad you are here to help me!”  Her response was to smile and say “Thank you!”.

Seventh, look for opportunities to share the Gospel.  I have been asked a few times how our church can be a light to the community in this time.  I believe the best way we can be a light is if we are sharing the hope of Christ with those who are fearful and anxious.  We have the hope of Christ that leads to joy and peace!  May we be faithful to share it in this time, as the Lord gives us opportunity.

Finally, if you are able, consider ways you can love and serve those at the church.  Send a card, call someone to check in, Facetime someone, and pray for others.  Invite someone over for lunch or for dinner, as long as both of you are comfortable with that, in regard to health.  In this unique time, consider how to continue to love and minister to others.

I have seen several people from different parts of the country on Facebook asking for recommendations for shows on Netflix or Amazon to binge out on.  But as Christians, we need to approach this time differently.  Consider this:  If Jesus were to come back in the midst of this social distancing time, what would you want Him to find you doing?  Finishing episode 67 of Downton Abbey or living for His glory, loving Him and loving others?  I think the answer is obvious!  Let us not waste our social distancing!

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