Friday, March 27, 2020

God Speaks in the Midst of Pandemic Follow-up

Most of us have now been in the middle of the CoVid19 pandemic for about two weeks now. We are starting to get used to our new normal, which right now, seems to be a state of constant change. In the last blog post, Scriptures were shared to bring encouragement, peace, and to emphasize that God is still in control of things. Since then I have given a lot of thought to this pandemic and quarantine situation and would like to share a few ways that I see God speaking and working through all of this.

As everyone knows, a big, big part of the world right now is social media. Due to the virus, it is becoming an even larger part of the world as currently that is how many people are communicating with each other. Schools are scrambling to use different social media platforms to reach and teach their students and even many businesses have turned to social media and other apps to communicate with their customers and clients. Just today, my church held an Administrative Council meeting via Zoom. The world and the ways we communicate are quickly evolving. 

What I about to share with you is PURELY MY OPINION! Feel free to agree or disagree, but it is my opinion. While there are some people that MAY feel that God is punishing the world by creating this virus, or even that the devil has created it to bring an end to everyone, my opinion is this. This virus is the result of people doing the wrong things in the world, sin. When Adam and Eve were thrown out of Eden, sin entered this world and it has been full of bad things, including viruses and diseases that kill, since then. God did not create it, nor did the devil. What I do believe however, is that the devil is USING the virus to try and draw people away from God. I believe he is behind the negativism on social media, behind the volatile political structure and behind the FEAR that is rampant right now due to this virus. Never in history, that I have heard of or at least in my memory, have churches been forced to be closed. The devil is just ecstatic at the thought that God's word is not being preached from the pulpit and that fear and hatred are going rampant on the internet and social media sites.

What he may not have bargained for is that churches and other Christian organizations are using those same social media sites to SPREAD God's word of peace, encouragement, and love. They are using one of the devil's own tools (again  my opinion) against him. I have seen more posts with Bible verses than ever before on the social media platforms. Churches that before were not able to or had no plan to do live streaming or even pre-recording sermons and talks are now doing just that. A few reports I have heard in my area after the first Sunday that ALL churches were closed indicated that the videos and live streams that were put out had double or more than double views than the regular attendees on a Sunday morning. More people than ever are being exposed to the Word of God. 

Even though the circumstances surrounding this verse are different, I feel they are still appropriate to this circumstance. Genesis 50:20 says, "Even though you intended to harm me, God intended it only for good, and through me, He preserved the lives of countless people, as He is still doing today."  In this instance Joseph is speaking to his brothers and declaring that what they did to him in an effort to get rid of him, God actually used for good on behalf of Joseph's family and in fact the whole of the Jewish nation. I think (my opinion) we can use this verse today to indicate that what the devil has intended for harm, God is using for good!

Besides the fact that perhaps even more people than before are able to hear the Word of God, more people than before are slowing down, stopping, and spending more time with family. This event has caused people in some cases to re-prioritize their lives, their values, and what they hold most dear! My prayer for all as we are hopefully over the hump of this virus soon, is that everyone will be well, that families will be well, and that everyone will be able to focus on God and His provisions.

Monday, March 16, 2020

God Speaks in the Midst of Pandemic

Pandemic! The word even sounds bad, and it seems it must always come with an exclamation point.  It's interesting that the word panic is intertwined in the word pandemic. Throughout history there has always been times of panic. I'd venture to say even in each generation or each decade there has been a time of panic. Because of this the Bible is ripe with verses of comfort, peace, and hope in times of trouble. With all that is happening in the world right now, it is prudent to look at some of these verses.

1.  Exodus 14:13a --"Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground and witness how the Eternal will rescue you today." 
In this instance, the Israelites were fleeing from Pharoah and had arrived at the Red Sea. Despite all that God had done for them to that point, they let their faith drop. They began to complain to Moses and announce that dying in Egypt would have been better than dying in the desert. Moses then gives the command above. Don't be afraid, stand your ground and see what God will do to rescue you. Following this God instructs Moses to reach out his staff over the sea. The waters part and the Israelites can walk through dry land. When the Egyptians try the same, the waters close in and drown them. Despite their fear, the Israelites were able to witness God's hand of protection over them.

2.  Psalm 46:1--"God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide?"
Psalm 46 is full of praise for several instances of God's protection and the knowledge that through God the nation can be "sure and fearless". I like verses 2 and 3 as well. They state, "No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless." The whole of Psalm 46 is similar and is a good read for this day and time.

3.  Isaiah 40:31--"But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired, never faint."
If we feel weary and run down with all of the reports of coronavirus, remember to trust in God and regain our strength. Give our concerns to God and He will calm us so that we can soar.

4.  Psalm 62:8--"Have faith in Him in all circumstances, dear people. Open up your heart to Him; the True God shelters us in His arms."
The key word in this verse is ALL. Have faith in ALL circumstances. God will shelter us! This verse reminds me of another verse that I've shared in another post. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "give thanks to God no matter what (or in ALL) circumstances you find yourself in." Have faith in God and thank Him for any and all circumstances. It is contrary to human nature to believe God will overcome bad and to thank Him for the bad times, but that is what the Bible tells us to do.

5. Isaiah 41:10--"So don’t be afraid. I am here, with you; don’t be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, help you. I am here with My right hand to make right and to hold you up."
God is always with us. Not much more commentary needed on this verse. Israelites are concerned over the upcoming battles they sense about to take place, but God lets them know that He is there and will strengthen and help them.

6.  Philippians 4:6-7--"Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One."
Don't be anxious about things, but pray. Prayer is the key. Prayer for health, understanding, peace, leaders, those making decisions, doctors, nurses, etc. Talk to God about concerns and problems rather than become upset by them. Just tell God, He is waiting to hear from us!

7.  Deuteronomy 31:6--"Be strong and brave, and don’t tremble in fear of them, because the Eternal your God is going with you. He’ll never fail you or abandon you!"
The setting behind this verse is when the Israelites had finally reached the promised land and Moses was handing leadership over to Joshua. He was reminding the people of all that God had done to get the nation to that point and encouraged them that God would continue with them and would never fail them.

8.  John 14:1--"Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me."

9.  John 14:27--"My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful."
This chapter of John is one of the last full conversations Jesus has with his followers. He describes to them things that were going to happen and prepares them for life without Him. It is customary for someone to give gifts when they leave and Jesus too gives a gift, although, not a typical gift. Verse 27 above shows that he leaves the followers peace. Peace in all circumstances, so they shouldn't be fearful with was to come.

We see many different instances in which the Biblical people would have fear or anxiousness about things happening in their lives. Our circumstances in this day are no different. There is still a large concern. It may not be the same concern, but still a large concern to many. God tells us to not live in fear, to pray, and to trust and see what He will do in these present circumstances. While we can be cautious, we should not let fear rule our lives. If we feel overwhelmed by our fears, thoughts, and concerns, we should just ask God. We should turn to Him in prayer for peace and wisdom, but not let that fear rule us!

There is a great song from Zach Williams about fear. While the reasons for fear in the song may not be the same as the circumstances we have today, the message is still the same. Find Zach Williams song here and another here. May God grant you peace!

Monday, March 2, 2020

God Speaks Through a Paralyzed Man

(Matthew 9:1-8) Imagine the scene! Jesus had just returned to Capernaum, the town where He had been living. He and His followers had just had interesting spiritual and political experiences across the Sea of Galilee.
As Jesus disembarks from the boat in which he and the followers are sailing, He is approached by a group of men carrying a mat.This may not necessarily be a strange sight back in those days in that area; however, on the mat, was a paralyzed man. The men were bringing this man to Jesus for healing. Right away, because of their confidence, Jesus knew they had the utmost faith in His abilities. In other words, they did not approach Jesus with a half-hearted request of, "Do you think you can heal our friend?" or "We would like to see if you can heal our friend." No, they came to Jesus in order for their friend to be healed. They knew it would take place!  

Matt. 9:2 (The Voice)--"When He got there, some men approached Him carrying a mat. On the mat was another man, a paralytic. The men evidently believed that Jesus could heal the paralytic, and Jesus saw their faith, how much faith they had in His authority and power."

Jesus says to the paralytic, "Rest assured, my son, your sins are forgiven." I'm not 100% sure this is what the friends had in mind. I think their intention was for the friend to be physically healed. To me, this was an interesting turn of events. Why in the world would Jesus have said the man's sins were forgiven and not healed him physically, when he had healed others of physical ailments without this assurance of forgiven sins?

I believe there are two reasons. The first is that Jesus knew that what the paralyzed man really needed was spiritual healing. Before he could receive physical healing, he needed to be right with God. (Thanks to my pastor {Linda Pevey} for this revelation.)  I believe the second reason has to do with setting the lawmakers in Capernaum straight and revealing to the crowds who He really is.

To quote Paul Harvey, "And now, the rest of the story." Nearby there were Jewish lawmakers and leaders who were listening and taking in this whole scene. They begin to call Jesus out on, what was in their minds, blasphemy. Blasphemy is pretending or claiming to be God. The Jewish lawmakers were likely thinking, "Who is He to forgive sins, only God can do that". Since Jesus IS God, He has the power to forgive sins; therefore, He is not blaspheming. Although they spoke this to themselves, He knew their thoughts. Next comes my favorite part of this passage. I feel like Jesus just rolls his eyes and then let's them have it!

Jesus asks the Scribes and Pharisees why they are mumbling about blasphemy and why they are being wicked in their hearts. 

Matt. 9:4-7(The Voice)--"Why do you hold such hardness and wickedness in your hearts?  Look, is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or 'Get up and walk'? To make clear that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins (turning to the paralytic man on the mat), Get up, pick up your mat, and go home. And the man did!" 

I can almost hear the exasperated tone in Jesus voice as He speaks to them. 

"Look, anyone can SAY that sins are forgiven. You or your spouse, or even the neighbor next door can TELL someone that their sins are forgiven. They might even SAY to get up and walk, but that doesn't mean it really happens. Now let me prove to you who I AM. I have not only healed the sins of this man, because I know you need to see something to believe it, I will heal this man physically as well. That way you know that I have the power to do both."

Back in those days (and often in these days as well), there were many "religious" sideshows that would come around and claim they could heal people, but their claims never came to fruition.

So Jesus did just that. He healed the paralyzed man. The Bible tells us that the crowd was in awe. They were amazed and they praised God. Not only had Jesus healed the sins and physical ailment of this man, He had revealed His power and Nature to the town and they were praising God for it! The Bible does not tell us of the reaction of the lawmakers, but I imagine they turned and walked away quickly. 

We can see the power of Jesus through this Scripture. We see that because He is God, He knows all things and can do all things. We know that He is necessary for our lives and for our eternal life. It is He Who is able to forgive our sins. It is He Who can set us on a right path if we will just ask Him.
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