Living in the Light


Like you, I have been experiencing the whole spectrum of grief, horror, shock, and even shame as I read the news. I read what my friends have shared, watch the news clips, and pray.  

I have kept asking God what one person can do?

How can one person, how can I bring God’s grace? Jesus’ healing love and transforming power into such a broken and hurting nation?

Will my vote help? Does my heart aching help?

Will my wishing things could be better help?

Will my prayer help?

And the Lord has been giving answers—giving wisdom through unexpected conversations. God’s giving practical advice through a midweek sermon, and giving God’s own word in scripture.

Today’s short talk—originally given at New Hope Chapel—is a lot of scripture, a little Tony Evans, and some thoughts on Jesus.

It is from my heart to yours.

Grace and Peace, Joanne

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Is Righteous Hatred an Oxymoron? by Helen Khan

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24

I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?

Protective Love

We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.

The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.

Is it Okay to Hate?

And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.

We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.

So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.

When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?

Fearful Self-Reflection

The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.

The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.

All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.

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Things To Do In Heaven

For those who are checking out this blog for the first time, this is a sequel post to Scared of Eternity? In the previous post, I discussed a fear of Heaven I had as a teenager due to the measurements given in Revelation 21. I also shared hope that was given through the water of life recorded in Revelation 22 among other quoted verses regarding God’s creation.

Today’s blog post will share other details that I believe can cause quite a concern for those suffering with anxiety like me. I encourage you to read the Scared of Eternity? post highlighted above.

Work?

I don’t know why the idea of “work” is such a distasteful word these days. Everyone seems to want to make as much money with doing the least amount of work possible. I had a pastor call me co-dependent because I was offering to work for no money. But, I didn’t want to work because I’m co-dependent, I wanted to work because I enjoy it.

Now, on topic, in the New Heavens and New Earth, we will work. In the original design, God made man work.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it
and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15)

Now, God’s original design, after He created all things, was for man and woman (Gen. 2:18) to work. As we know, the man and woman start talking to a snake, eat a fruit, and are guilty of sin. Let’s relook at this ‘work’:

To Adam [God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food…” (Gen: 3:17-19a)

This is the first thing that I want to illustrate is that “Work” is not a necessary evil. We are designed with capabilities to think, create and work. So for those who think of Heaven as sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, eating Philadelphia Crème Cheese, think again.

This brings up step two.

Worship?

This topic needs to be discussed, not just about Heavenly worship, but also on earth. But for now, I’ll focus on the New Heavenly worship. While there are various texts to point to an inactive worship, I’ll share one:

Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.” (Rev. 4:8b& 10b-11)

Now, the hard part with interpreting prophecies, I believe, is that they can be in allegory. Whereas Jeremiah 29:10, for example, gives a specific time of 70 years of captivity, others are left with more of an interpretation. So, I think, it’s best to interpret godly worship.

In the previous blog post, I share how God is bigger than the highest Heavens. King Solomon says this when he is dedicating the temple to God. So we must talk about godly worship.

New Covenant of Worship

First verse is when Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman. Culturally, Samaritans and Jews were not allowed to associate with each other. This is part of the conversation:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24)

This woman believes that the only place to worship is in Jerusalem, the temple Solomon built. Arguably rebuilt since the siege of the Babylonians. But Jesus said that a time has come where it won’t be about the place. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Our second verse comes from Apostle Paul. Like Jesus, Paul is sharing the message with non-Jewish people. He tells them:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

The Image Of God?

I had a professor in college who believed that in the New Heavens and New Earth we will create like God. We will speak planets into creation as God did in Genesis 1. I’m sorry, but I strongly disagree. If our only understanding of God is his ability to create, we are greatly lacking in understanding God’s holiness. Allow me to share some verses:

And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Cor. 15:49)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:20-21)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Creativity?

God created us as an eternal being and calls on us to be holy. And, I believe, in the New Heavens and New Earth we will design and create. Proverbs 9:16 says,

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

I believe that we will create and design, space ships and submarines, to seek more of the creation that God has done. We will land on distant planets and examine things we have never seen.

This Day

This day, I encourage you to seek after God. God’s love for you so much that he paid to cover your sins. In the Garden of Eden, God sacrifices an animal to hide the shame of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:21). Now, God has sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ, to cover our sins.

Let us seek holiness above all things. And when you find yourself unholy, that God for Jesus Christ who cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

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Take a Break and Laugh a Little

Taking a Break and Laughing

Break Principle 1:  Realizing that a “happy heart does good like a medicine,” made a conscious choice to enjoy the moment. Partaking of the wonderful things provided by a Loving God and in the joy of Jesus Christ.

Much of the following stories and jokes were borrowed, but sadly I have forgotten the sources.

There is no doubt in my mind that recovery is serious, but I also know that God has a plan for each of us to enjoy recovery through our relationship with Him and our relationships here on earth.  We have covered some very serious topics in past weeks, but tonight we are going to take a break and discover some of the joy that God has planned for each of us.  I am convinced that God enjoys a good joke, after all, He made a donkey talk in order to advise a prophet and He chose me to lead a recovery group.  God must have a sense of humor.

Join me, if you will, to laugh and lighten the burdens of life a little bit.

The Last Laugh

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God.  So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

“God,” the scientist said, “We’ve decided that we no longer need you.  We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done, God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a man-making contest.”  To which the scientist readily agreed.

“There’s one stipulation,” God said, “We’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientist agreed and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no.  You go get your own dirt.”  

God often allows us to exercise our own will and arrogance until we prove that we are not God and we are truly powerless, that our lives are out of control.  At that point God grants us awareness of our condition, we just need to accept that fact and admit our powerlessness.   

Some times God works in the most unusual and unexpected ways. 

I hope this is a true story if it isn’t true it should be true because God works in His own way.

An atheist college professor told his class that he was going to prove that there was not a God.  He said, “God if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform.  I’ll give you 15 minutes!”

Ten minutes went by.  He kept taunting God, saying, “Here I am God, I’m still waiting.”  He got down to the last couple of minutes when a BIG 240-pound football player happened to walk by the door and heard what the professor said.  The football player walked in the classroom and at the last minute, he walked up, hit the professor full force, and sent him flying off the platform.  The professor got up, obviously shaken, and said, “Where did you come from, and why did you do that?”  The football player replied, “God was busy; He sent me!”

I have heard a true story very similar to this.  A college professor challenged anyone in his class to pray that the glass beaker he was about to drop would not break.  One student took the challenge and when the professor dropped the glass beaker, it landed on his foot and rolled to the floor unbroken.  God shows that He exists in some very unusual ways, we need to be aware that it’s God demonstrating His existence.  

He also shows us that we matter to Him; after all, He created the 3 major food groups; white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.  

Will Rogers once said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  He also stated, “There are three kinds of people:  The ones that learn by reading.  The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to touch the electric fence.”

I can not argue with these sentiments, so instead of learning by suffering the consequences of our poor decisions, why not choose to turn all of our life and will over to Christ’s care and control?  We can go through life touching the electric fence or we can allow Jesus to steer us away to the green pastures.

You can believe that those pastures are green indeed.  When a four-year-old boy was asked what he looked forward to most when he entered Heaven, he replied, “You never throw-up and you get to jump on the couch.”  Can I have a big amen for that one?

Just remember, “There is no fear in submitting to a love that would die for you.”  “The Lord won’t take you where His grace can’t keep you.”  There is nothing to fear in letting Jesus take control.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” However, Carl Woody said, “The unlived life is not worth examining.”  All due respect to Mr. Woody, we are living life at this very moment so we find ourselves in need of examining our faults.  “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?”  He already knows everything about you so your only worry is to be totally honest with yourself, with someone you trust, and with God.  Honesty includes accuracy.

So remember Sara’s experience at the dentist’s office.

Sara noticed the dentist’s certificate with his full name hanging on the waiting room wall.  She suddenly remembered that a tall, handsome boy with the same name had been in her high school class about 40 years ago. 

When she finally saw the dentist she quickly dismissed the thought because he was a balding, gray-haired man with a deeply lined face.  She thought, “He’s too old to have been in my class.”

After the examination, she couldn’t resist asking what high school he attended and what year he graduated.  He answered, “In 1958.”  “Why you were in my class!” she exclaimed.  He looked at her closely and asked, “What did you teach?”

Yes, honesty means accuracy so don’t let your self-image be out-of-touch with reality.  All too often we want to hang on to our pain, hurts, and hang-ups because we fear change, we fear the future without the life we have always known.  Please note that trying to hang on to what we have will leave you with nothing.

There was a man that loved his money so much that while on his death bed he made his wife promise to bury all of his money with him.  At the funeral, the obedient widow placed a large shoebox in the casket.  The shoe box had a large $ sign on the outside.

Her best friend, knowing about the promise, whispered to the widow, “You didn’t keep that ridiculous promise to that old penny-pincher, did you?”

“Absolutely,” the widow replied.  “I cashed in all of his assets; I wrote him a check and put it in the shoebox.” 

What we desire is an attitude of gratitude.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   (Melody Beattie)  

Peace and serenity is God’s plan for each of us.  Please commit the Serenity Prayer to memory:

God,
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change;
The courage to change the things can and
The wisdom to know the difference.

If you can’t remember this prayer then perhaps this is the prayer for you.

God, please grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do like and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Amen

Laughter is truly good medicine.  I’ll close with this quote from Og Mandino.  “Laugh at yourself and at life.  Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression and help you to put in perspective that seemingly-terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come.” 

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Facebook And Don Lemon (Non-Political)

Note that this video is not about politics. On Facebook, I saw a video of Don Lemon laughing about Donald Trump and his supporters. While I do not care to discuss politics, what burdened me greatly was the added hate upon hate in the comment section.

During the famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)

If you fight fire with fire. You’re going to get a really big fire.

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Coronavirus and Job by Michael Furlonger

One good thing about this isolation is that more people are attending church services than ever before, albeit online. And today I want to share how about my wife’s service from Sunday, which lead me to think of the coronavirus and Job.

Now, one of the things that I have commonly heard is that this virus is not from God. So many people are saying that, because we know about the background of viruses as well as other life affecting catastrophes, they aren’t from God.

Now, I’m not going to say this is or is not from God, but I will say that God is sovereign. Nothing happens without his knowing about it.

Blessed Be Your Name

We started the service by singing some songs and one of these songs is called “Blessed Be Your (God’s) Name”. Not just the Name of God, but the entire being of God, the characteristics of God.

The chorus, or bridge, of the song goes, “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Blessed be Your name’.” I’ve heard pastors say that this song is about God giving good and taking bad away. But that’s not what it’s about.

First off, ‘Blessed be Your name,’ comes from a reference from the book of Job (pronounced Jobe). In the book of Job, this man of God loses everything aside from his wife. A wife, by the way, can’t even stand the smell of him, according to Job 19:17. To stay on topic, the song comes from Job 1;

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

As you can see, Job is saying, may the name of the Lord still be praised despite circumstances. Now, in the song, one verse reads;

“Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there is pain in the offering
Blessed be Your Name”

Supernatural Catastrophy And Coronavirus

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:6-19)

Cause & Effect

As you just read, Job’s calamity didn’t come from a supernatural travesty. The supernatural God allowed a supernatural angel to cause damage to a natural man through natural means.

  • 1. Sabeans attacked and stole the livestock and killed the servants.
  • 2. Fire from heaven (arguably supernatural) fell and killed the sheep and servants.
  • 3. Chaldeans stole the camels and put servants to death.
  • 4. Wind swept in from a known position and knocked over Job’s children’s house, killing them.

The Lesson To Be Learned

A lot of churches teach on how God will bless them if they come to church and give a offering. Job’s story completely disagrees with that. And so much of scripture will disagree with the common prosperity message.

What we need to learn from this story is that God is God. He is our only Hope and our only source of Righteousness. To live absent of God’s righteousness is to live absent of God.

I can’t absolutely say, “The coronavirus is an absolute judgment from God.” What I can say, as Jesus said, “… When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

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GOD WANTS US TO BELIEVE HIM

Here in Genesis 15, we see that Abram believed God. This is so important, so let me say it again. He believed God! That’s why he was counted as righteous in God’s eyes. This is an important point that is woven throughout the entire Bible. God wants us to believe Him. This is a fundamental requirement if we want to have any relationship with God. Our belief in Him shows up in our thoughts and actions and determines whether God considers us righteous or not.

What God is showing us here may be foreign to many in today’s world, who believe righteousness is something to be earned or acquired by “conformity to an abstract moral code,” or doing so many good deeds. On the contrary, in the Bible righteousness is “faithfulness to a relationship”, and the first requirement of this relationship is a belief that causes trust.

In only reading the first 15 chapters of the Bible, we have identified the epic battle of the universe in the eyes of God as recorded in the Bible. That battle is whether we will believe God enough to act accordingly. There is a great spiritual war that is taking place all centered around this one thing: Will we believe God enough to act on that belief?

Click Here To Read God The Father Revealed By Lewis Erickson

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I’m Fine by AntonioSeth

If you had someone come up to you and ask how you are doing, two scenarios will likely happen.

  • One: You probably would go on a 5-minute soliloquy about how you just got a promotion, how your kids are excelling in school, and how you love your significant other.
  • Two: You just simply tell the person “I’m fine”. I fall on the latter, and I’m pretty sure some of you who are reading this do too. Now I could go on about the reasons why we just tell people we’re fine, but there’s too many reasons for me to go through, and I ain’t got time to do that. I’m going to tell you why I do that.

Part of it is because I’m not fond of talking to people. Another part is because of trust issues that I’ve been working on. Final part of it is that life made me that way. As a kid, I did well for myself. Decent grades, decent lifestyle, I can’t complain. Then when I turned 8, life happened. I found out why my dad wasn’t around, I found out how bad my autism is, people started looking at me funny and picking on me. Because of those things, I pushed people away, I guarded myself from anybody and everybody. I chose to be alone.

So fast forward tooooooo………. Now.

I find myself in the same position Job was when he lost everything. Now I’m not questioning God as Job did, but I am questioning why and how am I in the position that I’m in, like Job did. Now before you go and grab your pitch forks, please understand where I’m coming from. For months, I’ve been in a deep depression. It’s a combination of things: fear of getting older, fear of death, fear of not living to my potential, and anxiety of everything that is going on in the world. I constantly feel like I wasted my 20’s and I let it breeze by. Feeling like the prime of my life has passed. But despite my fears, anxieties, depression, and Job-like questioning, I still find myself trusting God and his process.

Now mind you, I still am not fond of talking to people. Matter of fact, when asked to blog on here, I initially was going to ignore it. Partly because I have my own blog to worry about. But mainly because, I couldn’t trust myself to open up to a lot of people. But even that, my love, trust & respect for God outweighs my own anxieties. So I’m on here to encourage you with this.

I don’t know you, never met you, don’t know your life story. But I have a feeling that some of you are in the same position that I am. You might be worried about what’s going on, you might be scared because of contacting the Coronavirus (yes, I said it), you might be worried about the next phase in your life. If you are one of those people, I say this. It’s okay to say, “I am not fine.” It’s okay to tell people that. Heck, it’s okay to tell God that. Matter of fact, he wants to hear from you. But what matters is you trusting God with everything in your life, giving your fears and anxieties to him, believing that he knows what he is doing. I mean, he does know what he’s doing.

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How To Worship “Online” During The Virus Crisis by Lewis Erickson

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I’ve felt it and I’m sure you have too.  It’s hard to worship the Lord when watching my church service online from home. It’s not like being at church and worshipping in the midst of a lot of people. Much like when we watch a sporting event or the evening news, we can become a spectator to an online worship service rather than a worshipper of the Lord God Almighty.

What if this “virus crisis” isn’t over soon?  How can we change from being a spectator to an “online worshipper”?  The answer may depend on what we consider being an “online worshipper”.

For example, how did Paul and Silas become worshippers of God while in a Philippian jail cell with their feet locked in the stocks? This was right after they had been beaten with rods. The Bible says they were praying and singing hymns at midnight and the other prisoners were listening to them. How could they worship in those awful circumstances?  There was no worship band, no hymnals, no worship leaders. They weren’t even comfortable at home in front of their TV, but in a hostile environment instead.

I believe it’s because they had learned to be “online worshippers”. They had learned to tune in to the worship service that goes on in heaven and never stops.  See Revelations 4 for more about that worship service. Regardless of their circumstances and where they were, they were able to pull away from their environment and focus on their audience of One. Rather than seeing just themselves, they were able to see the rest of heaven that they were joining in worship.  They were going online in a spiritual sense.

This is what our Christian family must do in countries that are hostile to the gospel. If they are caught, they will be beaten, fined and jailed. So, they must worship quietly, sometimes in strict silence, but going “online” in their hearts and minds to join the heavenly worship service that never ends.

How can we learn to worship earnestly, a/k/a “online” like Paul and Silas and our spiritual family in hostile countries? Primarily, we have to learn that worship is a matter of our heart.  Jesus has to be someone more than we just know about. He has to be someone we love and that we long for. If He isn’t that for you, pray right now and ask Him to become that for you. Then make it your goal to live like He is your “first love”. If you want me to explain more about that, let me know at godthefatherrevealed@gmail.com.

Beyond our heart, here are some other practical suggestions:

  • Put away your phone, tablet and anything else that may distract you. You wouldn’t be messing with them while trying to worship God at church. Don’t do it while worshipping at home either.
  • If you stand up and worship at church, stand up at home.
  • Sing when its time to sing. Don’t just watch others sing. Your audience of One is watching you. He’s not listening to how good you sing. He’s listening to your heart and mind.
  • Prepare for online church. Just like you would go to bed on time and get up in time to shower, shave, eat and then drive to church, don’t stay up late the night before binge watching Netflix.  Get to bed and get up on time so you have time to prepare to be ready to participate in online church without distractions of a hungry stomach, morning breath or bed head.
  • If you have kids, help them to prepare too. Talk about how you are looking forward to worshipping Jesus during online church. Share that all of you are going to act like the people on TV are actually in your house visiting you. If your kids are really young and must have attention, give them your attention. Hold them and worship like you would if they were sitting with you at your normal church service.

The Lord willing, the virus crisis will end soon, and we will resume going to our churches to worship.  Perhaps this time of “online worshipping” will help us learn to push out distractions that we can avoid. Perhaps we will learn to focus on worshipping the Lord despite distractions that we can’t avoid.  Finally, perhaps we will learn to go online no matter our circumstances or wherever we are to join the worship service that never ends.

Click Here To Read More By Lewis Erickson

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Light Dispels Darkness by Helen Khan

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day. Psalm 139: 11 – 12

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and it’s pitch-black outside; neither a streetlight, nor a star penetrates the darkness? It is dark, absolutely, completely, totally dark. You can’t see a thing. You grope for your torch (flashlight), turn it on and the beams penetrate the darkness, dispelling the darkness.

Life is sometimes like that. Sometimes the future seems dark and ominous. Sometimes our past has been dark, violent, oppressive. The future doesn’t paint a better picture. We fall into despair, anxiety and depression. Life is one downward spiral. From our vantage point, gloom overwhelms, the valley is dark and there is no light in sight.

That’s our vantage point but the above-captioned verses tell us that there is One who sees differently. The darkness we see is light to God. He peers through the darkest night with eyes that see as if it were day. Does that comfort you to know that God sees through the darkness into our lives? Does it comfort you that you are not alone, even in your darkest hour? God is there to shed light and dispel your darkness.

Jesus said he is “the light of the world”. He is the torch, the flashlight shedding light into darkness. Without Jesus, darkness lives on. But when we turn to Jesus, “the light of the world”, the dark part of our heart, the darkness in our life, is dispelled. John Piper wrote, “The light of Christ is the brightness of God shining on the retina of the human soul.”

Our maybe you are afraid of the dark. Maybe you live in a danger zone where evil comes out at night. Robberies, murders and other crimes are usually done in the shrouds of darkness. Thieves do not want to be seen. If you live in a high-crime area, just walking down the street might bring fear.

God doesn’t promise us that we will never have troubles. And we do have to take safety precautions. He doesn’t’ want us to act foolishly. But we can have the assurance that God sees that intruder lurking in the dark. He sees through the body into the darkness of man’s heart. Does knowing that God has his watchful eye on you, even in the dark give you comfort? Does knowing that nothing is too dark for God to make light comfort you?

I hope it does.

Click Here to read Shrouds Over Eden by Helen Khan

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