A Pandemic Invitation

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God,"
My times are in Your hand...
Psalm 31:14-15a

How is everyone holding up through this COVID-19 pandemic?

We are doing well here in my corner of the world. Huddled at home but not in fear, enjoying one another and leaning in to God.

This same God, by the way, has faithfully met our needs thus far. Not all of our wants – we are all being required to let go of those these days, huh? But we do not lack anything we need. We have food, water, clothing, and yes, even toilet paper.

He has also supplied joy, peace, and patience as we are compelled to be together almost constantly under one roof, living a different life in April than we could have guessed at in our wildest imaginings at the beginning of March.

Yes, life is uncertain these days; yes, there are shortages; yes, there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation circulating; and yes, there is a staggering amount we do not know about what will happen.

But allow me to ask a question: How is this different than any other day? Only in our awareness of it. We feel out of control, reeling with uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.

The truth its, all that’s really been lost is the illusion of control.

Just because a new virus stalks the world does not change this fact, though it has enhanced it. You and I, we never had control over our lives. We simply were surrounded by so much routine, so much accessibility, and so many things obtainable that we weren’t aware of it.

Yet even a month ago when we could pick up toilet paper any day on our way home from work or school, we had no guarantees of arriving home. On any given day, a vehicle accident could rob us of life. Or our hearts could cease to function. Or we could break our necks tripping over stairs as we bring the toilet paper into the house. Or one of dozens of other “what ifs” could happen.

Over sixteen years ago, my life was altered by a virus. Not COVID-19 but viral meningitis landed me in the hospital and triggered a chronic headache condition accompanied by chronic fatigue. And yet, I still do not fear this new threat.

Why? Because I trust in the One who holds my times in His hands. The illusion of control had already been stripped from me only to be replaced by an experience of חֶסֶד (chesed); of the steadfast and unwavering love of the Lord God.

For over sixteen years, He has continually been showing me how good He is, how He can provide, how He does wonders even in the midst of unrelenting pain, how His strength is truly perfect in my overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional weakness.

I not only believe these things to be true, I have lived their truth. I know them like I know my way around my house.

Friend, if you are anxious or afraid, if you feel trapped in uncertainty or by addiction or sin, you don’t have to be. I invite you today to turn it all over to the One who holds our times in His powerful and unchanging hands.

He isn’t asking you to give up control but telling you He is the one who has control, not you.

He isn’t asking you to give up fun but ready to show you true joy and fun are not found in the sin which promises so much and yet produces only temporary pleasure at best, a permanent prison at worst.

He is here in this pandemic, waiting for You to accept the gift of salvation in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ who died to set you free from sin’s clutches.

In Him alone can you find freedom from fear, joy in His presence, pleasure forevermore.

You are invited, friend, but you have to decide: Cling to your illusions? Or trust in the One who made all things and in Whom all things hold together?

Wisdom Seeker: Day 28

Proverbs 28

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper…

It doesn’t always seem like that, does it? There are times when it seems like people who hide their junk get away scot-free and go on to do just fine. Especially if they are already wealthy.

The thing is, though, it just isn’t true. Who knows the destruction a single secret sin can wage within the human heart? Even if outwardly they do seem to be all smiles and handshakes, what darkness eats at them inside like a cancer? What is it like to be all alone in the dark of night with nothing but self and sin?

Well, I’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty in my case. It drove me to greater depths of escapism until I finally realized there is no escaping – only continuing to hide ineffectively or facing my sin head-on and confessing.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

I chose confession, and as scary as it was at first, it was freeing. Truly, honestly freeing.

No secrets means no foothold for the accuser to hook his stupid little chains of guilt and shame to. No secrets leads to genuine repentance and to humility – to understanding that I am no better than the most vile sinner alive, possibly much worse.

And best of all, no secrets means no sin can keep its grip on me. It’s public, it’s exposed, and it’s days are numbered.

But what about those whose consciences are seared, who seem to feel no guilt or shame and hid their sin only because it’s not – yet- socially acceptable? Especially those who are rich beyond imagination and live seedy, secret lives behind closed doors. Aren’t they prospering?

Well, in a sense. But would you believe it if I told you that all the wealth of this world is illusory at best? It’s insubstantial. Transitory. It can be gone in a flash.

And some day, sooner or later, the grave will claim the wealthiest and most powerful members of humanity. At that point, their fame, fortune, and power will mean exactly squat. Not a single penny can pass from this life to what lies beyond the grave.

If that person has left their lives in the mastery of a secret sin rather than surrendered to the Lordship of Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ), I’m afraid they will not prosper. Over the unfathomable stretch of eternity, all thoughts earthly prosperity will fade from even the strongest memory.

So if some secret sin has possession over you, friend, confess it. Certainly confess it to God, if possible, confess it to a friend you can trust to help you and hold you accountable not to fall back into it. Then pick up a Bible, explore the Scriptures, see what true prosperity looks like.

It will blow your mind – that I promise. In Christ, we don’t find a comfortable and easy life on earth. We find something better!

Joy – real joy that no circumstance or suffering can steal away.

Hope – a hope for future prosperity that makes this world’s wealth look like cheap, tarnished gold paint.

Peace – the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.

Love – the breathtaking and undeserved love of the Creator God, more fulfilling than any created thing, more intoxicating than any substance, more profound than the most powerful human emotion.

And God. Best of all, you will find God and discover that He truly is enough.
You’ll find genuine satisfaction and rest for your soul.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:17

Wisdom Seeker: Day 26

Proverbs 26

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

Proverbs 26:20

I’m on the downslope of this little exercise, so in a few more days I will go back to posting once or twice a week. Good thing, too, because cross country season is ramping up and what with hauling kiddos around (which I LOVE!), my part-time job, ministry activities, regular mom stuff, and my much-neglected personal writing projects, time is becoming shorter…

Speaking of short, I haven’t much to say today. Just a quick thought on verse 20. Christian brothers and sisters, want to know how we can contribute best to promoting peace on social media?

We can refuse to add fuel to the flames.

The thing is, there’s a time and place to engage in debate. We need to stand for truth – absolutely! I never hesitate to post difficult truths on my personal internet space (that being here, of course), and I will speak them in face-to-face contexts when I feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do so.

However…

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all that noise? Well… from what I’ve seen and experienced, adding my $0.02 to the general ruckus does nothing more than keep the anger stirred up. I’m not likely to convince someone from the safety of my computer keyboard.

Besides, in most of the social media arguments I’ve seen, people are far too busy hammering out their opinions in capital letters so vehement that I feel I need to dodge the virtual spittle.

Adding to that simply isn’t helpful. If there’s a wrong that needs to be addressed, better to take the offender out for coffee and attempt to rectify or clarify the situation face to face. It’s more Biblical that way as a first step, for one thing.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Matthew 18:15

“But the sin wasn’t against me,” you say? Or maybe, “I don’t actually know the offending party well enough to meet them for coffee.”

Well, then, even better that you keep your thoughts to yourself. If you don’t know them well enough, your words will literally do nothing to help. And if the sin isn’t against you, it may not need your defense.

There are occasions where another person may need defending, but on such occasions, there are ways to word your defense so as to calm the fire rather than feed it. Be sure your remarks are life-bringing, true, and peace-promoting. Avoid inflammatory marks like you avoid the flu in it’s season.

Don’t forget that we are Ambassadors to our King and our heavenly Country. Let’s represent Him well.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

2 Timothy 2:14-16

Wisdom Seeker: Day 22

Proverbs 22

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 22:24-25

Confession time.

I was once an angry little homeschool mom. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

In truth, I struggled with anger for most of my memory. I’m pretty sure when I was young, I stuffed a whole lot of hurt down along with a good bit of resentment and anger until it reached a critical mass of pressure hot enough to cook it into a roiling, seething pool of fury that would occasionally erupt into sounds. Loud ones.

I remember reading this passage in the Proverbs at one point – maybe to my kids, maybe by myself – and realizing, “I am that wrathful man (well, woman, technically, but you get the drift).”

Ugh. As a homeschool mom, my responsibility was to teach my kids. And that’s just what I was doing – teaching them to respond in anger. Teaching them to blow their top. Teaching them impatience.

None of these things were in my preferred curriculum. What I wanted was to teach them to love the Lord our God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

But what I modeled was letting small irritations pile up until a final one broke the proverbial camel’s back – or at least the sound barrier. I was a bit of a yeller.

What did I do?

Well, I tried to control my temper, but it just didn’t work well. I tried to talk myself through it. Finally, I realized that I was helpless in the face of this decades-old mess inside me.

Then I made my first fruitful move. I hit my knees.

I began crying out to God to destroy the anger in my heart. I confessed my dire need of Him. I tearfully begged Him to destroy this thing before it destroyed my young.

And He did! Over time, bit by bit the stinking hot pool of wrath was siphoned off until finally a day came when I handled fifteen irritations without loosing my cool.

Then twenty-five. Then forty.

Then more and more and more. And as my patience grew, my anger diminished until only a puddle remained where a vast sea had once been.

Oh, I still get angry. It isn’t dead yet. However, I no longer fly into a temper over small things. I’ve learned better ways to use the energy of anger – prayer. Reciting Scripture. Physical activity to clear my head.

Not one bit of this can be attributed to anything I’ve done. It is very literally the fruit of God’s Spirit working in me and showing up in my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . .

Galatians 5:22-23a

What is something you struggle with that you’ve seen God show up in?

Wisdom Seeker: Day 20

Proverbs 20

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

Proverbs 20:3

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

Proverbs 20:22

As usual when reading the proverbs, there are several potent verses I could focus on. Today, however, I really want to look at two that caught my attention as related and highly relevant in the tense climate propagated on social media.

Maybe especially with another Presidential election campaign looming like a seedy circus freak show, I see the wisdom in verses 3 and 22.

Goodness, people. Please, please let’s not have another embarrassing repeat of 2016. I’m not talking about the winner or loser or any of that; I’m talking about the way we behaved as a nation.

The fact that our “debates” have denigrated into a sideshow where candidates primarily take cheap potshots at one another and at their opponents’ follow ought to mortify us. What happened to gentlemanly disagreement? To actually and intellectually covering the issues we face as a culture? To reality, for Pete’s sake??

Then the behavior of the supporters of Clinton – throwing a real-life, honest-to-goodness pity party complete with “cry rooms” in colleges and mourning as if a 4-year term was a harbinger of the world’s end!

What in the world have we come to? Playground politics? Do we need to re-institute nap times and snack times? Revisit the preschool days where we learn not to pull Sally’s hair, to share with Billy, to take our turn on the slide?

OK, enough of my little rant. Sometimes I just gotta say something, I guess.

But in reality, is there any actual use for a rant? Probably not. My words aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind or behavior. In fact, they could potentially incite a quarrel.

And that’s what I want to address today.

When it comes to social media, it behooves those of us who know Christ not to enter into the fray of social media vitriol.

Oh I’m not saying we should say nothing. Far from it! After all, I did have my little rant, did I not? However, when it comes down to it, before we type any words, we need to think first.

Does what I’m about to say honor God? Does it dishonor Him in any way? Is it useful to others? Does it need to be said? If it does, am I saying it in a truthful and modest way? Is my interest in defending the Lord’s honor or mine? Am I more interested in justice or in being right?

There are a million other questions we can ask, but all in all, keep verse 22 in mind. It reminds me of another passage:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21

Ultimately, justice will be done. It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Where there is evil in the world, we ought to expose it – especially if it dwells in our own hearts. So have your little rants (like mine) in an appropriate forum. But for heaven’s sake, don’t enter into a quarrel or controversy over them!

If there is truth in your words, the Lord will bring it out. If He compels you to write something, be obedient by all means! But if it’s just you speaking, well… keep it behind your teeth (or off the screen, in the case of social media).

If some point or bit of Scripture you speak about brings the sting of conviction to someone else, let the Lord handle it. After all, that is His job.

Sometimes, the backlash we hear and try to defend against is nothing more than a fellow human being wrestling under the weight of conviction. If that is the case, have compassion, Believer!

Remember how it feels to be under conviction and keep silent. Don’t offer a distraction by entering into a squabble. Just let the Holy Spirit do His glorious work and pray for those who threaten or curse you. It really isn’t about you and me, after all.

Remember, our enemy is not the other political party or the guy on the other end of the social media commentary war. Our enemy is the one who deceives and hates, the one who thrives on division, strife, and conflict.

Let’s not be party to the old snake’s devices, ‘mkay?

PS: I felt it necessary to add a post script to this one. Concerning my rant, do I really think and feel those things? Absolutely, yes. Do I normally spout them out on the internet? Rarely – and more and more rarely as the Spirit of God convicts me to stick to His truth and keep my opinions to myself.

Today I used my unvarnished opinion to (hopefully) elicit an emotional response and lead into my point. Truth is truth, and I’ll stand behind the truth of God’s Word if it costs me my life. My life is His, anyway. But my stuff? Well, that’s just mine. Take it or leave it. 😉

Wisdom Seeker: Day 16

Proverbs 16

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 16:25

Almost didn’t make it today! A 6:30 am prayer meeting, busy day, and a migraine nearly kept me from writing, though not from reading. Still, here I am…

Before I go on (and I will be brief today for sure – the migraine is caged but pacing it’s cage angrily), tomorrow is my son’s college move-in day and Sundays I tend to go unplugged. I might check in tomorrow but it depends! You can bet I’ll be reading, though. I’m a Bible addict. For real.

Anyway, just a quick thought or two about today’s focus verse. I know this one from my experience as an atheist. There were plenty of ways that seemed right to me at the time – worldly wisdom and all.

You know, partying with friends, the “enlightened” modern form of morality (which really is immorality), late nights, hook-up culture. All kinds of fun.

But it wasn’t fun. Not really. When I was alone and sober, there was a sense of reeling. Of incompleteness and purposelessness. A terrible, yawning blackness of sorrow which I tried filling with shallow friendships, long hours at work, and alcohol.

It was a little death. I grew tired of having the same conversations over a couple of shots and a beer. I grew weary of chasing the handful of times I actually had fun with a million nights of drunken nothingness. Frustration. Emptiness. Yuck.

It was like dying slowly without the mercy of an end. Then again, my end would have been far from merciful if I’d been snuffed out in those days – alone and without God. I lived a little hell. Death would have ushered in the real thing.

That is why I am so sold on God’s way now. Ironic, isn’t it, that in my youth when I had my health and freedom, before migraine robbed my strength and my days, that I had no joy. None. There were moments of happiness, but no underlying joy. Just that horrible blackness waiting to suck me down in a single, undistracted instant.

But now, with frequent pain and so many things to do each day that I sacrifice sleep to spend time with my Lord and in prayer, I have so much joy.

Then, I had only myself to serve. It gave me nothing but sorrow.

Now, I have my husband, my three biological kids, my countless part-time, semi-adopted kids, friends, dogs, a cat, a job, and health issue. And I have joy.

Pure, undiluted, lovely joy that comes straight from knowing my Savior Yeshua, being loved by Father, and being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Wouldn’t trade this life for the old one for ten billion dollars. True story.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms 16:11

Wisdom Seeker: Day 8

Proverbs 8

Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

Proverbs 8:10-11

Reading about the virtues of wisdom today reminded me that there is only one Source for true wisdom, and only one way to acquire it. Ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1:5

Asking is simple, right? Why, then, is there so little wisdom in the world today?

As far as I can tell, its because so few of us actually do ask for wisdom. Or if we ask for it, we ask without faith. Worse yet, so many of us embrace what seems to be wisdom in our minds – a wisdom that makes us look and feel pretty dang good.

This is the secular wisdom that tells us to follow our hearts and to look out for Numero Uno. This is a worldly wisdom lacking in such messy and uncomfortable situations as conviction and repentance.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James 3:14-15

But unfortunately, this “wisdom” leads us no where but in circles, forever chasing the wind. Eventually, that sense of feeling pretty dang good will end up vacating and leaving a hollow space behind, and we will wonder what happened…

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 14:12

Oddly enough, the Creator of all that is seen and unseen is also the best and only source of actual wisdom. Wisdom that reaps eternal profits, not temporary conveniences. Wisdom that leads to life and joy and peace even in the tumult and upheaval of life in a sin-sick world.

Wisdom that is useful and genuine.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

1 Corinthians 3:18-19

Father, forgive us for looking to anywhere but You for wisdom. Please, give us the wisdom we need to navigate this world in a way that honors You and prepares us for eternity in Your presence. As we ask, we ask in faith, without doubting that You have the wisdom we seek and that You will give it in due time and measure, amen.