What do you rely on? Is it the ever-changing hype of the National Media or the news feed you read? Especially this year, you’ve been bombarded with COVID 19 dire warnings, scary statistics, and discouragement all around. Throw in the videos of civil unrest, protests, and national discord…and I bet you’ve become numb to it all. This numbness (and what God can do about it) is described well in Psalm 107:14, “God brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.” Your reliance and dependence can only be on God alone. That’s because no political party, national organization, or world group can be trusted like you can trust God. And when you place your confidence in God and not man, He will raise you out of that pit of gloom and doom, and break off every chain of fear, anxiety, and depression.
James was quite pointed in his warning, “Keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) Or as it tells us in I John 2:15, “Don’t love the world or anything in the world.” But it’s so easy to do. We all have a fondness for the newest things…and the Church isn’t any different. But at what expense? The present world-view is man-centered, materialism, focused on power, ambition, and self-glory…while God’s view for His Church is totally opposite. So we as the Body of Christ – the Church – need to be ever vigilant and constantly asking the question, “Is this new thing the Church is doing man-centered or God centered? For as Jesus told His disciples in John 15:19, “You don’t belong to the world, I have chosen you out of the world.”
“God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn it but to save it through Him.” ( John 3:17) Jesus Christ, by His sacrificial death, satisfied the demand of judicial wrath by God against sin…our sin and the sins of the entire world and all of mankind. Jesus came to save His people from their sins…and we are all His people….there is not one among us who He has rejected or that His hand cannot reach.
In this passage, God basically said to Judah, “Let’s debate what you’ve been doing in a Court of Law.” Now Judah had been practicing religious festivals of their own making in blatant defiance against God…and now God was calling them to repent of this Religious Spirit. He likened their sinfulness to the red blood-stained hands of a murderer…but offered forgiveness if they would only turn back to Him. The choice was simple – life and prosperity or death and destruction. Or as the choices are explained in the Scriptures, “If they obey and serve Him, they’ll spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” (Job 36:11) OR “If you disobey and rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you.” (I Samuel 12:15) In the end, God demands righteousness…either through repentance on our behalf or through the purification of His judgment against all mankind.
COVID 19 and the pandemic have posed to the Church what I think is a season of great importance and significance. And lately, with all the crucial events happening, it seems even more meaningful to look at this verse from the Church’s perspective. First, we need to remember that as the Family of God, we are all members of God’s Household and we need to be eager to do what’s good for each other. (Titus 2:14) Or as Proverbs 3:27 tells us, “Don’t withhold good from those who deserve it, when it’s in your power to act.” Practicing good this year has taken on new meaning, and the Church should look within its own Body for unfilled needs. Call it Practical Christianity, but the Church should look at this season in time as a opportunity to bless their own…those who fill the pews, silently suffering with unspoken needs. Maybe it’s out of shame or embarrassment they don’t ask…but the needs remain the same. Every person has been touched in some way by the Pandemic…many have lost jobs…many have lost loved ones…now is the time for the Church to shore up and bind up their own.
We praise and thank You God, for only You are inherently worthy of such praise. It says in this verse that You are the Father of compassion, and from this great mercy of Yours comes how we are to treat each other. It’s what You commend us to follow as the compassionate treatment towards our fellow man. So Father, we ask You to show us ways we may show compassion and mercy on those around us. This verse goes on to say that You are the God of all comfort, and we thank You for Your encouragement and exhortation for the sole purpose of strengthening and establishing us in our faith…that we may comfort others. For in verse 4 we read that You comfort us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from You. (II Corinthians 1:4) So Lord, we thank You for Your compassion and comfort…Your mercy and admonition…for they are all divine blessings of Yours. Amen.
“God brought you out of Egypt by His Presence and His great strength.” (Deuteronomy 4:37) The Lord’s Presence went ahead of the Israelites as a pillar of cloud in the day, and a pillar of fire by night and it says that it never left them as they traveled. (Exodus 13:21-22) Moses and the people had come to trust and depend on God’s Presence and so the idea of going it alone was too much for Moses to even consider. David summed up this feeling perfectly when he begged God, “Do not cast me from Your Presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11) We may not be able to touch, or see God’s Presence…but it’s real and it goes before us as a pillar. So thank You, Lord, for Your relentless Presence in our lives…for “You have granted us eternal blessings and made us glad with the joy of Your Presence.” (Psalm 21:6)
The angel Gabriel had come to Zechariah with the good news that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son called John…John the Baptist. But Zechariah rejected the notion immediately as impossible due to their advanced age. A amazed Gabriel answered Zechariah’s skepticism with this, “I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news…but you don’t believe my words.” But not to be too rough on Zechariah…how many times have I done the very same thing? I hesitate, question, or downright reject a word from the Lord thinking, “You don’t know what You’re asking me to do, or worse yet, “I know more than You do, God.” That’s when I must remember to remember. Remember what? To call to mind all the Lord has done for me in the past. How He’s protected and cared for me in situations I should of died in…how He’s brought me through things I didn’t have the strength to do myself. When I doubt God, I limit Him…but when I believe, nothing is too difficult for Him to do.
Time is made up of seasons…just as our own lives. For within each season of our life there is unique beauty peculiar only to the time. And as we transition from season to season in our life there may be frustration, sadness, or longing, for we simply don’t understand God’s workings. “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits?” (Job 11:7) But because we can’t understand what God’s doing doesn’t mean we can’t trust Him. Just as He’s placed within mankind’s inner nature the notion of hope in the hereafter, He’s calling us to trust Him completely in all things our minds cannot fathom. So we take that hope… to build our faith… and learn to trust.
This Summer we had several severe thunderstorms come through causing large tree limbs to come down in our yard. Chainsaw in hand, my husband and I made short work of cutting up the fallen boughs. But it was amazing to me to see just how quickly the leaves had already wilted on the branches. When Jesus said, “Remain in Me.” He’s speaking about the mutual union between Himself and all Believers. And when we abide in this relationship through obedience and dependence on Jesus…we grow and flourish. For as we remain in Him, we will bear the fruit of God’s evidence in our life…a life full of joy, peace, and encouragement.