No Fans?

Fanless football. If you would have told me a year ago that I would watch a Sunday afternoon football game where the Falcons would play in Mercedes Benz stadium with no fans in the seats, I would have told you you’re crazy. Turns out you’re not crazy. Well, you didn’t tell me that a year ago because you weren’t crazy a year ago (Maybe I’m crazy for wasting my time watching the Falcons loose yet again). No fans at the game makes for strange television. When the cameras pulled away from the field to show the empty stadium, I was a little stunned. I’d been hearing the crowd noise. As a matter of fact, the crowd was so loud that I couldn’t hear the announcers very well. Turns out, the crowd noise was a recording. Someone even had the crowd boo at one point.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us that the stadium in which we live our lives is not empty. It says we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” It’s like the saints of the past are cheering us on, and it’s not a recording. I don’t think that passage means that the saints from the past are watching us from heaven, however. It’s more likely that God is reminding us that the witness of the past saints is louder than a recording to urge us to faithfulness as we serve the Lord.

It’s easy during difficult times to stumble or even get a little disillusioned. Don’t! The witness of the crowd is getting louder in the midst of persecution and difficulty. Stay the course! Run the race! Live out your faith loudly even though our secular society is saying we should be seen and not heard. One day when we cross the finish line, we’ll hear our Heavenly Father say, “Well done!”

Visible Faith

“If something’s going to be done right, you’ve got to do it yourself!” Is that always true? Of course not. In preparation for the sermon I delivered yesterday, I came across an exciting passage of Scripture found in Colossians 2:7. I’ve read it many times in my life, but this time, I pulled out my Greek New Testament and considered the verbs and participles. I can already see your eyes glazing over. I know. I try not to get too excited about Greek grammar, but I think what I discovered will light your fire. It did mine.

First, here’s the text:

Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…and overflowing with gratitude.”

The command is to live every day in Christ but notice the words I underlined in verse seven. These are all participles modifying how we are to walk in Him. Participles, like verbs, express tense, voice, and mood. I know we’re reaching way back to our English class but stay with me.

The first one, rooted, is in the perfect tense, which means it is something that happened in the past but continues to have present and future impact. The action is not continuous, but the effect is. Isn’t that a great thought? You became rooted in the past when you surrendered your life to Jesus, and you will constantly enjoy the effect of being stable in Jesus—no matter what.

The next three participles, built up, established, and overflowing, are all present tense. This points to continuous action. In other words, as I follow Jesus and walk about in Him through my life, I am constantly being built up, continuously being established, and unceasingly overflowing with gratitude. Nonstop. Every day!

The last participle, overflowing, is written in the active voice. That means you are doing the action. You are choosing every day to live a life of gratitude. No one can make that choice for you. It is a choice we have to make. Right? Here’s the thing. Whenever you and I are obedient and walk about in Christ every day, we will be grateful.

Look back at the middle two participles: built up and established. These two words were inspired to be written in the passive voice. That means someone else is doing the action. Who? Jesus! We are just receiving the action. Jesus, through His Spirit, is building us up and establishing us in our faith. How many times have we tried and tried and tried to live right and follow Jesus only to fall on our faces? We can try to be godly, but the secret is to train to be godly and receive the consequences of placing ourselves in a position to receive God’s activity in our lives.

One writer compared our spiritual lives to piloting a motorboat versus a sailboat. You are required to control the motorboat. In other words, the outcome is up to you. You put in the gas. You start the engine. You steer the boat. Compare the difference with a sailboat. It is true that you hoist the sail and control the rudder (training to be godly), but you go nowhere without the wind. The wind determines your destiny.

God’s Holy Spirit is the wind who does the action of building us up and establishing us in our lives. It comes in our lives as we employ various spiritual disciplines, like Bible reading and prayer (hoisting the sails). God makes us godly, mature, and stable as we prepare ourselves to receive His wind.

So, if you are a Christian, thank God that you are rooted in Jesus, prepare your spiritual sails to be built up and established by the wind of God’s Spirit, and choose to constantly overflow with gratitude for all God is doing in your life. God will be honored. We will live out a visible faith. The world will be changed.

Emotionally Healthy or Coronaweary?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges presented by coronavirus and be tempted to crawl into a hole somewhere until next spring. The pandemic has caused a serious physical health condition for some people, and it’s affecting a lot of people’s emotional well-being. Emotional strength comes from a variety of places, but it’s not always replenished automatically. Emotional fortitude can be threatened by stress, trauma, sorrow, and loss. Fear, loneliness, and burnout can also threaten our emotional wellness. What do we do about it?

Working on our emotional health is just as important as staying in good physical condition. Our bodies are the temple of God, which includes our emotions. The Bible says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” It’s difficult to bless the Lord with your emotions when you are emotionally unhealthy.

The Bible addresses being emotionally healthy. For example, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to worry about anything but pray about everything, and Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” I’d like to mention a few things we can do to find emotional strength during challenging times.

  1. Exercise – Doctors tell us that regular exercise is helpful for our emotional well-being. It reduces stress and enhances our perspective. What can you do to add ten minutes of exercise to your day?
  2. Meditation – I’m not thinking of mysticism or eastern religions. I’m considering biblical passages where we are called to ponder the truths of God’s Word and open our minds to the voice of God. Consider passages like Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2. The Psalmist told us to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) and Philippians 4:8 offers a list of things that should occupy our minds.
  3. Community – The bottom line is that God made us for relationships, and our relationships provide fertile ground that strengthens our emotional health. The Bible gives us 59 “One Another Commands,” which requires us to be in meaningful relationships with other people. I think that one reason God commands us to love one another, for example, is that He knows that we are the beneficiaries of such love. I think you’ll find all of the one another commands replenish your emotions. Proverbs 27:9 tells us that the sweetness of friendship refreshes the soul.
  4. Service – Although serving others is one of the one another commands, I want to emphasize how serving others really replenishes our emotional well-being. Serving helps us to take our minds off of ourselves and think about others. It gives us a fresh perspective and helps us to plug into God’s purpose for our lives.
  5. Laughter – Proverbs 15:13 says that a glad heart makes a cheerful face. Ninety-seven-year-old actor, Carl Reiner, told the Washington Post, “Laughter is my first priority. I watch something every night that makes me laugh. I wake up and tickle myself while I’m still in bed. There is no greater pleasure than pointing at something, smiling and laughing about it. I don’t think there is anything more important than being able to laugh.” I’m not sure I’d agree that nothing is more important than laughing, but laughter might make my top twenty most important things to do.
  6. Worship – Even as worship strengthens us spiritually, it also fortifies us emotionally. It’s amazing what focusing on God can do for our personal well-being; after all, loving God is an emotional experience. An article published by the AARP links regular worship to lower rates of depression. Scientists tell us that singing releases endorphins in our system that encourages joy and hope. Psalm 42:11 calls us to declare God’s praise in times of emotional struggle, and we will find hope in God.

What will you do to exercise, meditate, make a friend, serve others, laugh, and worship? Your emotional health is waiting for a boost.

Coronaweary

I’m coronaweary, and I have a feeling you are too. I’m not saying that we’re tired of coronavirus, though we probably are. I am saying that we’re weary because of the overload this pandemic has caused. I feel hesitant to make this declaration because some people have gotten the virus and even died with it, so my weariness doesn’t compare. At the same time, there are a lot of people working many hours and dealing with stressful conditions because of the impact of Covid-19. You may be feeling the stress simply because you can’t spend time with your family or friends like you used to or maybe just wearing a mask all of the time is starting to get to you. You may be overloaded because your job is considered “essential,” and you are working a lot of extra hours. So, what do we do about it?

I’d like to suggest three areas in your life that need care: spiritual, emotional, and physical. I’d like to address a prescription for coronaweariness over the next few blogs. First, let’s address our spiritual needs.

We are spiritual beings, so everything about our lives has an impact on our spiritual nature. How do you replenish your soul? Psalm 42:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Time with God is the only soul replenisher I know. Time with God should include reading His Word and prayer, but we can also experience God through things like meditation upon God’s Word, community with Christian friends, and reflecting upon God’s nature.

One of the greatest experiences for a follower of Jesus is worship. Through worship, we focus on God’s nature and not our issues. Our sole focus in worship is God and not ourselves. Other than God’s prompting about dealing with anything in ourselves that is not Christlike, our attention is solely on the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. Worship is like leaving the smog-filled city and taking a breath of fresh air from atop a tall mountain in the middle of the wilderness. It’s refreshing and invigorating. It gives us a great perspective and reminds us that God is great and more than sufficient to meet our every need.The first step to overcoming coronaweariness is to change your focus. Look up. Our help comes from above. Pray, worship, read Scripture, and love God with all of your heart. It’s better than two aspirin and a phone call in the morning.

(Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash)

15 Days of Faith – Day 15

Choosing faith is a life-long pursuit. We sometimes relegate Christianity to only a choice in time. Don’t get me wrong. It begins with a choice in time, and once you choose Jesus, you are His. However, I want us to understand that Christianity is also a daily choice of following Jesus. Salvation has not only a past tense where we were saved from the penalty of sin, but it also has a present tense where we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives and a future tense where we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.

Faith can also be viewed in three tenses: we had faith that saved us, we have faith that is delivering us, and we will have faith that will transport us into the presence of Almighty God.

How do we keep choosing faith? First Timothy 6:11-12 offers the solution: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Look at the three commands of this passage: flee, pursue, and fight. Flee from something that is hindering your walk with Christ, pursue everything that strengthens your relationship with Christ, and fight anything that is threatening your victory in Christ.

Do you see a common thread with each of the three commands? Flee, pursue, and fight all call for intensity, effort, and commitment. If you’re going to really trust Jesus, you need to be all in! Just testing the water doesn’t work in Christianity. Giving God one day a week or two days a month is not real Christianity. True faith, saving faith, is 110%.

I urge you to jump into the deep end of the pool. Go after Jesus with everything in you, and you’ll find that He’s already given everything to go after you.

I share some more about this topic on today’s 15 Days of Faith video.

15 Days of Faith – Day 14

Old dusty well-used bible on timber table with golden background

Have you ever been as determined as ever to have faith but found yourself wavering? I have. What do you do? Where do you go to find faith? Consider the words of Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”

Notice in this passage, we are admonished to go to the Scripture. In today’s 15 Days of Faith video, I talk about finding faith from the Word of God. Look carefully at this passage and see an additional idea.

First of all, imagine the Apostle Paul being inspired to write this passage. What do you think he had in mind when he said that faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ? We naturally imagine a leather-bound copy of God’s Word. That’s not what Paul had in mind. Of course, this passage definitely points to the Bible, but it also points to more.

Whenever Paul chose a Greek term for “word,” he didn’t use a term that would have pointed to the written, inspired Scripture. The Greek word refers to a spoken word. Now, I know that the Bible is God’s spoken Word to us put in a written form, but I want to emphasize the fact that God is speaking His truth.

Growing in our faith means that we not only need to read God’s Word, but we also need to listen. God wants to speak truth to our hearts. He’ll use the written Word, but He’ll also speak His truth in the stillness of our hearts. If we want faith to grow, we need to listen.

You can find today’s video here.

15 Days of Faith – Day 13

The Bible uses the word “sovereignty” to talk about God’s reign as the King over our lives and over the world. God is the one true King. Colossians 1:16-17 refers to God’s supreme, sovereign place in our lives and the world:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Since God is the Sovereign King, we should always submit to His authority. This calls for faith and obedience. Sometimes, our faith is challenged, but we should trust Him anyway. In today’s 15 Days of Faith video, I share some thoughts about the Old Testament story of three young men who were challenged to trust God even when it could mean their deaths.

As we consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is your understanding of total trust challenged? I mention in the video that these three young men showed total faith in God’s ability and total trust in God’s agenda.

We know that God is able, right? He’s God! What does it mean to trust God’s agenda? Well, it means that God is God and you are not. It means that since God is sovereign, and you’re not, that you will follow God’s agenda and not your own. Following God’s agenda can be challenging. It shouldn’t be challenging because we understand that God knows everything, and His ways are always right and best. 

Why do we ever prefer our own agendas? Great question. The problem is that I don’t know the answer other than we’re stubborn and obstinate. Maybe I should throw in the word “sinners” as well.

I think this global pandemic is calling us to a closer walk with God. Will you choose to submit to God’s sovereign rule over your life today?

You can watch today’s video by clicking this link.

15 Days of Faith – Day 12

Have you ever turned a lemon into lemonade? We’ve all heard that saying before, I’m sure. It’s the process of taking a bad situation and turning it into something good.

Mark 2 tells the familiar story of a group of friends who brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed. The thing that probably sticks out in the story is the determination of the friends. The crowds were thick around Jesus, and they couldn’t get close. They went up onto the roof, dug out the dirt and sticks from which the roof was made, and lowered their lame friend down to the feet of Jesus.

The Bible says that Jesus was amazed at the friends’ faith and at first, responded to their faith and not that of the paralytic.

In today’s video, I challenge all of us to think about how our faith can bring about good in other people’s lives. Faith can be contagious. How can yours be contagious?

Think also about those friends. They were determined. They went to a great effort to help their friend be healed. What effort will you go to so that your friends can encounter Jesus during this time? They may be more open to spiritual things, and your effort could be the very thing that leads them to seriously consider God’s offer of grace.

How will your faith be so contagious that others are infected by it?

Here’s a link to today’s video.

15 Days of Faith – Day 11

Anxiety or worry is almost as normal as breathing. However, God commands us not to be afraid. We saw in yesterday’s blog the Word of God tells us that worry is actually a sin. What do we do about it? Well, we saw we should pray about everything and worry about nothing. Today we’ll back up a couple of verses from yesterday’s scripture:

Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again, I say rejoice.”

In today’s video, I share a wonderful definition of joy. I hope you’ll watch it. I’d like to focus this blog on a six-letter word in this verse: always. God says that we are to always rejoice. Really? Is God serious? Yes! He says that we can choose to find joy in every circumstance. How is that possible?

It’s possible when we believe and accept the fact that God is always in control. The Bible tells us that He is sovereign. This means that God is in charge and worthy of my trust and devotion. I can choose joy when I choose to trust God and know that He is working for my good and His glory. I may not be able to understand all of the details or be able to figure out the solution to my situation, but I can have the confidence to know that God is at work in my life. I encourage you to choose joy.

You can watch today’s video on 15 Days of Faith – Day 11 here.

You may also enjoy listening to a song written by Aaron Keyes that my son’s worship team recently recorded on video. You can find it here.

15 Days of Faith – Day 10

I wish I had an antidote for the Coronavirus I could offer to the world. Wouldn’t that be great? I do have an antidote for the fear caused by the spread of the virus. In today’s video, I talk about this antidote: prayer. I share this antidote from Philippians 4:6-7. I’d like to share a few additional thoughts in this blog. First, look again at Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

I need to stress that this verse begins with an actual command: Don’t be anxious. Have you ever thought of worry as a sin? Well, God says it is. This passage clearly states that anxiety is a choice. We can choose to worry, or we can choose to trust. How in the world can you overcome anxiety and embrace trust? The answer is prayer.

God tells us to pray, and this passage uses two important words that underscore attitudes we should demonstrate with our prayer. The first attitude is desperation. The word “supplication” comes from a Greek word that means to plead or even beg. The fact is that we are always desperate and dependent upon God. The spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus is just a reminder that we really are not self-sufficient. We need God! So, cry out to Him.

The second attitude is gratitude. God wants us to be thankful. One of the greatest ways to overcome anxiety is to count your many blessings? You can always find blessings in every circumstance. Focus on your blessings and not your struggles. Choose thanksgiving instead of worry.

When we do that, our hearts and minds are open to the peace of God. This peace serves as sentry soldiers to set up guard over our emotions and our will. When our emotions are in check, we’re free to love others and help others in Jesus’ name. When our minds are clear, we’re free to think properly and make wise decisions.

Are you afraid? Don’t be. Trust the Lord. Don’t worry about anything; pray about everything.

You can find today’s video here.