Is It Here to Stay?

“The virus is never going away.” I just read that statement in an article and felt chills run down my back—not from the virus, but from the dread. Fortunately, a vaccine will be developed, and world citizens will learn how to live with it, just like we have with the normal flu. Still, I’m weary—coronaweary. And you probably are, too. So, what do we do about it? Most of us can’t help with vaccine research, but we can take specific steps in our own lives that will help us cope. In previous articles, I addressed coping with this challenge spiritually and emotionally. Today, I’d like to address one more area: physically.

I’d rather skip the medical precautions we’ve all heard about daily since mid-March: six feet apart, masks, etc. My concern right now is to think about what physical challenges are we experiencing because of our spiritual and emotional struggle, and what can we do about it?

Sometimes, the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap. I hesitate to say that because a lot of lazy people in our country need not be such sloths, but many Americans are burning the candle at both ends. Rest is an important part of our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. At one time, doctors viewed sleep problems as symptoms of some forms of mental illness, but now, they recognize it as a possible cause. A representative from Harvard Medical School wrote, “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.”

Since I’m beating the health drum, I should also underscore our need for exercise. Most Americans are fat! Okay, it’s easier to take if I say we are health challenged, not reaching our weight indicators, or at worse, overweight. 

God made us to move, and when we don’t move, we suffer. I know 1 Timothy 4:8 is some people’s life verse (“exercise profits little”), but Paul was comparing it to disciplines leading to godliness. And let’s face it, Paul walked everywhere he went. I suppose if we walked five to ten miles a day as a normal course, we wouldn’t need more exercise either. We cannot be at our spiritual, emotional, and physical best without exercise. We don’t like to admit it, but overeating and general unhealthy living is a sin. Being healthy is one of the greatest stress defeaters available to us, and it doesn’t cost anything to walk a brisk two miles in the morning.

Do you want to pull yourself out of the coronaduldrums? Go take a walk or a nap…and lay off the fast-food while you’re at it.

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 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 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.

15 Days of Faith – Day 6

I can’t think of a time when being unstable is a good thing. I was once in an unstable kayak and eventually fell into the lake. Unfortunately, it was in February. An unstable house will fall, and an unstable computer will eventually crash. 

What about an unstable person? I’m not addressing mental or emotional instability; but rather, I’m talking about spiritual instability. In James 1:8, God calls this person double-minded. The context of this passage deals with asking God for wisdom when our faith is being tested. Look at James 1:5-8:

 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I address a few key points in my video for today, but in this blog, I’d like to focus on verse 6. It says that when we ask God for wisdom or help, we should do so with faith that He will meet us where we are and help us through our circumstances. If we don’t trust God, we’re like the sea being tossed about by the wind.

We know that storms are a normal part of life. Being tossed about by those storms can be dangerous, and it will certainly get us off course from the life we want to live. Faith in God during those times keeps us moving in the right direction that leads to joy, peace, and purpose.

The focus of this passage is to ask God for help during trials—specifically to ask for wisdom. We’re going through a trial right now, and God wants to meet us in the midst of our storm. If we fully trust in Him, we’ll find that he is better than a lighthouse to guide us into the safety of His harbor. He wants to turn your test into triumph and your struggle into joy. Will you trust Him?

You can view today’s video here.

15 Days of Faith – Day 4

What does it mean to fix your mind on something? Have you ever had a problem you needed to solve, and you thought about it continuously throughout the day? I remember a serious problem I had a few years ago, and there seemed to be no solution. I pondered the issue for days. I awakened one night with the solution. For starters, I believe God gave me the solution, but it all came about because my mind was fixed upon it (and I prayed fervently about it).

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” For starters, I like the idea of perfect peace. God’s Word is 100% true, and it says perfect peace is a possibility. The Hebrew literally says, “peace, peace” — a double load of peace. It was a Hebrew idiom or way of saying something is complete.

Do you see the word “keep” in that scripture? It means to “secure or guard as with a garrison.” God says He is going to stand guard over those who fix their minds on Him and fully trust Him. It reminds me of another passage found in the New Testament:

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.

Do you want “peace, peace,” perfect peace? Keep your mind fixed on God. How do you do that? I suggest first to fill your mind with Scripture. Meditate on the Word of God throughout the day. Sing songs of worship that magnify God and praise His name. Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long about what’s going on in your life and in the world. Christianity is a relationship to be experienced not a program to attend.

If you fix your mind on God, he will set up a guard over your heart and your mind. You will find a peace that is mind-blowing and soul healing.

I invite you to watch my video for additional thoughts as you choose daily to keep your mind fixed upon God.

15 Days of Faith – Day 3

Have you ever placed your faith in something that wasn’t worthy of your trust? I have. I’ve fallen through the ice on a frozen, shallow pond. I sat down once in a chair that immediately broke into pieces. I’ve trusted people who later used my confidence to hurt me. These kinds of disappointments can make us hesitant to trust anyone or anything.

God gives us a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This passage is not telling us to place our faith in things or people who are not worthy of our trust. The remaining verses of the chapter make it clear that God is calling us to put our faith in Him.

The Hebrew word from which we get our English word assurance points to a foundation or support. This passage is saying that faith that is well placed in the character of the trustworthy word of Almighty God is a foundation and support for our hope.

What are you putting your faith in? I’m grateful for our government leaders and all they are doing for us during this time, but ultimately, my trust is not in them. They are mere humans who may make a bad choice from time to time. My faith is not in myself. I don’t know enough to always make the wisest decisions. My faith is in God because He alone is worthy of my trust.

This assurance or support for my life has brought about a deep, abiding conviction that God is always at work in my life and in my world to accomplish His purpose. The Bible also tells me that while God’s work is for His glory, it is also for my good.

I’ve shared more thoughts on a video, and I invite you to watch it.

Will you trust God today?

15 Days of Faith – Day 1

We are living in unprecedented times. You may have seen President Trump’s press conference yesterday or heard of the suggestions coming from his task force dealing with the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They are asking all Americans to make some dramatic changes for the next 15 days in order to curb the effect and spread of this virus. 

I know that reports over the last week or so have spread great fear across our country. If you don’t know someone who has been infected with the virus now, you possibly will in the future. Some patients are in serious condition. I know of a woman in her 30’s on a ventilator right now. This threat is serious. It would be easy for us to be filled with fear right now, but God wants us to choose faith.

Over the next 15 days, I’m going to share thoughts of encouragement and challenge us to embrace faith. I encourage you to share your comments and help me spread a message of hope.

The Bible has a lot to say about faith. The book of Galatians says we are justified by faith and we are to live by faith. Think about those two ideas. Your sins cannot be forgiven and you cannot enjoy a right relationship with God without placing your faith and your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Secondly, as a Christian, your life should be defined by faith. It would do us well during these times to think about what it means to live by faith. It means that our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional strength comes from the Lord. It means that every step we take, we do so because we are fully trusting in Jesus.

I’ve got a song on my mind, and it would do us well to allow it to be the theme song of this coronavirus season. It was written around 1880 after Louisa Stead experienced a personal tragedy that could have destroyed her. Louisa, her husband, and her 4-year-old daughter were on a picnic near sea. They heard shouts for help and saw a boy struggling in the ocean. Louisa’s husband raced into the ocean to save the boy only to be pulled under and drowned. She grieved over the loss of her husband. After struggling with  sorrow asking God, “Why?” many times, she eventually penned the words to this beloved hymn:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I shared a video on YouTube with additional thoughts for today. You can view it by clicking this link.