“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). If you’re like me, you can have twenty things going right in your life and one thing going wrong…and you end up obsessing over that one issue! Our fleshly nature seems to feed on worry and anxiety, but we can push back! God has graciously given us His amazing Word. Trusting in what He said transforms our minds. Instead of complaining about our troubles (called light and momentary in the Word), we can choose to give thanks to Him…for His goodness endures forever! Thanksgiving Day is my second favorite holiday (right behind Resurrection Sunday). This special day reminds me of the power of gratitude and what is does in me and my relationship to God and others. When I choose to think about the good things God does for me and express my thanks, I find myself worrying less about my problems. Gratitude is God’s way of growing the fruit of peace in our sometimes over-cluttered minds. Also, by expressing our thanks, we crucify our pride and admit to the Lord and to others that we need them in our lives. After all, what do we have or what have we accomplished without the grace of God and help of others? So, it doesn’t matter what challenges we face during these unprecedented and unpredictable days of COVID-19. We can live in victory over fear and worry because we walk with the One who overcame death! Think about it…. What will we ever come up against that He hasn’t already conquered? I am truly thankful for Jesus! How about you?
It changed his life completely! God appeared to Moses from a bush in the wilderness and called him to go back to Egypt to set his people free! At first, this sounds an epic adventure! Moses knew better and quickly added up a list of reasons why God had chosen the wrong man. His response to the Lord was all about what Moses perceived as his deficiencies and the probable failure of the mission. We’re not much different than Moses. We are so prone to see only what we are not and all the limitations because of what we don’t have. This time of Covid-19 provides a good example. As we find ourselves in the midst of another “wave” of the virus, it’s easy to list all the reasons why we cannot serve God effectively or minister to others. All the personal and church-related restrictions seem only to fuel the negative. But just maybe we’re missing something. Instead of staring at our list of “why we can’t,” what if we looked to the Lord and asked, “What do you want me to do?” In the midst of Moses’ excuse giving, the Lord interrupted him with a question: “What is that in your hand?” Moses carried a simple shepherd’s staff. After throwing it on the ground (at God’s command), the staff turned into a snake! Moses had no idea of God’s ability to take what we think is little…and make it into something great. So, we should ask ourselves the question, “What has God given me?” Our resources may seem little, but, surrendered to the power of God, there is no limit to the possibilities. You may have many Covid-19 restrictions, but look to the Lord for what you can do. Cast before the great “I Am” what he has already given you! It may be that your “small” gesture of calling, emailing, sending a card, encouraging, giving, serving, praying, or simply reaching out will change someone’s life! As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s thank the Lord for His power to live in us and through us. Look at what you have…not just at what you don’t have! What’s in your hand?
I remember my first visit to a courtroom years ago as a young pastor (a man had asked if I would go with him for moral support). The whole “aura” of the court is meant to intimidate. I was humbled by the barriers of separation, separate door entrances, high ceilings with dark wood, guards, and a somber quietness. Then the judge entered the room with long robes and the voice of the bailiff rang out, “Everyone stand.” For those guilty of crimes, this is where “reckoning” begins. In the Book of Hosea, the prophet speaks on God’s behalf from the courtroom: “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). As I read Hosea’s indictment, I couldn’t help thinking of the condition of our country and the city of Philadelphia. In my 60 plus years of life, I have never witnessed such corruption and evil as we see happening now…and considered as just “normal.” So many live as if they will never have to “show up in court” and answer to a holy God. But, make no mistake, God sees everything, and every person will give an account of what was done in life. The best we can do in this short time is to entrust our lives to God and avoid evil like the world’s worst deadly virus. And remember, our judge made a way for us to be forgiven! Our trust in Jesus’ death on the cross assures us that our crimes will not be held against us! Because of what Christ has done, the Judge is my Father, and the Lord Jesus is my defense attorney! I don’t need to be terrified of the courtroom, because the One who loves me provided everything for my salvation and eternal welfare!
Authority is a big issue in the Bible. Of course, God is our ultimate authority and always deserves our first and greatest allegiance. However, it also matters what we say and how we relate to earthly authority. That goes for our political leaders. As I write this article, it still remains unclear who will be seated as our next president. But whoever he is, we need to show the world our loyalty to our Lord Jesus by watching what we say about our elected president. The current toxic political atmosphere tempts us to throw caution to the wind and jump into the fray. But as we slander and tear down, we need to ask ourselves, are we any different than the world? Do we speak evil about our leaders? In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul was on trial before the Jewish leaders and the high priest Ananias. As you may remember, this is the same Ananias (along with Caiaphas) who condemned our Lord Jesus to be handed over for crucifixion by Pilate. He was not a good leader by any measure! Paul made an opening statement before them, and “at this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth” (Acts 23:2). Paul apparently did not recognize him as the high priest (poor eyesight maybe?) and reacted, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Those standing near Paul exclaimed, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?” (v. 4). Instead of defending himself or pointing out the bad character of the high priest, Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people” (v. 5). When Paul said this, he was quoting Exodus 22:28 which says, “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” I find it interesting here in Exodus how the Word places blaspheming God right next to the command not to curse the earthly leader. In my life I have never witnessed more cursing of our elected leaders than in the last four years. What if we made a commitment to show the world our Christian testimony by refraining from speaking evil about our leaders and instead praying for them? One more thought…at the time this event took place, the emperor of the Roman Empire was Nero. A brief review of history will show you his rule was marked by the worst kind of evil brutality. Yet, I see nowhere in the New Testament where God’s people slander or attack the character of the Caesar. May the Lord help us to follow His Word and the example of Paul and the first- century believers!