In a famous sermon, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God." If there was ever a time in history for those of us who follow Jesus to take these words to heart, it is now. I'm sad to report what is obvious: as God's people, we are not doing well in fulfilling this call of Jesus on our lives. Though we are called to represent Jesus and His grace and love to others, we are divided over political issues and commitments to political parties and personalities in ways that create hostility between us as believers and turn people away from Christ. We engage in judgment of others based on whether they are Republican, Democrat, or Independent. We measure godliness based on who we vote for or what issues we stand on. This is not Christ's call on our lives.
We have every right and responsibility to carefully decide how we will engage in our responsibilities as citizens of a democratic country and follow our conscience as we apply God's Word to our choices. We do not have the right to use our personal decisions in this area as a means of judging other followers of Christ or promoting our particular preferences about politics. Our identity is first and foremost as one of His followers. It is Christ we represent to the world; it is Christ we proclaim, it is Christ's gospel of grace, mercy, and forgiveness for which we must be known.
I love reading history, following politics and staying up on current events. I have my opinions and enjoy talking about issues. But with all the grace that God has given me, I will never obscure the message of the gospel by wrapping it in the blanket of a political party or a political candidate. And because I love history and have read deeply about it, I am very concerned about what is ahead as we continue to struggle through this pandemic and now face a turbulent presidential election. I fear that believers will continue to put political commitments ahead of a common faith in Christ and the call to be peacemakers that Jesus proclaimed.
So I urge you, fellow believer: be followers of Christ first and foremost. Measure your words and actions by His standards of love, truth, and mercy. Let people see Christ in you. Let us be the salt and light to a desperate world that will show them the way to their greatest need: salvation through Jesus.
We are experiencing an unprecedented health crisis as the world seeks to address the spread of the coronavirus. Anxiety is an understandable and a normal response to the many challenges and uncertainties facing us. But as followers of Jesus, we are also being presented with an opportunity. Opportunity? Yes! The Apostle Paul writes: "So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13:13) We have an opportunity to grow in our faith: trusting that God is in control of all things - including the coronavirus and its impact on our lives. Our hope in God can be strengthened; the confidence in our soul that ultimately we know that Christ is greater than corona, that no matter what we experience in this world, the story ends well because Jesus conquered death and the grave. It is striking that we are experiencing this trial as we prepare for Easter! Our love can be expanded, the love so beautifully described in I Corinthians 13, the love that reaches out to others and has their best interest at heart, the love of our neighbors to which Jesus calls us.
What might that look like? As we live out the gospel of grace and love, we will consider how our actions might impact those around us. I've heard people say, "Well, I'm not worried about getting the virus because I'm young and healthy, etc." Love calls us to place the welfare of those who are vulnerable as a higher priority and we may be carriers of the disease if we do not use wisdom in our actions. Love will lead us to pray actively for those who are experiencing difficulty because of the virus, whoever they may be in the world. Love will lead us to provide practical assistance to those who may experience financial setbacks due to lost income.
Simply put, let's together ask God to enable us to be His channels of love and grace and demonstrate to the watching world the difference Jesus makes in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. That's our calling.
Recently, I was in a hurry to get to an appointment, feeling stressed and pressured. I noticed that the DTE light on my car dashboard indicated that I needed to stop at a gas station. What is "DTE"? "Distance To Empty". I didn't want to take the time to stop, so I kept going, hoping that my tank had enough in it to get me to my destination. Even though I made it to the next stop without running out of gas, it was not a wise decision.
This led me to think about how often we ignore the "Distance To Empty" warnings in our emotional and spiritual life. Instead of taking time to refuel through rest, sharing our struggles with a friend, or talking to God in prayer, we push on, hoping that we can make it before we are completely empty.
Do you know what your "Distance To Empty" is today? Do you need to "refuel" emotionally and spiritually before you are completely empty? Reach out to someone around you. Pour out your heart to God. Take in His Word. Allow your tank to be filled up so you can go beyond surviving to thriving.
"They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
Recently, while raking leaves in my front yard on a very cool day, I felt a sudden burst of warmth. When I took a step from where I was, the warmth disappeared. When I stepped back to the same spot, I felt warm again. It was an experience similar to feeling a warm spot while swimming in a lake or pool, but I didn't know why it was happening in my yard. I scanned my surroundings and found the source. The sun was reflecting off of one of our second floor windows and the beam was focused on the spot at which I was standing! As I enjoyed the warm feeling and was glad to find the source of the "mystery warmth", I found my thoughts directed to a spiritual truth much more profound.
In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul discusses the ministry of Moses, the leader who represented Israel before God. When Moses would return from the tent in which he encountered God, he would cover his face because of the glory which emanated from it; a reflection of God's glory. Paul applies this to our own encounter with God because of our relationship with Jesus, and the glory which emanates from us because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 2:18.
What does this have to do with the warm spot in my yard? Just as the window reflects and magnifies the sun to produce the warmth I experienced, so our lives reflect the glory of God's Son to the world around us. He uses us as channels of His love and grace to others. We are not the Son, but may people experience the warmth of the Son magnified through our lives!
May we all reflect the Son during this Christmas season.
My father and I shared a love of poetry. "Don't Quit" was one of his favorites and I still cherish it to this day, even though my Dad died over 40 years ago. The thoughts expressed in that poem have inspired me to keep going through some of life's toughest challenges. I believe the poem planted in my young heart an admiration for "survivors", those who persist through great difficulty.
Scripture affirms the importance of developing the character trait of perseverance; the determination to continue to trust God through all of the peaks and valleys of life. I am currently memorizing James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
Sometimes the only thing we can do in life when times are tough is take the next step in front of us, the next breath, humbly asking God to get us through the current day. My experience is that God will give the strength to keep going, keep showing up for those we love, keep faithfully following His will. We may not feel we have much to show for it; we may feel like we are losing ground; we may feel like quitting. But God promises His presence in every moment of our lives even if we can't sense that He is there.
I don't know what you may be struggling with today, but let me encourage you to keep going: don't quit! Be encouraged by a few verses from the poem my Dad shared with me many years ago:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Theologians and Bible students enjoy debating issues of eschatology - the doctrine of "end times" found in biblical prophecy. At times these discussions get heated and churches have divided over different interpretations of Scripture. Several years ago, an African pastor studying in the US witnessed one of these debates and responded afterwards with these profound words: "In Africa, we know two things: Jesus is coming back, and we must be ready!"
This pastor wisely summarized the heart of Jesus' teaching to His disciples about His promised return. First, Jesus provides comfort by assuring us that He will, in fact return! Second, He calls us to live out our faith in Him with focused expectation and dedication to His will while we wait for Him.
How often on a daily basis do we think about Jesus' return? How does the reality that He could return at any moment impact our decisions and priorities? If you're like me, not often enough! Perhaps 2000 years of waiting have dulled our sense of anticipation and caused us to doubt His word of promise! Let God energize your heart today by embracing the truth that Jesus will return to take us to the place in heaven He has prepared for us (John 14:1-6). And it could be today!
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). These familiar words found in Ecclesiastes are helpful to reflect on as we move past summer and into the fall. At DVCC we spent the summer considering the entire book of Ecclesiastes and its central message that life in this broken world is “vapor”-illusory, frustrating, temporary, uncontrollable---“Hevel” in Hebrew. In response to that reality, the writer counsels us to enjoy the good gifts of God, to submit our hearts to Him, and to embrace the truth that God is in control of all things-including the changing seasons. That is the wise way through the “fog” of this life!
Changing seasons evoke a wide range of emotions within us: sadness, anticipation, anxiety, hope---much depends on the particular season of life we are in personally. The good news found in the Gospel is that no matter what season we find ourselves in, we can be confident that the unchanging, unrelenting love of God is always poured out on our lives! So as the leaves change and the air gets cooler, as we anticipate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and yes, a new year ahead, let’s remember together that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39b).