From Here to Hope (Psalm 28:1-9)

The God of glory and grace is our hope for today and for eternity. All creation gazes upon the powerful promise of hope in the glorious return of Jesus Christ our Savior and King. Upon His return, we know that He will set right all things.

Yet, it feels like a long journey from here to hope. We encounter the struggles and pain of the raging winds of change in our lives. The strength of our soul is tested by the chaotic forces that push and pull against us. There is wickedness that seems to run unfettered through the streets on our journey. Yet, we who have fellowship with God through Christ have the certainty of God’s glorious provision and help.

“The Lord is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.” (Psalm 28:8)

How do we navigate through the straits of our distress so that we come to the rescuing refuge of God’s care? That is the question answered by the psalmist on his journey from here to hope. Through Psalm 28, we discover the navigation points that will help us taste the glorious fruit of hope on our journey.

1. Cry out to God for help.

There are specific seasons in our lives when we find ourselves in deep distress. The despair of life’s circumstance overwhelms us with fear. The first step in navigating from here to hope is to ask for help from God.

“To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, Lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.” (Psalm 28:1-2)

The psalmist is making a plea for God’s grace to move in his life resulting in deliverance. When we are in the tight places of life, we cry out to God, who is our hope. We cry out to God because our life depends completely upon God. We know that if God doesn’t come through for us, then we will be completely destroyed.

The psalmist cries out to God who is his Rock. The picture of the rock points to the protection out of danger’s reach. Each day that we live, we need God’s favor. We need His rescuing love to set us in the firm grip of His protective care.

2. Get in the right position to experience hope.

To move from here to hope in the straits of distress, we need to get in the right position.  We cannot experience hope with our own bravado and self-reliance. We need to humble ourselves before God with absolute trust and dependence.

The psalmist lifted his hands to the Lord in absolute submission and trust. This posture is a picture of a child lifting up his hands to a parent for help. Without the humility of a child, we won’t be in a position to experience God’s rescuing love which gives us hope.

We navigate toward the refuge of God’s rescue when we turn our hearts toward Christ, humble ourselves before the Lord, and lift our lives to Him in absolute submission.

3. Avoid dangers that rob us of hope.

In the story of Pinocchio, we see what happens when you don’t avoid the dangers. Even though Honest John and Gideon (the fox and the cat) promise great fun on Pleasure Island, the end result is disastrous for Pinocchio.

“Do not take me away with the wicked And with the workers of iniquity, Who speak peace to their neighbors, But evil is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, And according to the wickedness of their endeavors; Give them according to the work of their hands; Render to them what they deserve. Because they do not regard the works of the Lord, Nor the operation of His hands, He shall destroy them And not build them up.” (Psalm 28:3-5)

We must avoid the danger of wickedness. The wicked are those who talk about God’s peace with others while plotting ways to destroy them. They greet you with a smile while their dagger is waiting to plunge into your soul.

The danger of wickedness is that it leads to God’s judgment. Just as the laborer puts in his hours and receives wages for the work done, so the faithless will receive from God what their hands have done.

The wicked see the reality of God but they are unimpressed with Him. They do not take God seriously. Because they don’t take God seriously, they do not live and act according to His purpose. Because they don’t take God seriously, they fail to understand the judgment of God upon their faithlessness to Him among His people.

Our journey from here to God’s rescuing refuge demands that we are not numbered with the wicked and workers of iniquity. When we embrace a lifestyle contrary to God’s will, then we can be certain that we will not experience hope in this life. We will be torn down and not built up.

4. Praise the Lord for He is our Rescuing Refuge.

The Lord hears and helps. The psalmist knows that God has heard his cry and has moved to help. When we gather together here, humbled before Christ, inspired by His Spirit through His Word, we gain the confident expectation that God delivers rescue out of love. We bless the Lord and rejoice because in our faith, He has moved to help.

He is our Fortress (28:7). The Lord is our fortress. This is the picture of “strength.” God moves with power on our behalf and pours His strength into our lives. God’s sovereignty is our strength.

He is our Shield (28:7). God is the One who provides protection as we move through the various tight places in life. He is not only the static protection provided in a particular place, but He is also mobile in His defense of His people.

He is our Shepherd (28:9). God is the true shepherd of His people who will carry us through every danger.

He is our Rescuing Refuge (28:8). Just as the children of Israel found refuge in the glorious work of God leading them from bondage and parting the Red Sea, we too find refuge in His glorious, rescuing love.

The celebration of the psalmist leads to the celebration of hope for the people of God. The entire congregation tastes the hope that has led the psalmist to praise the Lord.

If you’re in the straits of distress and need God’s rescuing love, taste hope today, and cry out for His help. If you’re struggling through the chaos of COVID-19, humble yourself before God right now and cling to Him in absolute surrender. Taste hope today as you lift your hands in need to the One who can help. Rejoice in God who is our fortress, our strength, and our shepherd, and run into the refuge of His rescuing love.

Keeping Focus in These Times

Darryl Meincke serves First Norfolk as pastor to men and pastoral care.

Being a member of the “high risk” group, heart attack, high blood pressure and diabetes, has me staying home much more than in the past. The restrictions at hospitals and rehabilitation centers has kept me from visiting with people who are ill. At times like this I find I find it hard to keep focused on God and not the circumstances. It reminds me of a hymn I grew up with titled “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Hogarth Lemmel in 1918. The refrain is so appropriate:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

Loss of focus can and will cause you to suffer from anxiety. Worry will invade your mind and thoughts. With this time at home I have found more time to pray, read and relax. One book I am rereading is Max Lucado’s “Anxious for Nothing”. This book has reminded me of how important it is to remain in God’s word.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

1. But in everything…pray. During these days and every day, I encourage you to start your day in prayer. Thank God for all you have right now. We are so blessed as a church and as a nation. In all of the reports of numbers of cases and fatalities, I have started to see online posts of the number of survivors. Praise God! Thank God then let Him know your needs.

2. Spend time in God’s word. He wrote just for you and me. If you have specific needs look to His word for wisdom and guidance. The concordance will help you look for answers. I am amazed at times that I will find the specific answer to a specific question at the specific time.

3. Connect with friends. We are all going through these times. Facebook, Instagram,Twitter or maybe just an old time phone call. Hearing a familiar voice is helpful to gain focus. In these days focus is lost when we feel control is lost. We should realize the more we try to control what is happening the more we realize control is not ours to take. Release it to God! As Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice.”

I encourage you to join in fellowship with other believers on Sunday for our 9:30 and 11:00 services. You can find them on Facebook or firstnorfolk.org.

Tim Whitney is leading a prayer time on Tuesday at 6:30 and Pastor Eric is teaching a Bible study Wednesday’s at 6:00. If you are in need of anything you can go to our website firstnorfolk.org for some wonderful guidance on contacting us.

I hope this helps and know that I miss seeing you at the Kempsville and Volvo locations. If you or family are in the hospital or rehab let me know and I would love to call. Send me an email at dmeincke@firstnorfolk.org. God bless you all and stay safe.

With His love and mine, Darryl

 

Hope Beyond Tears and Fears, Groaning and Griefs (Psalm 22:1-2)

John Anderson was a country singer that I loved. In his 1983 Greatest Hits album, he had a song called “Swingin.” He had another song on that album, and one line of the lyrics said: “I’m just an old chunk of coal, now Lord; but I’m gonna be a diamond some day.” Sometimes I feel more like the chunk of coal than the diamond.

David the King was feeling like an old chunk of coal when he penned the beginning words of Psalm 22. David reflected on his own struggles, and he felt abandoned by God. He tasted the pain of a life that was filled with tears and fears, groaning and grief.

Listen to the beginning of this psalm:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.” (Ps 22:1-2)

When we feel abandoned to tears and fears, groaning and grief, these two lines of an ancient song help us. They help us because we also hear these words on the lips of Jesus. He sang these lines from the ancient song as He hung upon the cross at His death.

In the despair of life, Jesus gives us hope for wholeness.

The answer to our feelings of fears and tears, groaning and grief is the love of Jesus that makes us whole. As Jesus died on the cross, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus took upon Himself the “coal” of our lives so that we might become flawless as the “diamond” which His righteousness produced. Our hope for a whole life is what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus died to give us life.

Here is the reason Jesus died. My sin and yours have separated us from God and killed our soul with death and darkness (Eph 2:1-3). So, Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world (Isa 53:4-6). He became sin on our behalf so that we might become right in the sight of God (2 Cor 5:21). He suffered for our sin so that we might live (1 Pet 2:24). Jesus died as our sacrifice.

Because we belong to Jesus, despair is devoured by hope.

Jesus took all the tears and fears, grief and groaning upon Himself at the cross. He gifts us with His love, comfort, power, and grace to match every “chunk of coal” moment or season we face. In Him, we have hope.

He gives us hope greater than our despair. He gives us hope that is defined by our peace with God purchased by Christ. Because we are part of God’s family through faith in Jesus, nothing can separate us from His life-giving, death-shattering, soul-satisfying love.

Whatever we face and whenever we face it, we have hope in Jesus that makes us whole!

Dear Jesus, thank You for building a bridge beyond our tears and fears into the presence of God! Thank You daily nourishing our soul with hope that overwhelms the groaning and griefs we face! Help us celebrate this love You’ve given us through Your sacrifice today!

 

I Can (By Phillip Herring)

Phillip serves First Norfolk as associate pastor responsible for all groups and discipleship.

Today...I can. Those two words form a powerful affirmation that I want to encourage you with today as you face another day of COVID-19. It can be incredibly daunting to live with the fatigue that a crisis can bring. Let’s find hope today in God’s word for ourselves and for others.

Yesterday was a beautiful spring morning! I arose, got ready for the day, and walked out the front door of our house to the Bradford pear tree in full bloom, pollen coated vehicles, and the flower beds showing signs that the daylilies will return in full force again this year. A deep breath of fresh morning air was wonderful, but then it hit me: no one is out this morning! “Oh, that’s right, we are in the middle of a world crisis, a pandemic. Wow!” Just the weight of that thought has the potential to sidetrack any of us for a few minutes or a few days. Don’t let it do that to you! How, you might ask? I find encouragement in a letter from prison.

One summer during the early 2000s, I had the privilege of being in Rome. While there, one stop on our travels with students from our church included the Mamertine prison. In that prison, the Apostle Paul authored his letter to the church in Philippi. It is hard to believe that this letter of encouragement, thanksgiving, and joy came out of this tiny, damp, stone enclosure. Paul reminds his readers that our freedom has more to do with who we are on the inside than our external surroundings. In Philippians, Paul gives us several takeaways I wish to share with you today of what you CAN Know, CAN Be, and CAN Do during challenging times.

I can know that God is at work in my circumstances. Paul writes, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). As I awaken each morning, I can begin my day thanking God that He is still working in me and through me to accomplish His purposes in my life. He is doing the same in you.

I can know that God will use my circumstances to bless others. Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel” (Phil. 1:2). As I awaken each morning, I can begin my day trusting that God will use my life’s circumstances to help others find hope in Jesus. How will God use your circumstances in these odd times to help advance the gospel?

I can know that God allows suffering as a gift. Few, if any of us, would choose to go through hardship. We can all, however, attest to growth and maturity that comes through life’s difficult journeys. Paul wrote, “For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Phil. 1:29). It would be an injustice and an incomplete reading of the Bible to believe that God never allows His children to suffer or endure difficulties. I can awaken each morning knowing that I have received two gifts from the Lord- faith and suffering. How will your endurance in suffering testify to the reality of God’s grace?

I can know my attitude is my choice.  (Phil 2:5-8) Jesus modeled enduring hardship and suffering on our behalf.  Paul instructs the Philippian believers to make a choice to be like Jesus, beginning with their attitude. He writes, “Make your attitude that of Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:5-8) and goes on to describe the kind of attitude Jesus chose to live out. He chose humility, service and obedience in the face of his most challenging hour. I can awaken each day and choose an attitude that says, “this is the day that the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24) I choose joy and gladness! What kind of attitude will people see in you today?

I can know that my loss is a great gain. This sounds counterintuitive, but Paul understood that suffering brings clarity to what is truly of value.  For him, knowing Jesus eclipsed everything that he had once counted of great value. “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.” (Phil 3:7)  I can awaken in peace knowing that whatever losses I may experience today, I will not lose Jesus – my greatest treasure. How can you express gratitude to God today for the treasure of His Son?

I can know where to find true strength. It is from this prison cell that Paul writes these often quoted words, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). So often we see these words used as if a very short Christian can slam dunk a basketball to the glory of God, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In its context, Paul is writing about the strength to endure any hardship or circumstance of suffering. I can awaken today knowing that I CAN face whatever hardships may come my way…because of Jesus. He will provide the strength to see me through. Do not despair. In Christ you CAN do much this day to bring Him glory.

In addition to gleaning these truths to know from the four chapters of this short prison letter, I invite you to look back through this letter and identify how much you can KNOW, and how much you CAN BE, and then make your list of how much you CAN DO in Christ today! I will start you with a few references.  Have fun! Make a long list.  YOU CAN DO THIS!

I CAN BE _________________ (Phil. 1:3)

I CAN BE _________________ (Phil 1:6)

I CAN BE _________________ (Phil. 1:10-11)

I CAN BE _________________ (Phil. 1:20)

I CAN BE _________________

I CAN BE _________________

Phil 4:13 – I CAN DO all things through Christ who strengthens me. Make a list here of what you CAN DO today in the midst of difficult times instead of dwelling on what you CANNOT do.

Today, I CAN ________________________ (Phil. 2:3)

Today, I CAN ________________________ (Phil 2:4)

Today, I CAN ________________________

Today, I CAN ________________________

Today, I CAN ________________________

MISSIONAL TENACITY – 3 LESSONS ON REACHING THOSE AROUND US FROM THE LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY (By Tim Whitney)

Tim serves First Norfolk as pastor at our Volvo location.

William Carey is often trumpeted as the greatest missionary since the time of the apostles (Danny Akin, Five Who Changed the World, 5). Universally described as “the father of the modern missions movement,” Carey is likely the snowflake that began the avalanche behind sending missionaries around the world. His famous quote – “Attempt great things. Expect great things.” – has been inscribed, tattooed, and proclaimed for centuries as a call to serve God well and faithfully.

In America, the historical trajectory of your understanding of reaching people outside of your home with the love and hope of the Gospel is probably rooted in the missional movement that Carey began. In 1793, at only 32 years old and against established missiological thought, Carey set off from England to India. A place of great fear, great adversity, and great challenges for Christianity to take root – but which yielded great reward.

William Carey is the supreme example of a foreign missionary. Is there something those who are quarantined at home can learn from someone called abroad? As we face such an historic obstacle in the church today trying to reach people, what can we learn from William Carey’s international ministry that might help us bring the Gospel to those around us?

Persistence Over Perfection

If William Carey was anything, he was tenaciously persistent. After decades of influential ministry, Ray Ortlund was once asked, “Pastor, what type of ministry does the Lord seem to bless most?” His response; “The persistent kind.” Carey’s life is a testimony to this truth.

In India he would bury 2 wives, 3 children, spend numerous months in jail, fight sickness, struggle with dysentery, battle malaria, go into bouts of depression, endure extreme loneliness, face disappointments with his children, and suffer tremendous loss in countless ways. He would not see his first convert to Christianity for the first 7 years of his ministry.

But in the next 34 years in India (41 years total), God would use Carey to establish schools, build churches, establish mission centers, and re-establish the Great Commission as a priority in Christian churches. His first decade of ministry would be seen in his day as a major failure, but he persisted in the mission. Tens of thousands came to know Jesus because of Carey’s tenacity. He is not the only example of this kind of tenacious missional persistence. The Apostle Paul also had this trait:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

Yet the Apostle Paul persisted. Never perfect, but always persistent. Today in Western tradition, if you are not of a Jewish ancestry then your knowing Jesus is likely traced back to this one man’s persistence to proclaim the Gospel. Paul’s persistence resulted in the known world knowing Jesus.

Here’s the point: be tenaciously persistent in ministering to those around you, even if it isn’t perfect! The rhythm of your life and family will change over the next several months. Most people’s jobs involve either gathering people together or going where people are, yet those rhythms are removed for the moment. As Christians, these are the places we most naturally find ministry, and the place our ministries can’t happen for quite some time. What do you do? Persist. Do what you know to do. Do something! Try. Fail. Try again. In a word: Persist. In your efforts, remember that it is most likely that unseen fruit is simply the seeds of the Gospel taking root.

Calling Over Qualification

 William Carey was so underqualified and his expected outcome so abysmal that historical theologian Timothy George described him as a “lone, little man. His resume would have read: Education – minimal. Degrees – none. Savings – depleted. Political influence – nil. References – a band of country preachers half a world away” (Timothy George, Faithful Witness, 93). A hiring committee would not have looked seriously at his candidacy. The HR office would have deleted his LinkedIn application.

He was a longshot from a worldly perspective, and Carey agreed. Concerning his calling, Carey wrote to his father, “I see more of my own insufficiency for the great work I am called to. … When I (in short) compare myself to my work, I sink to a point, a mere despicable nothing” (George, 25). If it wasn’t his qualifications, what was it?

Carey was not impressed by himself, but rather tenaciously convinced of his calling. This attitude of humility compared to the mission to which he was called is found throughout his life, to the point that he had written on his tombstone, “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall” (George, 168).

Driven by the Great Commission, Carey was able to overlook his own lack of qualifications and strive toward the calling of reaching the unreached with the Gospel. “The commission is a sufficient call to them [modern Christians] to venture all, and, like the primitive Christians, go everywhere preaching the Gospel” (The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey, 50).

The weakness of his qualifications only amplify the great way God used Carey. Carey’s life echoes Paul’s own exhortation from Jesus, that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The weakness of Carey and the weakness of Paul see the strength of Christ shine through their lives.

Here’s the point: God’s call to reach those around you never depended on your qualifications in the first place! Do feelings of insufficiency flood your mind? Do you fear that during this time, you won’t be able to reach your family, friends, or neighbors? Are you concerned that you won’t be “enough” for this season? Let me encourage you – you might be right, but your calling is enough that your “not enough” life is more than plenty for God to use. His calling in this time didn’t change, but how He uses you might! And that, for me at least, is exciting.

Faith Over Feelings

Carey tenaciously clung to his faith when feelings of doubt crept in. One of the best parts of Carey’s life is the humanity with which he wrestled with his calling. Routinely dealing with defeat, he often felt the pangs of depression spear his soul. He felt alone, afraid, and even unfruitful during some of his most fruitful times of ministry! Beyond this, he shows what he did to battle these feelings. He was human, but he was not helpless! He fought his feelings with faith – often comforting himself through intentional time with the Lord to mull over the truth of God’s Word compared to his feelings.

For example, the year he set out for India Carey writes, “Nothing new, my soul is in general barren and unfruitful” – but he continues – “Yet I find pleasure in drawing near to God; and a peculiar sweetness in His Holy Word. I find it more and more to be a very precious treasure” (Journal, August 27, 1794). Carey often relied upon his faith in God to defeat his feelings. Just as the Apostle Paul found comfort in his faith to battle his feelings of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10), Carey found comfort in his feelings of weakness by deeply drinking from the truth of God’s Word

George describes it like this: “What were Carey’s resources? Weapon – love. Desire – to bring the light of the God into the darkness. Strategy – to proclaim by life, lips, and letters the unsearchable riches of Christ” (George, 93). Carey truly, deeply believed in God and His call to get the Gospel to those who didn’t know.

Looking back on his life, we know what he spent his time doing because he continued to live, speak, and write so that others would know Jesus – even when Carey was personally enduring extreme difficulty. Carey famously asked those who cared for him on his deathbed, “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey. Speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior.” Even while dying, Carey pointed to his faith in God. Even today, with so much of Carey’s life spent pointing to Jesus Christ it is impossible to talk about him without talking about Jesus. The loudest thing about William Carey was Jesus.

So what?

 Here’s the point of all of this: Dear Christian, tenacity may be your best quality in this season of life. As you fight your feelings that will happen in this season, fight them with faith. When your faith feels weak, pick up your Bible and get back to the battle. Christian – persist in reaching those around you. Do not grow weary of doing good! If they don’t seem to be hearing it, try again. Didn’t work? Now try it again.

Feeling overwhelmed and unqualified for such a time? Cling tenaciously to God’s call! You are the person He has called to be a Christian, right now, in this time, to this people, with this situation.

Do you have feelings of fear, depression, doubt, or anxiety about what this all means for your mission in this world? Defeat those feelings with faith. Drink deep from the Word. Spend time with God. Draw near to Him. Make Jesus loud in your life.

While washing your hands for 20 seconds, recite Carey’s famous words: Attempt great things. Expect great things. Your hands will be clean, and your soul will be ready for the new approach to missions God has given you. Let’s go!!!

The “Rona”: 4 Actions for Young Adults (by Sam Jenkins)

Sam serves First Norfolk as minister to young adults.

Right now, as we speak, we are living in an unprecedented time in our nation for this generation. Seriously, just ask your grandparents or the oldest person you know if they have ever experienced an illness this severe. Unless they’re old enough to remember the Spanish Flu of 1918, then they will probably tell you no. It’s during this time that we must be conscious of where we go from here.

1. Practice Wisdom

Proverbs 11:4 tells us, “Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” Who are the counselors? The doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, health center directors, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. They are the experts.

It’s imperative that we are following the counsel they provide for us. I realize it is not the most ideal situation to stay locked up all day, but we must heed their advice. I realize it can be annoying to wash your hands 30 times a day, but seriously, wash your hands. Taking these precautions will prevent the spread of germs to those around us.

Doing this, we can fulfill the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

2. Continue to Serve

This virus is affecting some people groups in a pretty serious way; namely, the elderly and the immuno-compromised. This virus is not affecting young adults in the same way. This provides us the opportunity to serve those who are at a higher risk. Already in our church we have members who cannot go out to the grocery store for toilet paper and other basic necessities. Capitalize on this by stepping up to the plate and volunteering your services.

Leverage this moment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark12:31).

3. Promote a Gospel Witness

National and international emergencies have a way of bringing people together in a unified state. Ask your parents about the atmosphere of our country after 9/11 and be prepared to hear some incredible things that might seem completely foreign to our society today. Just the other night, my wife and I went to Wal-Mart to grab some supplies. We pulled in the parking lot, parked, and starting walking up to the door only to be to be told they were closed.

But you know what we discovered? People were eager to help each other out. As new people came into the parking lot, those who had the information would inform them not to bother walking all the way up. I guarantee you this will open up gospel conversations. Those who ordinarily would be hostile will become gentle and open. Those who may be freaking out will be comforted by Paul’s words in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

And by providing them with this hope, this is how you “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

4. Bring God to Your home

Maybe this pandemic has made you do some self-reflecting on your spiritual life. Maybe you have come to the realization that God has not made it into your life past the walls of 312 Kempsville Road or 1516 Volvo Parkway.

If that is true in your life, let me offer you some words of encouragement: “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love” (Psalm 145:8). Bring the Lord back into your home. Spend time with Him through worshiping with your family and friends and by maintaining your own personal quiet time. Sometimes we need to be reminded to remain faithful to Him in all aspects of our life. Let this be a gentle reminder to… are you thinking what I’m thinking? Close.

This is how you “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Blessed!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

All of us have a hard time with gratitude when the drama of distress has captured our minds and saturated the heart.  Especially in the season of quarantines, recessions, and social-distancing, we can be consumed with the reason to grumble rather than why to be grateful.

Today, however, I pray that God would give you and me a heart for blessing Him, celebrating the One who has blessed us! From heaven’s throne to the valleys of the earth, all creation sings her praise to the Living God.  The church has joined in this glorious celebration of God as we have gathered together around the Cross of Christ.

1. Bless God for He is worthy of honor and praise.

God is worthy of our praise.  He has accomplished His rescuing, loving, eternal purpose through Christ Jesus.  The listing of God’s glorious work is summed up in Jesus Christ. God has blessed us with everything for spiritual health and wholeness, and He makes this blessing available to us through Jesus Christ.

So, today, instead of setting our heart upon the maladies and calamities of our whirlwind existence, let us set our gaze upon God who is worthy of our honor and praise. Our victorious song of gratitude begins with the triumph of praise to Him. He is our focus.[v]

2. Bless God for He has extravagantly blessed us.

We praise God who has “blessed us.” Our hearts must awaken each morning with the stark reality that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Every need is matched by every blessing from the hand of God to us.  These blessings, beyond comprehension or measure, have been brought to us by God’s great grace. God by His Spirit has blessed us, is blessing us, and will continue to bless us each and every day.

The phrase, “in the heavenly places,” describes the realm of God’s spiritual activity for the benefit of His children.  It is the place of Christ’s exaltation, and through this singular victory the realm in which those who have been grafted into Christ experience the powerful benefit of God’s goodness and glory.  We find all the blessings from the heart of the Father through the nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ.  When we are in Christ, we know that God is working to bless our lives.

Let the Praise Begin!

We live, move, and breathe to honor and praise God who has blessed us in Christ Jesus.  Every morning and throughout the day we live in the blessings of God.  We unite together in praise to God the Father for He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, conquering all foes and gaining victory, so that we might receive the blessings of God in union with Christ.