Are we in an impossible situation?

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Luke 1:37

It’s almost six months since our world was shaken by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus and the pandemic began.

Many of the world’s nations are beginning to climb out of the chaos and depression. Unfortunately, here in the USA, the situation was seized upon as an opportunity to turn the crisis into a political tool and here we are today, still wondering what’s going on. We don’t know what information to believe and whether we are being protected or manipulated.

Add the rioting and violence in some of our cities to this already frightening situation and most of us feel confused and overwhelmed.

What we can agree upon, though, is that we want this all to go away, but we can’t see how we are ever going to return to the life we knew. Perhaps we never will.

I cling to God’s promises and know that He is in control, even in this. It is possible even now for the Lord to turn the tables on those seeking to destroy us, and instead to bring about great blessings; we may grow stronger and better from this turmoil, individually and as a nation.

While I can’t conceive of how that would happen, I remember what is written:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Isaiah 55:8

How grateful I am that the God of the Universe is not limited to what I can imagine.

The old hymn, Nothing is Impossible with God reminds us that nothing is impossible when we trust in His word.

Luke 1:37 (above) was speaking to Mary, reassuring her that whether a woman was well past childbearing or an untouched virgin, God was in control of all of life. The same thing applies to us today.

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What do you choose to emphasize?

I’m tired. After months of pandemic and riots, my soul is weary.

In 1944, with the world still at war, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer wrote the song, Accentuate the Positive. It was exactly what a weary country needed to hear. The song became so popular it was nominated for an Oscar. Arlen and Mercer tapped into the importance of attitude in overcoming stressful situations and in uplifting a weary people.

Their upbeat tune with the words, “You gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative,” lifts my spirits. While I can do little to change what is happening, I am reminded that I control my attitude.

To accentuate something means to bring it to the fore, to make it prominent. Can you imagine the different response to our current situation if the media emphasized the positive instead of promoting the most dire predictions and the darkest side of events?

“Spread joy up to the maximum. Bring gloom down to the minimum, and have faith, or pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene!” is not just a perky ditty, it is wisdom we need today.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;

Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:4
choose joy
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How firm a foundation is needed today

In 1949, when George Orwell published his dystopian fantasy novel, 1984, about a society where every norm was turned on its head and the very meaning of language was corrupted, no one believed it could possibly be a prophetic work. Yet today we live in a culture where our social foundations are being swept out from under our feet.

Nearly every day I hear someone expressing shock and confusion at the rapidly shifting values being touted.

“Has everyone gone crazy?” is a common lament.

While I continue to trust that God is in control, I need to spend more time in His Word and in prayer to fight my feelings of insecurity.

Two of the Scripture verses I cling to are below:

He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

Psalm 62:2

… a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

But the one who hears My words and does not act on them is like a man who built his house on ground without a foundation. The torrent crashed against that house, and immediately it fell–and great was its destruction.”

Luke 6:47-49

When the world no longer makes sense, and I feel the sand shifting beneath my feet, I must cling to the Solid Rock, the Firm Foundation of my faith.

Standing on the promises

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Consider the lilies…

25“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26“If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28“But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29“And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30“For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:25-32 (NASB)

In these uncertain times, it is easy to become overwhelmed and distressed. Even though we continue to pray without ceasing and rely upon the LORD, even when we tell ourselves, “He’s got this!” worries creep in and sap our strength.

This is a good time to step away from all the noise and dire warnings and try to remember all the beauty and blessings in our lives.

Today is a good day to step outside and drink in the beauties of nature. Whether you are able to visit a park, the countryside, or simply stroll around your neighborhood, there are pockets of glory, if only we seek them out.

Take a camera or use your phone and crop out the distractions and ugliness, centering on the sights which fill you with joy. If we narrow our focus and get close enough, we will be sure to discover treasures.

In moments of stress following your beauty-hunt, you will have your photos to remind you of God’s great love and the blessings in your life.

Whether your soul responds to raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, the world is teeming with often overlooked delights.

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It’s time to get serious. Seriously.

Cover your face!” “Shelter in place!” You must either join the hoards tearing down our heritage and freedoms or cower in order to “stay safe”… resistance is futile.

I grew up singing rousing old hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Soldiers of Christ Arise.” It was great fun to march around the sanctuary in Sunday school, but as a child I never gave a thought to the real spiritual warfare going on around us.

In recent times the conflict in the invisible realm has become more and more overt, spilling into our everyday lives in ways we cannot ignore.

In a spiritual battle there can be no conscientious objectors. We are either striving against the foe or we are giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

It is time for each believer to don the armor of God and step into the field of combat.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.…

Ephesians 6:16-17 (Berean Study Bible)

If you are like me, conflict makes you uncomfortable. Christians are a people of peace, loving our neighbors and praying for our enemies. Enlisting in the Army of God doesn’t change that. We are being called to read and study the Bible, pray fervently for God’s perfect will to be done, and to support our brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can.

We can go boldly into this fray, fearless because we follow a great leader.

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world

1 John 4:4 (New Living Translation)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (New International Version)

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Shame, shame

The Bible tells us that we are all guilty of sin.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

The dictionary tells us these definitions:

GUILT – noun

The fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability; a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

SHAME – noun

The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

family tree

Many in society now tell us that we should feel guilt and shame for our heritage; the acts of those who came generations before us.

While I may feel embarrassed to learn of misdeeds of my ancestors, I don’t feel in anyway responsible for them. Anyone tracing their genealogy is bound to find a miscreant in the mix. Every family tree contains a few rotten apples. Discovering a smuggler or prostitute in your genetic mix is usually greeted with humor, rather than guilt or shame. These people existed in widely different circumstances, a world vastly different than our own. They can’t be fairly judged by today’s standards.

The Scripture goes on to tell us this:

24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:24 (NIV)

Let each of us search our own life and conscience, make amends or restitution for our own acts, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward doing good and not harm.

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In remembrance…

We are approaching our most important national holiday in a unique climate this year. At a time when every monument and memorial is being challenged, it seems appropriate to consider the reasons why people establish special celebrations and monuments to their shared history.

Throughout the Bible, from Jacob’s stone, the Altar at Jordan, through the Passover observance and the Lord’s Supper, God uses memorials to remind His people of who they are and WHOSE they are.

Living in the moment is a lovely idea, but without knowledge of what went before, we have no way to evaluate our present moments, no way to make wise decisions, we are at the mercy of our emotions and we lose sight of our life’s meaning.

We’ve all heard the adage that history is written by the victors. While those is power can certainly spin the record of events, there always remains evidence of the facts. Errors inevitably exist but wrongs eventually come to light. It is important not to deny these errors, but it is equally important not to attempt to change the past by wiping out every reminder of it.

Shared history, the good and the bad, binds a people together. Memorials and celebrations are there to help us remember, so we can build on the good and avoid repeating the bad.

This July fourth, Independence Day, the birthday of our nation, is a time to call a halt to the futile attempts to erase our country’s past and to remember how far we’ve come. The United States of America has never been a perfect nation, but we are a good one. We’ve overcome many of the mistakes of our past and, by the Grace of God, we will grow even better in the days and years ahead.

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Fear not

 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

We’ve faced incredible challenges in recent months and, just when we think things are beginning to get better, the news is full of new assaults on our peace of mind.

While FDR’s well-know advice, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” may seem slightly ridiculous in the face of so many real dangers in our world, the kernel of that advice is sound. Fear saps our strength and muddles our minds at the very time when clarity and courage are most needed.

When confusion, uncertainty, and doubt sown by the minions of the Evil One cloud our vision, we can succumb to discouragement and lose hope.

This is the time to cling to the promises of God if we are to overcome.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7
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What the world needs now…

“Is love, sweet love.”

Christianity, as we are frequently reminded by our pastors and teachers, is a relationship, not a religion. Every believer is accountable to Christ for their relationship with Him; for the depth of our love for Him. And how is that depth of love determined?

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 

John 14:15

In the 70’s WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) was a popular slogan. However, it was an unnecessary question. We don’t need to try to decipher the mind of God in a particular situation in order to know how we are to respond. The Word is unambiguous. We are to respond with love.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Mark 12:30-31

If we look closely at this Scripture, we will see that the commandment is to “love your neighbor.” This is an individual relationship. It doesn’t say to love our neighbors, as a group or a demographic. We are to treat our relationships with others as we do our relationship with Christ: one-on-one, with love and respect for each unique person. This is our personal responsibility.

Prejudice and bigotry can only exist when we lump others into segments and groups, making them less “real” in our hearts and minds.

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Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Just as ambition and a desire for praise can motivate a proud and vain person to create works of great beauty and service for mankind, God can use even our most base instincts and actions to bring about blessings and beauty. He is that powerful and that good.

When hearing daily reports of injustice, violence, and mindless destruction, I cling to the promise from the Old Testament of God’s consolation in the form of beauty and joy.

When Joseph’s brothers threw him into that pit to die and then sold him into slavery when the opportunity arose, it was an act of great evil motivated by the brothers’ jealousy and greed. It took many years, but God used that crime – brother against brother – to save those guilty brothers and their whole nation during a great famine. He brought the beauty of forgiveness and salvation out of violence and hate.

What He did in Old Testament times He is still doing today. Sometimes this happens quickly, other times the change is so slow that we don’t recognize what He’s doing and only when looking back can we see His hand moving for our good and His glory.

Our righteous, loving, unchanging God can turn around even these evil days to bring about beauty from the ashes of despair. Take heart, Christians, the planting of the LORD will be glorified.

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