Suspending Disbelief

When unimaginable things happen it is common to react with disbelief. We are stunned into temporary paralysis, however briefly, before we can begin to respond appropriately to the new reality in our lives. This is the root of the common phenomenon referred to as denial.

People who are called upon to respond quickly to the unexpected, such as firefighters, soldiers, and doctors, spend hours training in order to suppress this completely normal instinctive reaction. They cannot do their jobs unless they can simply accept the situation, however unbelievable it may be, and call upon their training immediately.

In today’s world we are being thrust into ever more unexpected, unprecedented, and unimaginable events. We cannot afford to give in to stunned disbelief. Denial of reality doesn’t do anyone any good.

As Christians we have access to the Holy Spirit to help us through the upheavals, but it is up to us to train everyday for the next onslaught on our faith.

God is our strong refuge;
he is truly our helper in times of trouble.

Psalm 46:1

We must drill ourselves to react immediately by turning to God in prayer and the Word, not by wringing our hands and bemoaning the situation.

Crying out to God should be instinctive if we have a daily prayer life. Turning to Scripture in moments of distress calls for a more focused approach.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

However, every Bible verse is not necessarily applicable to every situation. Simply waiting until we panic and flipping the pages at random and then stabbing a finger onto the page is less than helpful. While dealing with grief, for example, reading several verses of “begats” may not ease your pain. It is important to become familiar with God’s Word and to be able to recall the words of comfort, encouragement, or direction your situation may call for.

There are a number of unbelievable events swirling around us these days. In order to respond as Christ wants us to, we cannot deny the realities. With His help, we can face each new day, each new outrage, with confidence knowing that God, our refuge and strength, is with us through it all.

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Belt-tightening days ahead

I workout daily with an online trainer. Something he constantly emphasizes is the need for a strong core. Having firm support from the transverse abdominal muscles keeps us balanced and even helps us to feel powerful, confident, and strong.

 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins…

1 Kings 18:46

When we read in the Bible of Elijah “girding his loins” it actually means he tightened his belt, but it sounds very much like a description of the sort of activity that might produce six-pack abs.

I’ve sometimes thought that Gird Your Loins would be a terrific name for a Christian exercise club where people would come to work out to Scripture and tone their bodies while building up their faith.

Being a Christian in today’s culture requires strength: moral strength, strength in Bible knowledge, and also physical strength so that we do not falter or grow weary in doing good.

When facing the battles between good and evil, we must tighten our belts. Strengthen our abs. Gird ourselves for the days ahead.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ

1 Peter 1:13
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Will we ever recover?

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Luke 1:37

It’s more than two years since our world was shaken by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus and the chaos began. Despite treatments, new information, and an improving survival rate, we remain mired in fear and uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the pandemic 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.

Many of us feel confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting reports and opinions.

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 for the Lord to turn the tables on those seeking to destroy us, and instead to bring about great blessings; we may even grow stronger and better from this turmoil, individually and as a nation.

While I can’t conceive of how that could 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.

In Luke 1:37 the angel 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.

Cling to possibilities

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We’re all in this together

Wars, pestilence, political turmoil, and the increased lawlessness in the world today are frightening. Every day we hear about people dying from disease or violence. Circumstances like these tend to make us more aware of our own mortality.

In the past two years several of my close relatives have died. When some of my family members were dying, hospice workers came in and helped to ease the final days for my loved ones. Their gentle, compassionate care was a real blessing to our whole family.

It occurred to me that we shouldn’t need to experience a fatal illness in order to be treated with such tender, loving care.

Perhaps if we took the same care of one another’s comfort and dignity on a day-to-day basis as the hospice care people do for their clients this would be a much nicer world.

In today’s atmosphere of hostility and uncertainty, such consideration is needed more than ever.

In one respect the family of God is in the hospice care business, helping people live the most beautiful, fulfilling lives they can as they journey toward inevitable death … only we have an extra benefit to offer: eternal life with Jesus.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35 (NIV)
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What’s next?

From time to time, we all have to face circumstances we fear; whether a trip to the dentist, a bad medical diagnosis and painful treatments, breaking bad news to a loved one, or simply facing a new, unfamiliar situation. As much as we would like to avoid them, sometimes our fears must be met head on.

Surrendering to fear goes against God’s Word.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Especially today, when we face previously unimaginable challenges almost every day, it is helpful to develop strategies to get through these potentially paralyzing fears.

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

I have learned to cope with fearful situations by thinking past them and visualizing what I will do afterwards. With my mouthful of scary dental equipment, I will imagine myself saying, “Farewell,” to the dentist, getting into my car, and driving home. I try to imagine this what’s next scenario in the greatest detail I can, adding sights, sensations, and even smells.

While I’ve found this to be a useful tool when facing things that intimidate me in my personal life, I think it works in the larger context, as well.

Looking at the dire predictions or potential catastrophes in our world as temporary conditions to live through on our journey to Heaven puts them and our fears into perspective.

Even the most unpleasant circumstance can be more easily tolerated when we see ourselves beyond it.

It helps to think about what comes next.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…

Matthew 5:12
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O my God, I trust in You;

Let me not be ashamed;

Let not my enemies triumph over me.

Psalm 25:2

On television home makeover shows, the people often react to the reveal by crying, “Oh, my God!”

“OMG” is a common social media acronym to show amazement about something. These initials stand for “Oh, my God.”

In the Bible, we see this expression used to cry out to God in either praise, thanksgiving, or petition, as in the Psalms of David. It is a way of addressing our Creator, showing respect and acknowledging our relationship to Him.

11 ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Deuteronomy 5:11

When we cry out, “Oh, my God!” to express mild surprise or annoyance, or mindless excitement, with no thought of our Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Creator, isn’t that a perfect example of using His name in vain?

The ancient Hebrews treated God’s very name with reverence and awe. When we trivialize references to our Lord, we undermine His presence in our lives.

Using this expression casually can become a habit that is difficult to break. Perhaps, whenever we find ourselves writing or uttering these words, or even the initials, we should complete the thought with words of praise and thanksgiving. We are, after all, calling upon God’s attention. Let’s give Him something worth listening to.

O God, You are my God;

Early will I seek You;

Psalm 63:1

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“Fear not,” still bears repeating…and obeying

You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. Don’t have anything to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (CEV)

The two words the New Testament records as repeated most often from the lips of Jesus are Fear not. The fact that Jesus said these words so often lets us know how important they are, especially for us today.

FDR’s famous “nothing to fear but fear itself” seems ludicrous when we have only to look around us to see that this world is a scary place with plenty to be afraid of. However, FDR knew that fear is a powerful weapon of the enemy; instilling fear in your opponent causes confusion, discouragement, and saps his will to resist.

Our Enemy today knows this tactic well. Fear causes us to distrust our neighbors, draw into ourselves, and retreat from challenges. In the Spiritual Battle we face, we must not allow ourselves to succumb to the enervating forces of fear.

When you find yourself being overwhelmed with feelings of fear and despair, do a Bible search, either online or in your concordance, for verses related to fear and courage, like those below, and be filled with God’s peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

7For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

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Self-evident Truth

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

Declaration of Independence

When our founding fathers were struggling against the tyrannical rule of British King George and his poor treatment of the Colonies, they agonized over the decision to fight for independence and how to present their case to the world. In making their declaration, the very first words acknowledge the self-evident and widely accepted truth of a Creator.

As we approach our July Fourth Independence Day celebrations it is worth noting that the latest national poll indicates that only 81% of Americans claim to believe there is a God.

This is no surprise, as our government and institutions have been waging a war on belief in God for decades. This denigration of a Creator has led to a devaluation of our Constitution, as well.

It may actually be surprising that the percentage is as high as it is, considering the current cultural climate. However, unless it is actively suppressed, there is a core in most thinking people which observes the majesty and complicated minutia of creation and knows this didn’t result from random chance.

20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Whether from pride, ignorance, or a desire to be their own god, those who close their eyes to the truth are without excuse and will ultimately see that God is real, to their eternal chagrin.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19

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A tool to help us cling to the narrow way

All around us civil society seems to be disintegrating, with immorality, debauchery, and depravity being openly, proudly, promoted as the approved lifestyle.

When clinging to Biblical standards is attacked as not just old-fashioned and out-of-step, but actually bigoted and dangerous, it is important to get back to basics to remember why our struggle is so terribly important.

Daily studying of the Scriptures is necessary, of course, but from time to time it is helpful to see Biblical truths condensed into a simpler narrative.

I have found that occasionally re-reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress is helpful. Even in the original with its archaic language, the eternal truth comes through. There are modern language editions which are extremely helpful, too.

The most recent iteration of this classic, a twenty-first century retelling, The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress: An Allegorical Tale, by Kyle Mann and Joel Berry (of Babylon Bee fame) applies most pertinently to our current culture.

Written in a style reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), the book uses humor, pathos, and rock-solid Biblical truth to brilliantly expose the struggle today’s Christians face as we try to keep our eyes on Christ and our feet on the narrow path.

In a world of distractions and excesses we need all the help we can get. I think everyone should read this important and enjoyable book.

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Does it seem to you that our world is falling apart? That no matter how we try, those who scoff at the bounds of decency and truth seem to prevail? Is this a sure sign of the End Times? Is God about go all Sodom and Gomorrah on us?

While we see in Scripture that God certainly does chastise whole nations when He sees fit, we also see that He deals with individuals with infinite patience, and that centuries are the same as nano-seconds for God.

We can’t know if the Lord is preparing to soon wreak judgment on our pagan nations, or if His plans are for Good to win this skirmish in the spiritual battle, but we can know how He wants His people to respond.

King David shared our frustrations and wrote about his feelings beautifully in Psalm 73:

1-5 No doubt about it! God is good—
    good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
But I nearly missed it,
    missed seeing his goodness.
I was looking the other way,
    looking up to the people
At the top,
    envying the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,
    not a care in the whole wide world.

6-10 Pretentious with arrogance,
    they wear the latest fashions in violence,
Pampered and overfed,
    decked out in silk bows of silliness.
They jeer, using words to kill;
    they bully their way with words.
They’re full of hot air,
    loudmouths disturbing the peace.
People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
    Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.

The wicked get by with everything;
    they have it made, piling up riches.
I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;
    what has it gotten me?
A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
    a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

15-20 If I’d have given in and talked like this,
    I would have betrayed your dear children.
Still, when I tried to figure it out,
    all I got was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
    Then I saw the whole picture:
The slippery road you’ve put them on,
    with a final crash in a ditch of delusions.
In the blink of an eye, disaster!
    A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare!
We wake up and rub our eyes. . . . Nothing.
    There’s nothing to them. And there never was.

21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter,
    totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
    in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
    but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
    and then you bless me.

25-28 You’re all I want in heaven!
    You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
    God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
    Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

Psalm 73 (MSG)

So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9 (NET)
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