Friday is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The United States officially recognizes the 3rd Monday of January as a federal holiday in his memory and in his honor.
He was murdered in Memphis Tennessee on April, 4th 1968 following a speech to the sanitation workers of that city.
There is no doubt he is a martyr for the cause of justice and equality. The Lutheran church designates his birthday (January 15th) as a “feast day” or a “memorial day” for Dr. King. We recognize him both as a martyr and a “renewer of society”.
I have heard the talking heads on TV say a specific phrase too many times as it relates to violence, hate and white supremacy, “This is not who we are.” It seems that if they say it enough times, it will be true. That is not how it works. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate, violence and white supremacy in our nation.
It is disheartening that I (as a pastor) in 2021 need to state that I am against white supremacy, bigotry, racism and prejudice of any kind. It is also disappointing to see people deny or ignore the evidence that this kind of hate is still strong in our country today.
This past week on the news I saw individuals wearing anti-semetic (anti-Jewish) clothing mocking the holocaust and expressing that more deaths should occur because of their ethnicity. We all have seen the violent deaths of various people of color on the news this past year as well.
To be crystal clear, I am wary of anyone that attracts or tolerates that kind of hate. I am suspicious of anyone that a hate group (or racist individuals for that matter) supports unless that person denounces it from the mountaintops clearly and articulately.
There is no room in our country or even our world for racism and systems that reinforce such inequality.
For a moment we had Dr. King who reminded us that yes indeed, “This is who we are,” but that we do not need to be stuck here. That God has something better for us.
God’s just ways are ahead of us if we embrace Christ. We can leave hate behind and rid it from our society if we stand for the justice that God brings. It is time pray for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the words of the prophet Amos, we should yearn for what God offers. And it is this…
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
This is why we need to pray. Nothing happens on its own. It takes will and determination to stamp out racist and prejudicial hate.
Dr. King reminds us it won’t be easy, but something better is waiting for us if we do the work…
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land… Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN, April 3rd 1968
Just before Christmas we said goodbye to our beloved Siberian Husky named Trinity. She was our three legged dog whose personality (read: sassy) dominated any room she occupied. She also occupied a large part of our hearts.
Trinity received her name from my morning Bible Study group when I served Trinity Lutheran Church. When they saw her three legs, they knew immediately that her name should be Trinity and be our church mascot. That was 13 years ago this month.
We mourn her loss because she was a member of our family and we were her pack. I could tell you story upon story of her sassy antics over the years but I won’t.
If you have never had a pet, this might be hard to understand such grief over “just an animal.” Yet, love is love and loss is still loss. Grief is real when you lose someone you love, animal or human.
I am comforted by a moment in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life when a small boy in his church experienced the loss of his dog…
One day, a ten-year-old boy came to see Bonhoeffer. Breaking down and crying, the boy explained that his beloved German shepherd, Mr. Wolf, had just died. The boy sobbed as he told the story, but soon his tears stopped and he asked Bonhoeffer, with deep intensity, “Tell me now, Herr Bonhoeffer, will I see Mr. Wolf again? He is surely in heaven?”
Bonhoeffer explained in a letter to a friend that he was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say. Never before had one of his astute professors or gifted fellow students made such an inquiry, a question that Bonhoeffer could see meant so much to this grieving boy.
Bonhoeffer sat with the boy, feeling small next to his important question. Clearly Mr. Wolf had meant so much to the boy. The overly confident protégé, who had always been told he had a brilliant answer for every theological question, now sat humbled by the boy’s love for his dead dog.
Finally, turning to the boy, Bonhoeffer said, “Well, we know you loved Mr. Wolf, and we know that God loves you. And we know that God loves all the animals. So, yes, yes, I think you will indeed see Mr. Wolf in heaven, for I believe that God loses nothing that God loves.”
That is the promise I cling to for every loved one I have said goodbye to. “God loses nothing that God loves.” That includes family, friends and even animals that share our home.
Love is a risky business. At some point we will experience the loss of that relationship. However, I wouldn’t trade the love I’ve received for no love at all.
Below is a previous blog post on the risks of love. It was written shortly after we said goodbye to Momo one of our other dogs in 2018…
Love is a risky business.
Every time you open yourself up to love and to be loved, you also run the risk of having your heart broken.
Friendships sometimes end. Couples divorce. Everyone eventually dies.
Love can be hazardous because heartbreak eventually catches up. That might sound like a negative statement but it is not meant to be. Let me explain…
Humans are amazing! We know the risks of love, yet we give our hearts away anyway! Why? Because we are made for connection.
According to Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, he suggests the infant’s social needs for connecting with a caregiver who is committed to meeting the infant’s biological needs – food, water, sleep, shelter, safety – is paramount. No connection, no survival. He says love and belonging are NOT conveniences we can live without. As 60 years of attachment research attests; connection is the platform for the rest of existence, thriving and flourishing.
In other words, it is not just a pastor telling you that you need love in your life in spite of the inherit risks. You can’t survive without it.
Even if I wanted to avoid all possible heartache by retreating from family, not make friends, never get married, or ever have children or pets…I am not sure it is possible. Even if it was conceivable, we would be worse off for attempting to do something against our nature.
When we lose someone we love, it hurts because love matters. When there is a relational ending, we are in pain because relationships are important to us.
I was reminded of this on Wednesday night when we said goodbye to our boy dog Momo. It hurt so much to watch him pass. Why? Because we have spent the last 13 years sharing the same home, eating (some of) the same food and enjoying each other’s company (most of the time). A part of our hearts went with Momo as he left us because of the love we shared.
It won’t stop me from loving our other two dogs. It won’t stop me from loving Mrs. Pr. Ben. It won’t stop me from loving my kids or my parents. It won’t stop me from loving at all. As a matter of fact, this loss (and every loss in my life) has caused me to love the people and animals closest to me even more. Weird huh?
As I think about it, a dog’s love for its people is not complicated like human love can be. It is unconditional. Don’t be offended, but I see a little bit of Jesus’ love for me when I see how our dogs love us without reservation or condition.
At the heart of the good news (gospel) about God is His love for us. A big love that never ends in heartbreak.
St. Paul tells us that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1Corinthians 15:26
That is exactly what God did on Good Friday and Easter morning. The only way to obliterate death was to destroy it from within. The Son of the Living God became human in order to bring life out of death. Only God could do this. Yet it took God the Son to die in order to abolish death.
In the moment of resurrection, death no longer had permanent power. It went from being a destination to becoming a doorway. St. Paul quotes Isaiah when wrote a little later in 1Corinthians 15 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (15:54b)
Never forget that all of this was done out of love for us and for creation. Earthly love may be fragile and risky, but God’s love is not.
One of the lesser studied books of the New Testament is the book of Colossians. It is a letter of Paul that paints a different picture of salvation. In Colossians, Paul paints a cosmic view of redemption that involves everything (not just humanity).
I like the version from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message.”
“From beginning to end Christ is there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.”
Like I said, in this life, love can be risky. But I wouldn’t trade all the love I have received over the years for no love at all.
If you see me (and Rachel) online, just know that we are sad right now and tears flow pretty easily. We give thanks to God for gift given at Easter…it is that love that keeps us moving forward.
Some would say with the 12 disciples and the others who followed Jesus during his ministry.
Others would say on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit was given to all who believe.
And still others would say in about 300AD when the first actual church building was built.
OK, no one would declare that last one out loud, but some within the Christian Church claim that as their truth in 2020.
What do I mean? Many pastors have heard the same thing more than once this year, “We should open the doors and open the church.”
Earlier this fall, a pastor shared these words on Facebook, “One of the saddest things I have heard, ‘For us the church is the building. Without it, we have nothing.’
Let me be abundantly clear:
The building is not the church.
We all miss being together but don’t forget, we have a parking lot worship every week.
The Christian Church didn’t miraculously begin in the year 300AD when the first Christian Church sanctuary was built in Aqaba, Jordan. No! The Church had been around for almost 260 years before the first actual church building was erected.
Our building is a beautiful venue in which to do ministry. It is the place where the church gathers but the structure itself is not the church.
Jesus uses the word “church” three times only in the gospel of Matthew (yep, that’s it!) and he is referring to the body of believers (us), not a place and definitely not a building. Somewhere down the road of history someone wrongly started using the word “church” as the place where people gather.
The root word of “church” in the Bible is ekklesia. From this word we get ecclesiastic and ecclesial. This word has everything to do with people and nothing to do with a building of any size. In all of the places that the Bible uses the word “church” it is always in relation to people and not a place.
We are the church, not 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. As much as we love our building (I do too), it is not the church.
I can’t speak for other congregations, but this is the most difficult trial we have ever faced at Community Lutheran Church in our 47-year history. No one could have predicted this season of exile that we are experiencing. Yet we are enduring! We are still the church and we aren’t going backwards!
Saint Peter in his letter to the church writes about difficult moments such as these. Peter writes, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter 1:6-7
Our faith is being proved genuine in 2020! This season can serve to grow our trust in Christ. We will get through this… together. We are the church and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
As you know, we have been worshipping online since March. It hasn’t always been easy, but we have been doing the best that we can. Recently (with the cooler temperatures), we started parking lot worship at 8am on Sunday and it has been wonderful to see so many people come!
A few weeks ago, I stated that we are literally applying the words of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” in our rationale not to worship inside the building during the pandemic and potentially risk the health of others.
This past week, our governor instituted stronger restrictions in hopes of slowing down the infection rate in our state which is climbing. The day after those guidelines were implemented, I received a message from a local TV station asking if I wanted to be interviewed for their evening news broadcast to comment on these mandates.
I replied that we are already online and agree with any mandate that is backed by mainstream scientific research.
And just like that, I wasn’t going to be interviewed! Ha! My guess is that they were looking for a pastor to complain about the restrictions.
Shortly after that conversation, I came across an article from the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA). This organization dates back to 1931 and is made up of over 20,000 individuals in the healthcare profession.
I found their article to be of note. I hope you take the time to read.
God bless you and stay safe,
A Plea to Our Churches
by Jeffrey Barrows DO, MA (Bioethics)and Christopher Hook, MD (Hematologist)
The daily rendering of the news informs us that the rate of COVID-19 infections is skyrocketing. The time it takes for the U.S. to accumulate one million cases has dropped from 44 days to just seven days. The pandemic has not only arrived; it is hitting with hurricane force and has reached a crisis point. The sector that is bearing the brunt of this raging pandemic is our healthcare system, particularly the healthcare professionals who constitute the backbone of our healthcare system. They are overworked because of the sheer volume of critically ill patients under their care and because many healthcare professionals have become ill with SARS-CoV-2 themselves. We have to slow the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, or our hospitals will be overrun.
The vast majority of healthcare professionals who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 did not become infected at their workplace. Studies have shown that most healthcare professionals become infected predominantly in the community. It is when they go to church, celebrations and small gathering with friends outside their immediate family that they become infected.
As an association of Christian healthcare professionals, CMDA has been wrestling with the role God would have us play in this pandemic. We previously released guidelines for churches to follow as they reopened from the shutdown last spring. We also released public policy statements addressing the “Duties of a Christian Health Care Professional in Pandemic Infection” and “Triage and Resource Allocation.” Finally, we released this recommendation on mass gatherings:
Romans 13: 1 & 2 gives clear guidance in times like these. “1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Christian Medical & Dental Associations endorses the efforts of state and federal government authorities to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by limiting large gatherings. We believe that churches that ignore those instructions are placing their congregants at increased exposure and risk of SARS-Co-V-2 (Covid-19) infection and therefore we cannot condone such decisions or actions by churches.
Despite these efforts, CMDA is saddened to learn not only that many churches have ignored our guidelines but that congregants have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of those decisions. One of us is personally aware of several recent weddings when people did not mask or engage in social distancing which resulted in the entire wedding party and family being infected with SARS-CoV-2. This is not only unfortunate; it is unloving.
We believe the church is a major priority in our lives, but it should not become an idol by itself. Loving God with all our heart, mind and strength is our first priority, and it can be done with our families outside of church. It can be done via the gifts of electronic communication that allow us to join virtually with other church members. We are not being prevented from having Bibles, reading Scripture and singing songs of praise because we can do them at home and with the church through these virtual tools.
But the issue here is the second greatest commandment: to love one another as we love ourselves. Restricting meeting for a season is not about fear of contracting the virus ourselves. Rather, it is about loving one another and minimizing risk to the vulnerable around us. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). That means that Christ has chosen us to reveal His love and grace to all those around us. Choosing to put off gathering together as a church is a statement of love.
Voluntarily choosing not to gather allows us to make a statement that is not overshadowed by a government restriction. It enables a church to proclaim to their locality that they care so much for their members, family and friends that they are willing to give up their right to gather together. It allows each church to make a statement of love, not just by their words, but through the action of no longer gathering together. It is tragic to see Christians become even more reviled because we appear to care only about our individual freedoms and don’t care that we may be contributing to others getting this illness because of our selfishness. As Christian healthcare professionals, we will voluntarily restrict our “freedoms” for a time to help protect my neighbor.
As an association of Christian healthcare professionals, CMDA urgently requests that churches strongly consider taking their services online and cancel in-person gatherings until this current surge of COVID-19 cases passes.
Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.Matthew 24:42–44
One of the undisputed tenets of our faith in Christ is that one day he will return to judge the living and dead. You may not believe that personally, but the Christian Church of every stripe does. Jesus promised that he would return, and we accept that as gospel truth.
Jesus also reminds us that we cannot predict the hour of his return. Many have tried and ended up looking foolish. There is no secret countdown clock to the “end” as much as we might like one.
Instead, Jesus tells us to be vigilant in our trust of him. We are to embrace the Boy Scout motto as it pertains to our faith, “be prepared.”
In two weeks, we will be celebrating the end of the church year and it always ends the same way, on Christ the King Sunday. We will remember that Jesus is our eternal King and will return one day.
This notion of Christ as our King isn’t some sort of end time idea. Christ is our King today, right now, in this moment. This isn’t some future transaction where we cease being under the rule of a human leader or government and then Jesus steps in and takes over. As a Christian, I know that Christ is my King today and forever. My allegiance is to Christ first and foremost.
I know that I will be spending way more time in the Kingdom of God (eternity) than I will spend in this life. I want to be ready when that day comes. I strive to be vigilant, awake and ready for Christ’s activity in my life. From my study of scripture, I know that I am not in the law enforcement business for Jesus but a grace giver of God’s love.
I feel sorry for my fellow Christians who think that Christianity is just about rules and keeping others in line. They are missing out on so much!
As the children of God, the best way to prepare for Christ’s return is to love others, forgive often and help those in need right now. It is easy to remain vigilant if you are able to love without judgment.
We are almost there. Election day is around the corner.
Are you ready for this season to be over? Really?
I hear the rumblings of a few that they are willing to move on after November 3rd provided their candidate of choice wins. And if they don’t it is either it is a case of voter fraud or voter suppression depending upon what side they are on.
I see a very immature response on the part of some in this election cycle who want to fight, argue or even name call. As I preached about several weeks ago, I was falsely accused of taking a side of a very specific political issue and then lectured to (online) about how this is the wrong position. The funny thing is, I wasn’t talking about that issue or anything related to it. We are polarized and for many people everything is seen through the lens of politics. As it turns out, some aren’t seeing things as clearly as they thought.
Are you ready to let go of the anger and hate?
Politics has become a religion with different denominations. Judgment and condemnation are for those who don’t follow the right leader. It is time to see that all of this is hurting our society even our churches in this country.
It is time to move beyond the tribal notion that God is a Republican or a Democrat. Christ is neither.
I am more concerned about how people treat others than who they vote for. After all, Jesus reminds us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” without a disclaimer stating who is excluded from this unconditional kindness.
Near the end of November, we will once again celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We remember that Jesus as our eternal king. Not one day, but right now. Jesus is our king today and forever.
That is a statement I can get behind. Jesus is my king. I am all for what He stands for… unconditional love, kindness, caring for those in need, healing for those who suffer, a voice for the voiceless, compassion, empathy and a seat at the table for anyone who wants to be in the presence of Christ.
Have you ever heard of the term “The Butterfly Effect?” The term was coined by Edward Lorenz a research meteorologist who designed a computer program to model the weather. He was able to reduce weather into several formulas that were able to be predicted.
In 1961 Lorenz was busy and wanted to shortcut his weather models by starting ½ way through. He inputted the numbers but rounded them off in order to hurry this up.
The output, the simulated weather pattern or prediction was significantly different than his earlier printout. He realized that rounding off the numbers made a significant difference. One one-thousandth or hundred thousandth made a huge difference.
Or to relate it to the Butterfly effect—tiny changes brought by a butterfly flapping his wings in San Francisco has the power to transform the weather in New York.
Meteorologists doubt that a butterfly in California can truly affect the weather on the east coast BUT it is the recognition that little things affect big change.
I am not here to talk about the weather, but the Butterfly Effect has some validity as it relates to humanity.
Think about it. One man from a remote part of the planet preached love and peace and he changed the world. Jesus changed the world’s future with his message. Without Jesus, the world we live in would be completely different. Not just in mindset or belief but the things his followers accomplished in his name would also be erased or irrevocably different.
One person can make all the difference.
Before the pandemic, I went to UNLV to hear Father Greg Boyle speak. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries which helps gang members in Los Angeles become more than they ever could be in a gang. Father Boyle’s work has transformed many, many lives including the city itself.
The Butterfly Effect is real… at least as it relates to people.
Believe it or not, you and I can make a difference too.
If you worship with us on a regular basis at Community Lutheran Church communitylv.org, I have repeatedly cautioned those who worship there will be a “day after” the election. What we do right now will have a direct impact on November 4th.
In a world of hate, I choose to be kind to individuals. I may stand against what they are for but I don’t need to hate them.
I believe in love. I believe in Jesus. And I believe that those two things can change the world.
Today I ran across a wonderful article by Dr. Aisha Ahmad. Aisha Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She is currently a Senior Fellow at Massey College and a Fellow at Trinity College, and was formerly an International Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.
She takes the time to reflect the trauma of the past six months of the pandemic. I found this extremely helpful and wanted to share it with you.
Dr. Ahmad writes,
The 6-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?
First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I *always* hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to “get away” or “make it stop” is intense. I’ve done this many times and at 6 months, it’s like clockwork.
This time, our crisis is global and there is nowhere to run. That’s OK. I’ve had to power through that 6-month hump before and there is life on the other side. Right now, it feels like we are looking ahead at long, dark wintery tunnel. But it’s not going to be like that.
Rather, this is our next major adaptation phase. We’ve already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again.
This is my first pandemic, but not my first 6-month wall. So, what can I share to help you? First, the wall is real and normal. And frankly, it’s not productive to try to ram your head through it. It will break naturally in about 4-6 weeks if you ride it out.
Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+.
Also, don’t be afraid that your happiness & creativity are gone for the rest of this marathon. Not true. I assure you that it will soon break & you will hit a new stride. But today, roll with it. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download that meditation app.
Frankly, even though we cannot physically leave this disaster zone, try to give yourself a mental or figurative “shore leave”. Short mental escapes can offer respite and distance from the everyday struggle. Take more mental “leave” until you clear the wall.
In my experience, this 6-month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen & trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental & emotional health.
Take heart. We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness & courage. We have already found new ways to live, love, and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle & a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going.
So, dear friends, do not despair of the 6-month wall. It’s not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that the magic that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath & pause. You’ll be on the other side in no time.
Isn’t that great advice for us?
We are encouraged to endure a little longer. That might sound impossible right now. I get it.
We might be more like King David when he wrote Psalm 6. Things weren’t going well when he wrote…
My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when they are dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:3-7
I certainly have days like that too.
However, we are the church. Church is not a destination nor is the church just the staff. WE are the church. WE are not alone. WE have each other.
Enduring is always easier together. But are we taking the time to connect with each other? I know we don’t have the luxury and the gift of meeting at church right now and so we must take the time to make a call, send an email or a card. We should not suffer alone. Let us endure together.
I understand that many won’t read this article and quite possibly the ones who need the most encouragement. For those who are still reading… Don’t give up! We will get through this, if we endure!
Let me end with the words of Saint Paul who blessed the church of Rome with these words…
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus… Romans 15:5
2020 has been the year of unwelcome change. (That may be an understatement!)
Change can often produce anxiety, sadness, anger, apathy, listlessness and sleepless nights. I am sure we all have experienced at least one of those symptoms this year. I know I have.
This may be the most difficult year of my ministry because of the change that is beyond my control.
I mentioned the other day in our daily broadcast that this is a time of testing for the church. Let me be clear, God isn’t the one testing us, but it is a test none the less. We always have a choice to endure or to give up. I, for one, refuse to give up. The love of God will see us through if we don’t quit or walk away.
Life is obviously not normal right now. Tensions are high and frustration abounds. I feel it too.
In times like this I am reminded of what John Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”
Most of us don’t like change, especially when we do not choose it. Yet, change happens all the time… even when there is not a pandemic! However, in 2020 we are inundated with daily reminders in our socially distanced and masked world that life has changed and there is not much we can do about it.
Between the moments of anxiety, I turn to Jesus to calm my fears and ask, “What do I need to learn to grow in my faith and grow as a person/pastor?”
What have I learned? I have learned to let go. I do not have control over much and that I can only do so much. I leave the rest to Jesus through prayer. I have come to greater trust that God is leading the way and I will continue to point to the One who is still out in front us.
I have taken many deep breaths in the past months and remind myself that Jesus is watching over us all and promises to lead us forward through this “sea change”. I remind myself that we haven’t gotten this far by chance.
In moments of uncertainty and anxiety I turn to this passage in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3
I believe that with my whole heart. Life may not be easy at times, but we are never without help and comfort. God is with us and we have each other.
Who are you listening to? What are the voices in your life that are influencing you?
24 hour “news” channels?
Does Jesus even make the list? My guess is yes. But, to what extent?
There are voices all around telling us: what to believe, what to hate and what to fear. Often these same voices will tell you that only they can protect your family, your finances and your way of life.
I hear all the voices competing not just for our attention but for our heart, mind and soul. It is easy to be distracted by the opinions of others. The noise becomes dangerous when you are convincedthese voices are compatible or in total agreement with our faith.
Pastor Paul wrote a letter to the church he started in Galatia. He saw that they were being influenced by others in an unfaithful way.
He cautioned them and he cautions us…
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:7-8
Paul saw his fledging church diligently following Jesus and then they went off the proverbial rails. He asked the same question I asked earlier, “Who is influencing your thinking?”
Then Paul tells this church point blank, “The way you are thinking doesn’t come from Jesus.” Wow.
This isn’t the only place where we are cautioned to NOT listen to every voice that tickles our ears.
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, shares God’s heart with Jerusalem as they go down a path toward destruction (literally)…
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16
Remember that old Sunday School Song?
O be careful little ears what you hear O be careful little ears what you hear For the Father up above Is looking down in love So, be careful little ears what you hear…
If you didn’t go to Sunday School as a kid, we sang lots of songs like this. Some good, some cheesy. But you get the point–be selective of what you give your attention to.
Jesus reminds us of this simple truth…
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Are you listening to the Great Shepherd? Don’t buy into the fear and hate. Listen for love. Everything else is just noise.