The Coronavirus Gift; An Easter Awakening

We have been given a gift, perhaps in an unusual way, but nonetheless a gift.  A gift of time.  But what are we doing with it.  We have been freed from our routines, freed from traffic and daily grinds.  But what have we done with our freedom.  I heard on the news this morning that despite the added time on our hands, most of us are working out less, most of us are falling into poor eating habits and most of us are adding more screen time into our lives.  If the coronavirus doesn’t get us,  our own sloth and gluttony certainly might.

Most churches have closed.  What have we done to stay connected to God?  Have we opened the Bible?  Have we taken time to pray?  What are we doing to stay close to God when it is not offered to us on a silver platter? What are we doing to praise Him?  To thank Him for all of the abundance that we still have even if we are currently suffering?

Today I opened up the Bible to the book of Samuel and I read these words:

If you fear and serve the LORD, if you listen to the voice of the LORD and do not rebel against the LORD’s command, if both you and the king, who rules over you, follow the LORD your God—well and good.  But if you do not listen to the voice of the LORD and if you rebel against the LORD’s command, the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

1 Samuel 12: 14-15

Each of us fails at times, sometimes more than others, to listen to the voice of the Lord.  The Lord woke me up the other morning urging me, actually shouting to me, to SPEAK and yet I let work, TV and my cell phone distract me.  I look at our country currently, with many churches closed, with governors threatening to quarantine anyone who dares to gather in worship of the Lord, and with abortion clinics being deemed “essential businesses” and I question whether we are listening.

Samuel goes on to say:

“Do not fear,” Samuel answered them. “You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing.  For the sake of his own great name the LORD will not abandon his people, since the LORD has decided to make you his people.  As for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way.  But you must fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you.

1 Samuel 12: 20-24

I am reminded of a similar verse later, when God tells Solomon:

The LORD appeared to Solomon during the night and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place for my house of sacrifice.  If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7: 12-14

Indeed, I was napping after reading Samuel and again I felt God stir me with these words: “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

If we look to the governors, and Congress, the CDC and the president, we continue to look in the wrong place.  If we focus on the news and social media, we are focusing in the wrong place.  If you have listened to them at all, you know… they do not know anything about this virus or how to control it.  They have changed their opinions about what to do multiple times.  Why do we keep looking to them to save us?

God has told us what we need to do:

“serve the Lord”

“listen to the voice of the Lord”

“Do not fear . . . . You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing. ”

“serve him faithfully with all your heart”

“humble [your]selves and pray, and seek [God’s] face and turn from [your] evil ways”

And God will hear us from heaven and pardon our sins and heal our land.

On this Easter weekend, may we all arise from the dead in our hearts, may we all break free from the tombs that encase us, may we all witness God’s love, and may we humble ourselves and pray.  We are not the solution.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither science nor the media, neither anger nor fear is the answer.  God is, and always was, the only answer.  How quickly we forget when things go well and how quickly we blame when things go bad.  May we praise God this Easter and every day with our voices raised wherever we are.  We don’t need the church building, we just need to open our hearts, listen to God’s word , and humble ourselves and pray.

Dear God,

You sent your only son into this world because we could not undo the harm that we caused.  Redeem us once again.  We who have let this world envelope us with material goods.  We have allowed “leaders” to cut you out of our lives.  And we have chosen gods, including facebook, and cell phones,  above you.  Awaken us this Easter.  We need you.  We need you in our lives everyday.  Allow us to be reborn.  Send forth your Spirit upon us and renew the face of the earth.

We know that we can not cure what is wrong in the world.  We need you, Lord.  Lord, we pray that you heal our land.  And more importantly that you heal our hearts.

Help me to listen more, to serve you more, to not turn to gods who are nothing.  You alone are my strength.  You alone are my salvation.  Heal us Lord, from the inside out.

Just Keep Praying

It is Groundhog Day!  One of my favorite days of the year.  Remember the movie about Groundhog Day where the day just keeps repeating itself?  I thought about that as I left church this morning.

Lately, I have been frustrated because I feel like I am stuck in an endless cycle.  I have been repeatedly praying for God’s help with a situation and it does not seem to be improving.  Indeed, I was starting to think of giving up.  As I thought about this and Groundhog Day, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable:

Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

And then I thought of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(This also made me think of Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.”)

And then I suddenly realized how silly it was for me to get frustrated with things not moving forward as quickly as I would like.  I am grateful that God is more patient than me.  He too may think that our relationship often feels like Groundhog Day, as He watches me commit the same sins and make the same mistakes over and over again.  (One of those sins is not being as forgiving of others.)  Thankfully, God does not tire of forgiving me.  Thankfully, God does not tire of my impatience.  Thankfully God, is much more patient than me.

And then I thought about the shadow that the groundhog sees.  Sometimes we get stuck in our own shadow.  Sometimes, we only see the dark side of what is going on.  But there is no shadow too dark for God.  And regardless of whether we see our shadow (just like regardless of whether the groundhog sees its shadow), Spring is coming, renewal is coming.  Sometimes it just may take a little longer.  In the meantime, we need to just keep praying, just keep praying.

Lord,

Thank you for being there even when I am lost in the shadows.  Thank you for your patience when I fail again and again.  I know that you hear my prayers.  I know that you will what is good for me.  I know that your plans are better than mine.  I have faith in you.  I will keep rejoicing in you and praying in thanksgiving.  Lord, I want to be a light, not a shadow on the world.   I pray for renewal for me and those around me.  We are ready for Spring.  Shine your light upon us.  Break through the cold hearts.  Fill us with love.  Build your kingdom here!  Help us to just keep praying.  I trust that you will answer in your time, in your way.   Help me to listen and follow and never give up.

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

Do you ever wonder what God is calling you to do?  I think about it constantly.  I know His plan is bigger than me.  I know He is calling me to do more.  But what is it He wants from me?  What is it He wants for me?

As I was racking my brain and struggling with what God wants me to do, I heard this verse on the radio:

We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

I love these lines: Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  

Maybe I am trying to think (and worry) too big.  Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  This is the will of God.  If I focus on these three things…  how could I be anything but happy?  How could I not be following God’s will?  No matter the circumstance, if I can rejoice at the goodness around me, the life God has given me, the love that God showers on me; if I can give thanks for everything I receive, every blessing I have, every moment that I enjoy; and if I can pray about everything else, I cannot help but think I will be satisfied.  I will be happy.  I will be living God’s will (even if I never accomplish anything else, even if I screw up along the way, even if the world is dark around me). Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  I can choose to find the good and rejoice.  I can choose to be thankful, instead of always wanting more.  I can focus my fears, my worries, my pain into prayer.

God,

I rejoice in your goodness!  Thank you for allowing me another day on this earth.  Thank you for blessing me with so much.  Help me to remember your love and your blessings, particularly when darkness tries to invade.  I pray for your help and your guidance.  On paper, this can seem so easy, but in life it can become so hard.

 

 

 

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save.  This is what the Bible tells me tonight.

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.   Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.  Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.

 My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:13-20

When we are suffering, we need to pray.  When others are suffering, we need to pray with and for them.  (Someone is always suffering — so we should always be praying.)  When things are good, we should praise.  There is so much to be thankful for (even during our suffering).  When we sin (which is daily) we need to confess — to each other and to God.  Confess to each other, so we can pray for each other.  And when someone strays, we need to help bring them back.  We can help save.

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save: four things we can do every day.

Lord,

You are truly almighty and know all things.  You know what we need and what our hearts truly desire.  You continue to amaze me.  Thank you for another beautiful day.  Thank you for my family and friends.  I am truly blessed.  Please take care of all those who are suffering tonight.  Bless them with the knowledge of your love.  Forgive me for my sins.  Forgive me for not being patient and kind.  Forgive me for not always following the straight path to you.  Help me to help others who stray from your path.  Help me to model your love.  Help me to share my faith with others.