Psalms 23:1-6

Are you discontent? Do you frequently find yourself grumbling before God, or complaining that He’s not good enough to you? Can you genuinely indict Him of anything less than providing an abundance of blessings? Or, do you recognize that He’s the One who gives you everything that’s good in your life—that He provides not only what you genuinely need, but also so much more?

“You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:1-6‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

King David penned this Psalm, and it evidences well his personal knowledge of God; his relationship. I love it, because it clearly reveals God’s love for us, much as that of a good shepherd toward his sheep. For myself, personally, though, I feel that we are more like little newborn birds sitting with our mouths wide open, that God drops blessing after blessing into!

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not a Rockefeller or a Trump—I didn’t come from the 1%; we don’t own a successful business, or have massive investments, or lucrative careers. We really are just regular people, not unlike so many others in our world. Yet I never cease to be amazed at how truly incredibly merciful and good God is to us—financially and in every other way!

Because God really is generous. If you know and love Him, He gives so much more than you deserve, or even need—He is abundant with His blessings! Psalms 84:11 explains,

“Our Lord and our God, you are like the sun and also like a shield. You treat us with kindness and with honor, never denying any good thing to those who live right.” (Psalms‬ ‭84:11‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

He is our light; He shows us—illuminates, like the sun does—what is right and good. And He is a shield, protecting us from error and evil; when we hide behind His Word—in Him—we are safe. He does not deny us any good thing.

Yet, “…the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.” (Psalms‬ ‭34:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬) I point this out not from condemnation but love, to any who may consider this. Remember that setting yourself up against Him sets you up against His favor, a position we should never place ourselves in!

Let’s read more of the Psalm this verse comes from:

“I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. On every side, the LORD’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the LORD’s holy ones, honor him, because those who honor him don’t lack a thing. Even strong young lions go without and get hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Do you love life; do you relish the chance to enjoy good things? Then you must keep your tongue from evil and keep your lips from speaking lies! Turn away from evil! Do good! Seek peace and go after it! The LORD’s eyes watch the righteous, his ears listen to their cries for help. But the LORD’s face is set against those who do evil, to eliminate even the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry out, the LORD listens; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous have many problems, but the LORD delivers them from every one. He protects all their bones; not even one will be broken. But just one problem will kill the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be held responsible.” (Psalms‬ ‭34:4-10, 12-21‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

God is so truly generous to His children—to us, when we don’t insist on rebelling against Him. Yet just as as a rational father would not give his infant a sharp knife or loaded gun, He will not give us that which would hurt us, regardless of how much we cajole or plead with Him. So when we ask for that which we do not get, we frequently conclude He did not love us enough, or care enough to give us our heart’s desire, when if fact it was because He loves us more than we can imagine that he kept the glittery harm from us. Ultimately, we need to trust Him. We need to trust that God has our best interest in mind and “will not deny any good thing to those who live right.”

So, are you discontent? Do you feel God is not good enough to you? Or do you recognize that He’s the One who gives you everything that’s good in your life—even to the point of making,“…the sun rise on both good and bad people. And…send[ing] rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong.” (Matthew‬ ‭5:45‬ ‭CEV‬‬) He is our Shepherd, whose “kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life!”

Dear Lord,

May we live in Your house, in Your presence, forever! Amen.

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2 Samuel 7:1-5

Has life rewritten your plans? Did your agenda get changed, and you weren’t consulted? Whether it has to do with someone you love, your family, your education, your career, your finances, or what’s going in in our world today because of the coronavirus fears, our lives don’t always unfold as we anticipated, and we need to be prepared to respond in gratitude and trust that God’s got this one covered, too.

“King David was living in his palace, and the LORD had given him peace from all his enemies around him. Then David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Look, I am living in a palace made of cedar wood, but the Ark of God is in a tent!’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do what you really want to do, because the LORD is with you.’ But that night the LORD spoke his word to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Will you build a house for me to live in?’” (2 Samuel‬ ‭7:1-5‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

David had a plan. With the death of Saul and his heirs, he had consolidated his kingdom and was entering a period of prosperity. There were no challengers to his throne, hence no war. Finally, he would be able to build a permanent temple for the God he loved! Yet God said no.

Keep in mind that David really loved God; certainly he sinned, he failed—at least once he failed miserably! But he repented. When confronted, he acknowledged his sin and agreed with God as to its error and gravity, and committed himself to His judgment and mercy. He is even identified in I Samuel 13:14 as, “a man after…[God’s] own heart.” Many of the Psalms, written by him, are an enduring testament to his love for God and desire to glorify Him.

So it’s natural to assume that when David decided to honor the God he loved with a permanent temple (rather than the movable Ark that had been with them for so long), that God would allow him to do so. But it was not to be: God had a different plan, and it did not involve David building the temple:

“I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. “ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Samuel‬ ‭7:6-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God’s plan was for David’s son, Solomon, to be the one to build His temple. Elsewhere, God explained that it is because David was a man of war—that he had killed people. This must have been bitter for him, because he had done that in battle, to become the ruler over Israel God had anointed him to be, but it was what it was—it was God’s will, and again, David responded with reverence and obedience:

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign Lord, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! Do you deal with everyone this way, O Sovereign Lord? “What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign Lord. Because of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known to your servant. “How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! What other nation on earth is like your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations and gods that stood in their way. You made Israel your very own people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God. “And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever. And may your name be honored forever so that everyone will say, ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is God over Israel!’ And may the house of your servant David continue before you forever.” (2 Samuel‬ ‭7:18-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

David submitted to God’s divine will and plan. He didn’t cajole, or complain, or respond with bitterness and discontent, but with gratitude for His favor and all of God’s mercies toward him—He recognized the good God had done for him and his family. Do we do the same when God alters our plans? Or do we respond angrily, like a spoiled, pouting child?

You see, God does not have to consult with us before rewriting the script of our lives—more than that, whatever has happened was probably what was supposed to happen all along; we just didn’t realize it. And some of what happens can be bitter. Some of it can be genuinely unwelcome.

Remember Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law? She and her husband and two sons left Israel because of a famine, and her husband and sons died there, leaving her a widow alone in the world, except for her daughter-in-law, Ruth:

“So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”” (Ruth‬ ‭1:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Naomi means “pleasant;” Mara means “bitter.” Naomi was testifying to the bitterness of what God had allowed to happen to her, not realizing at the time, that He had allowed this so God’s Son, our Savior Jesus, would be a descendant of Ruth and her future husband Boaz!

And that’s my point: we frequently cannot see into the future; we cannot understand at the time the good that will come from a very miserable present. Unlike His response to David, God does not always choose to let us in on the reason why.

Many times He does; we are told:

“Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Amos‬ ‭3:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But does He let each and every one of us know what’s going to happen before it does? No, not always. Actually, it probably seems more rare than not, for us to even sense when something is about to happen. But, I suspect, this is His mercy.

Imagine if you knew when your loved one would die? Could you go about living life and enjoying their presence as if nothing was about to happen, or would you go into premature mourning in anticipation of that very moment, regardless of how far in the future it would be? No, we couldn’t, so sometimes we don’t know. The truth is that many things happen in our lives that we didn’t anticipate or plan for.

How many of you, for example, ever imagined the world we live in would go on lockdown, to the degree it has, because of COVID-19? Who knew—right? As recently as this past Christmas break, life was normal. Our daughter flew to Quebec to participate in an immersive French language program; now, her summer pre-college academic program, like all others, is uncertain. Life as we knew it has changed—at least for a while. And many of us can be grateful that we have not personally witnessed or experienced serious illness or death as a result of this threat; that while we didn’t see this coming, at present, our lives are merely different.

Yet God knew; He knew and He continues to know—nothing takes Him by surprise! More than that, He works His purposes and perfect will through everything. How? Again, I don’t know. But I do know that,

“…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

So…has life rewritten your plans recently? Have you not been consulted? Will you yet experience more changes that you didn’t anticipate? Perhaps, but that’s okay, because Jesus Christ is our God and Savior, and our Heavenly Father God loves us with an infinite love that will never end—and He’s got this; really!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You for who You are! That, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet…[Your] unfailing love for…[Your people] will not be shaken…” (Isaiah‬ ‭54:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Amen!

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Proverbs 22:29

Are you good at what you do? Not coming in under the radar or good enough to not get fired, or even competent—but genuinely excellent? Why do I ask? Because while eternal life begins with a relationship with Jesus (and He is available to all regardless of education or status or expertise), picking something moral and legal—at which you work very hard to become one of the best—gives you a platform for greater witness for Him, and many other personal blessings besides!

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” (Proverbs‬ ‭22:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Today’s verse is from the book of Proverbs, penned by King Solomon of Israel. Do you remember his story? He ascended to the throne young, after his father David, and in a dream God offered him anything he wanted. He could have chosen riches or power, but instead asked for wisdom to rightly govern God’s nation, which God honored:

“I will now do just what you said. Look, I hereby give you a wise and understanding mind. There has been no one like you before now, nor will there be anyone like you afterward. I now also give you what you didn’t ask for: wealth and fame. There won’t be a king like you as long as you live. And if you walk in my ways and obey my laws and commands, just as your father David did, then I will give you a very long life.” (1 Kings‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

Proverbs is wisdom; it is what came from “a wise and understanding mind” like whom “there has been no one…before…nor will there be anyone like…afterward.” So even though much of it seems to be practical advice applicable more to the here-and-now rather than to our relationship with God—that wisdom was given by God, so we should not scorn it. And today’s verse talks about getting really good at what we do.

Christians sometimes wrongly conclude that we do not need to be excellent because Jesus accepts all who come to Him. And while He does accept us all, that does not in any way negate or make untrue any of the wisdom God has given in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible. To the contrary, He accepts us as we are when we repent and come to Him for forgiveness and salvation, but He does not leave us there; He takes us on a lifelong journey of sanctification—of turning us into the people He wants us to be and preparing us for eternity! And as part of that, He opens us up to understanding and accepting everything He has revealed to us in His Word—including the practical wisdom of Proverbs. So how does today’s verse apply to a follower of Jesus?

Like most of the teachings of this book, it is short and succinct, and there is nothing more. It simply says if you’re really good at what you do, you’re not going to labor away in obscurity, but will gain prominence. When this was written, the best you could do was work in a king’s court, so that’s what the words say. But the meaning can be extrapolated to say that being the best will give you advantages in various ways that mere mediocrity will not gain.

How? Use your imagination, because this will vary, according to what we’re talking about. An excellent singer will gain different opportunities than an excellent animator, who will likewise gain different opportunities than an excellent architect or translator or baker or biophysicist. I’m educated, but not especially so; I have a B.B.A. in business administration with a concentration in managerial accounting, and took one graduate-level class recently. But because I stayed home to raise and homeschool most of our children, I have the work experience of a recent graduate roughly a decade before retirement and am therefore effectively unemployable in my field. So, as our children got older, I somehow “fell into” the practical work of appliance sales at a local retailer.

I actually didn’t initially think I’d make it past the eight weeks of training because I’m an introvert and had no desire whatsoever to sell anything. Yet not only did I make it, because I was on a straight commission and cost them nothing, they put up with me for thirteen odd years part-time (with a six year hiatus in-between to care for my aging mother).

Eventually our youngest daughter got a driver’s license and a car, and I found a full time position doing what, do you suppose? Selling appliances! Why? Because, it turned out, over the years it was the only practical, employable skill I perfected that anyone was willing to pay a reasonable salary for. And while I still don’t want to go to my grave having accomplished nothing of greater significance in life than selling things, I’ve also come to terms with it and even recognize it as God’s provision. You see, we are now experiencing the COVID-19 restrictions, but because our store is considered essential, I am still employed and can continue to pay our daughter’s tuition. We’re even getting a bonus for continuing to work!

But today’s verse speaks about being really good at what you do. Every field has markers of excellence or achievement, and selling appliances is no different. We are expected to sell dollar volume, protection plans, credit, installations, estimates for labor, and referrals for in-home work, and are statistically tracked. Because I trained in and worked at a straight-commission position for years and the highest financial rewards came from selling protection plans, all of us who worked there learned to sell those a long time ago! So I’ve had some really great weeks here, and am probably also on-track for selling over $1 million worth of product for the year, Lord willing. But so what? Why am I sharing this? Simply to illustrate that God’s Word is true—even in its practical applications!

Several days ago, just after my month’s sales topped $100,000, I overslept. Late at night when I thought I was raising the volume on my iPhone, I inadvertently lowered it all the way down instead. When I called in, I was dumbfounded that instead of just saying “okay,” the on-call supervisor offered several alternatives to change my schedule so I wouldn’t be marked late, and I was genuinely take aback.

My point—for my children or anyone else who may be reading this—is that when you give a company, a school, or anyone else a tangible practical benefit and are doing your best to distinguish yourself favorably, they tend to put up with your shortcomings so much more than if you don’t. Not that you should intentionally impose on people and expect them to put up with you because you’re somehow “special,” but—image someone who shows up randomly and puts little effort into actually doing their work when there: would they receive a gracious response when they fall short one more time? Of course not! (They might even get fired.)

So how does this apply to you? Well—what is it that you do? More specifically, what is it that you do, that you can do better than others? It may be what you already love to do—our youngest daughter may go into animation because she loves drawing and it’s what she often does for fun anyway—or it may be like me, who ended up being reasonably good at something I didn’t particularly want to be good at, but simply fell into because of life circumstances. Whatever it is, find something—then be the best you can at it!

Why? Apart from your life being more pleasant, it’ll also give you a greater platform for witnessing for Christ and honoring God! Think of people like Tim Tebow—would anyone care he loves Jesus if he wasn’t great at football? When someone asks why you’re so conscientious, or why you try so hard, or why you’re always happy—that’s when you can explain that it’s to honor God, that it’s because it’s what He wants us to do!

Dear Jesus,

Help me be the best I can to glorify You! Amen.

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John 1:1-5

Do you love Jesus? What do you think of when you hear this word—His name? Do you think of someone from first-century Palestine in sandals and a robe, or a figure on a cross in your childhood church, or the founder of the Christian religion? Or do you think of God, the Son—identified as the Word of God, who became human and lived in our world for a specific purpose and time?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Jesus was physically very much a human being and is credited with beginning the Christian religion, although after His execution, no one believed in Him anymore. You see, at the time His followers didn’t quite get it. They had thought He was going to politically free their nation from Rome, the then-dominant political power in the world. When He didn’t; when He allowed Himself to be arrested and executed without resistance; when they crucified Him to a tree and slashed a sword into Him to assure He was dead; when they buried Him in a tomb and nothing more happened for three days—they scattered and went into seclusion, rightly expecting to be next.

They had wanted a revolution and got an execution. Talk about deflated expectations! There was no pep talk; there was no discussion of starting a religion or salvaging the situation—it was over and they knew it.

Why? What would be the purpose? You have to understand this from their perspective. They were from Israel, a nation that had a long history of direct revelation from God, and prophecies concerning the re-establishment of their human kingdom. Because they already had a sacrificial system that absolved them of guilt before God, they were not looking for anything spiritual; they were expecting something real—their emancipation from Rome! So much so that even after they saw Jesus alive again, they asked if He was going to then restore Israel’s freedom!

Luke, a non-Jew who researched the life of Jesus for an interested dignitary of the time named Theophilus, and presented his findings in writing (preserved as our Bible books Luke and Acts), explained:

“Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.” When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”” (Acts‬ ‭1:1-8‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Jesus told them to wait to do anything until after they received power from His Spirit. Then—and only then—they understood that the purpose of Jesus’ life was not to establish a human kingdom, but to open the door for reconciliation between sin-infused humans and holy God. And only then were they transformed from fearful, cowering fishermen and tax collectors and whatever else they had done before to earn a living, to powerful proclaimers of forgiveness from God to those who repent of their sins and believe in the forgiveness God gives through Jesus!

I think it is imperative as we look back at their transformation that we recognize that no amount of private contemplation or corporate scheming could have resulted in the impact their witness and testimony garnered, had Jesus not in fact risen from the dead and they not been supernaturally empowered—if they knew in their hearts He was still dead and were making it up to benefit themselves in any way. There were way too many otherwise inexplicable “signs and wonders”—what we now call miracles.

But why love Jesus? Why are there so many songs that talk about how precious He is? What is so special about Him anyway?

It’s because through Him, we’re forgiven and accepted—reconciled to God; because without Him, we’re under God’s wrath. We may not feel it or even understand it—that’s part of the problem with being “lost;” much of the time you don’t realize you are. Only occasionally, it seems, God gives moments of clarity when it occurs to us that there has to be more than this life, or we think about dying and what will happen to us afterward. Or we feel something missing inside us that no amount of pleasure of any variety will fill. That’s God’s Holy Spirit reaching out to us.

You see, Jesus isn’t a religion or a cult; He’s a transformed human existence. Knowing about Him doesn’t cut it—giving into Him does. You know what I’m talking about, because we’ve all pushed Him away in the past. But now, if you hear Him, it’s time to give in and let Him do His good work in us.

So, if you know little about Jesus, don’t be scared. He doesn’t turn you into a psychopath—He makes you a good person:

“People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious. They get drunk, carry on at wild parties, and do other evil things as well. I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom. God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:19-24‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

These are the outward signs that we belong to God, that we’ve been changed by Jesus; yet the biggest change is that we become part of the eternal economy when we believe in Jesus—when we recognize that we are forgiven because of Him. They didn’t understand at the time, but Jesus told the disciples that eternal life begins now:

“After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people, so he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent.” (John‬ ‭17:1-3‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

That’s why Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus (also God; the Word of God who became human), not a religion. Religions present humans who must appease gods they never can; Jesus already did the appeasing through His death on the cross for us—in Him, we stand right before the Father, holy, beloved and accepted. We no longer have to strive to please an unappeasable deity, but neither can we continue to sin because His Spirit in us bothers us too much. We love Him, “with all…[our] heart, soul, and mind,” (Matthew‬ ‭22:37‬ ‭CEV‬‬)—with everything we are. This is a love relationship that transcends death.

So, do you love Jesus? If you’ve “sold” everything you have for His sake; if you recognize Him to be the most priceless of treasures that gaining everything else will not make up for having missed out on; if you’ve thrown in your lot with Him and, live or die, you’re His and with Him—then, yes then—He is precious to you!

Dear Jesus, Be most precious to me! Thank You!! Amen!

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Psalm 90:12

Have you seriously thought about the Coronavirus yet? As headlines such as “86,022 Cases and 2942 Deaths From COVID-19,” Risk of Global Spread ‘Very High’ Warns WHO,” “Everyone Will Get Coronavirus, Virologist Warns,” and “CDC Confirms Second U.S. Coronavirus Case of Unknown Origin” dominate the internet, I can’t help but think about how vulnerable—yet totally oblivious to that vulnerability—we as humans typically are. Yet God gives occasional moments of clarity.

“Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

I’ve lived long enough that I’m not easily panicked. I remember Y2K and the scare that precipitated; I realize we tend to overreact. Yet there are times when forces greater than us threaten, and this may well be one of those moments. The Coronavirus will apparently infect many, if not all, of the world’s population unless a vaccine is prepared in time, which at this time is at least a year or year and a half out. How should we respond?

Certainly not in panic, because while this particular virus and the deaths it’s caused have dominated recent headlines, there are many other ongoing and less publicized threats to our physical survival we are constantly exposed to—it’s just that we don’t dwell on them. When we leave in our cars in the morning, we don’t think that we may not return—whether because of an accident, or heart attack, or gunman at work or school. When we lie down to sleep we don’t imagine that a tree will crash through our roof and end our lives, or that we will die in our sleep. Certainly these things could happen; in some cases they do—we just don’t dwell on them. Yet there is a general phobia that is increasingly materializing today through the media reports concerning this particular threat.

So how should we respond, as the people of God Well, think about it: yes, we should take reasonable recommended precautions, as well as try to keep our immune systems strong by eating healthy food, sleeping enough, and taking our vitamin C’s (or whatever other methods we use to survive the cold and flu season). But beyond that—what? What can we do?

The answer is—nothing. More specifically, we can commit ourselves to our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer God—as we should always have done and continue to do after this particular threat has abated. Because that’s where we’ve always been, are now, and will continue to be—in His hands!

“For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of every human being.” (Job‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

So often we imagine ourselves masters of our own destiny, not acknowledging or frequently even recognizing that He is the Master of everything—including what happens to us. Because He allows us choice and free will, we come to think we can do anything we want, when the reality is we can only do something if He allows it. Think about it: have you ever wanted something so badly, and done everything in your power to make it happen, and still not gotten the outcome you hoped for in the end? God does not allow us everything; I do believe some things are just not meant to be.

So while I would be the last person to advise a fatalistic stance—that we should give up because it’s hopeless—I do think this moment is one of the many gifts God gives us. You see, we need to recognize He is God and we are not—and while we can do so much as human beings, there are limits to our capacity to control everything. We desperately need to understand that there are other situations in which, apart from trusting in Him, there isn’t much we can do. And under normal circumstances we aren’t often afforded a moment of clarity like this.

So what should we do? Be right with God. Not according to our own opinion—because we’re good people or do good things or aren’t as bad as others—but according to Him. Because we recognize our sin and depravity, and have asked for Christ’s holiness as a substitute before God for our lack of it. Because we trust in Jesus Christ. Because we recognize He is God, and believe in Him and have committed ourselves to follow Him no matter what. Because we obey Him.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (0: 1 John‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

So, have you seriously thought about the Coronavirus yet? Think about it; then get right with God!

Dear Lord God,

We are Your people, and are completely in Your hands—in this and every moment of life. Help me always remember that, “Since…[I] have been raised to new life with Christ, [I must] set…[my] sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. [Help me] Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For…[I] died to this life, and…[my] real life is hidden with Christ in God. And [that] when Christ, who is…[my] life, is revealed to the whole world…[I] will share in all his glory.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Amen.

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Romans 10:9

Do you call Jesus Christ your Lord? If so—why? We have no more lords these days, so its significance tends to be lost and as a culture we have difficulty comprehending what this particular kind of relationship involves—yet it is important. So, what exactly is a lord? What are his responsibilities? His rights? What about those who are attached to a lord—what are their duties? And do they benefit in any way from their position?

“Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

Most of us reading this will acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord, but how many of us understand the full implications? “Boss” or “master,” come close in meaning, but our understanding of the concept these days is inherently limited because we no longer have that kind of societal structure. Yet the word remains in our vocabulary.

In the U.K. they have a House of Lords and House of Commons, much as we have a Senate and House of Representatives. When someone is being too bossy, we may say they are trying to “lord it over” us. Or we may hear the phrase “lords and ladies” in a movie or older book, conjuring up images of elegant men and women from a bygone era. Yet all of these current usages fail to convey the full significance of the meaning of the word “lord,” and the simple truth is we no longer get it. Yet years ago, there was the privileged class, and those dependent on them.

Granted, we still have the 1% (or whatever percentage of the population is uber-wealthy), but because of the protections of the Constitution and our legal structure, even the poorest of us are endowed with certain basic human rights and are for the most part, no longer as directly dependent on one specific human lord. This was not always so.

As relatively recently historically as feudal England, there were lords and vassals—and each owed the other something. According to Britannica:

“Under the feudal contract, the lord had the duty to provide the fief [property] for his vassal, to protect him, and to do him justice in his court. In return, the lord had the right to demand the services attached to the fief (military, judicial, administrative) and a right to various “incomes” known as feudal incidents.”

Furthermore, “The vassal owed fealty to his lord. A breach of this duty was a felony, regarded as so heinous an offense that…all serious crimes, even those that had nothing to do with feudalism proper, came to be called felonies…” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/vassal)

The ancient Asian world had a similar concept. Common people needed a strong protector and he was to provide what they needed, but they owed him loyalty in return. According to Confucius Lives Next Door by T.R. Reed:

“…Confucian loyalties run both up and down. The subject has an obligation to the ruler, but the ruler has equally strong obligations to the subject. The underling must be respectful and obedient, but the superior has a duty of benevolence. He is required to protect and educate his subjects, to provide the conditions they need for a safe and prosperous life.”

So how does this apply to our relationship with Jesus? Well, it gives us more insight of what God means when He identifies Himself as our Lord. It really isn’t as simple as accepting a gift, even the most precious one of Christ Himself—we are called not only to the privileges of forgiveness, acceptance, and salvation that come with belonging to Him, but also the responsibilities of our new status as His people.

Jesus Himself teaches us to “count the cost” of entering into a relationship with Him, yet its not something we hear much of these days. We do hear a lot about how belonging to Jesus benefits us—which certainly is without a doubt absolutely amazing—but we’re not often told what He’s going to require of us:

“If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” (Luke‬ ‭14:26-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

No, Jesus was the first to tell us entering into a relationship with Him will cost us, going so far as to even tell two short parables about it:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:44-46‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

Did you catch it? He “sold all that he owned” to buy it. That part is so uncomfortable to us that most of us simply gloss over it when we read. But we shouldn’t.

I recently saw what appeared to be a very old photograph of, according to the headline of the article, Christian women crucified for their faith—I will probably never forget it. I have no idea if it was doctored or if it’s fake news, but the fact remains that many followers of Christ have truly been required by their Lord to give an ultimate testimony to Him, and they have. They were faithful “even unto death.” As spoiled and focused on my comfort and personal well-being as I am, I think to myself—if called upon, would I do the same? Would I deny Christ and rationalize it that I can’t do differently? Or would I obey, even if I have to give Him everything?

It is possible to understand—at least to some degree—who God really is, yet walk away. Remember the rich young ruler who went away sad because he chose to not part with his wealth? Recognizing who Jesus is isn’t enough—denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him is what’s needed, and it will certainly cost us.

God’s gift of forgiveness is free through Christ, but we are called to walk in His steps and follow Him because lordship is a relationship, a lifestyle, with both privileges and obligations. Biblically, repentance precedes forgiveness, and true repentance submits to Christ’s lordship over us. He accepts us into His kingdom, but we must follow where ever He leads, and I fear many of us today in the West may not be prepared for such an outcome. We really must count the cost.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me recognize everything following You involves, and mean it from the bottom of my heart when I confess You as my Lord. Give me the grace to be faithful! Amen.

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