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Challenges Into Opportunities II

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Hebrews 11:1-2 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report.”

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke unto you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:  and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In what seems like an eternity ago, on March 21st, 2020, I published a post entitled Challenges Into Opportunities.  It wasn’t my first post related to COVID-19; that one came a week earlier and was entitled Rest to the Heavy Laden.  It was, however, like its predecessor, as relevant today as it was then. 

In the midst of a world that is figuring out the right way to ease or tighten the constraints of lockdown, isolation, quarantine, and social distancing, we are uncertain as to the shape of our future.  Yet importantly, there is plenty of opportunity for us to represent Christ because there are plenty of remaining challenges – some old and some new.

Humanity is trying to come to grips with a new normal.  Communities are attempting to pick up the pieces of a society that has been turned upside down.  Individuals are charting their paths forward in an economy that has been brutally characterized by hemorrhaging jobs and evaporating wealth.  Society’s underpinnings have been let loose, and its unquestioned assumptions have been negated.  People are facing challenges with employment, addiction, education, and mental health.

Now is the perfect time to offer rest through Christ to the heavy laden!  The conditions we face today may be most conducive to the spreading of the gospel that we will ever see in our lifetimes.

PLEASE PRAY THAT AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WOULD SHARE THE PEACE OF CHRIST WITH A WORLD THAT IS FILLED WITH TURMOIL.  If we do, we can transform unprecedented challenges into unimaginable opportunities.

For the posts referenced above, please see:

Prayer for Us Knuckleheads

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”

II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

This year’s celebration of our Independence Day will undoubtedly be muted because of health concerns, equality concerns, and unrest concerns.  The last several months have taken their toll on the spirit of our great country, and an aura of malaise has swept over our land.  Maybe you are losing hope about the future of America, and maybe you are not feeling all that patriotic.  I have to admit that sometimes I feel the same way.  Then, God sends something my way that provides me the boost that I need to continue serving Him and serving our nation.

Once such boost came my way unexpectedly a few weeks ago.  A teacher from my freshman year in high school just retired after a lifetime of service to our community in the public schools.  I reached out to congratulate him on his retirement and to thank him for his service, and this is the response I received:

“Thank you very much. Did you know that during every (well, almost every) test I gave I would not just watch over those knuckleheads for cheating, but I’d pray for each kid. I’d go around the room, and pray for the eternal salvation for each student. That included you as a HS kid. I know you are a busy man now, so thank you for taking the time to write. Now, it’s onto a new challenge. Don’t know exactly what that will be until this pandemic panic passes. But, I’ll find something meaningful. Continued prayers for you and your family, and men.”

Wow!  I was floored, humbled, touched, inspired, encouraged, convicted, and challenged all at once!

We may be told that America is a godless and broken society with no hope.  As long as there are citizens like this teacher, that is not true!  There is prayer in school!  There are godly influences all around us!  There are individuals who invest their lives in serving others!  There are people in every corner of our society who care about the temporal and eternal well-being of everyone!  There are those whose love for others is untainted by bias and discrimination! 

There are still remarkable people in our land who love this great country and our amazing citizenry!

PLEASE PRAY FOR A RENEWAL OF PROPERLY PLACED PATRIOTISM IN OUR GREAT NATION.  We may all be knuckleheads at times who fail to live up to God’s standards and the lofty vision of our founding principles.  Yet, as long as we passionately serve, humbly pray, and genuinely repent, then the American experiment will endure and thrive even through the most challenging of times.  Happy Birthday America!

No Difference

Galatians 2:11-13 “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles:  but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.  And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabus also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

Acts 11:1-3, 17-18 “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.  And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them … Foreasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?  When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

Acts 15:7-11 “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Racism and prejudice appeared in the early Christian church.  This shameful bias raised its ugly head even among the apostles as they wrestled with Gentiles coming to salvation through Christ.  Fortunately, the truths of God’s universal love quickly won the day!

God’s love through Christ sees no boundaries between people.  He puts no distinction between us and other believers who may be different than us.  He loved the world so much that He gave His Son to pay the sacrifice for all.

Equality was God’s design through creation – God made a choice among us that all should hear the word of the gospel and believe.  It is His universal gift to a creation made in His image.  Who are we to withstand God’s plan?  Who are we to tempt God? 

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO SHOW THE POWER OF GOD’S UNIVERSAL LOVE THROUGH OUR WITNESS AND THROUGH OUR FELLOWSHIP. When you see someone different than you, remember this one important truth – in God’s creation there is no difference between us and them.

A Precious Gift of God

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

II Timothy 1:9 “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”

James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Based on the social, political, and historical context of the day in which we live, we are seeing a phenomenon that is unprecedented in Twenty-first Century America – a laser-like focus on the precious value of life and the well-being of even the most feeble among us.  Daily we see tallies of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, with the latter being dominated by those with weakened underlying health conditions.  It is as if we have been awakened to the fragility of life, and the importance of genuine care and concern for every single human being.

The value of life has not changed since 2019.  It has been a precious gift of God throughout human history.  It is valuable regardless of whether your life is characterized by infirmity or vitality, invalidity or athleticism, ignorance or intellectualism.  It is worthy of the deepest concern, whether you are old or young, unborn or born, feeble or vibrant.  If anything, God has placed a special premium on those who modern society has often neglected, demeaned, and discarded.

PLEASE PRAY THAT, AS A SOCIETY, WE WOULD PERMANENTLY INTERNALIZE THE CRITICAL LESSON THAT EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS.  At some point a running tally of the deaths of the weakest among us will be removed from regular public view.  Even then, may we as a society remember the important lesson of early 2020 that life is a precious gift of God that must be valued, esteemed, and protected.

All Men!

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Based on a Biblical understanding of God’s creation, the Declaration of Independence boldly declares the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Though we as a nation have not adequately lived up to these lofty self-evident principles of equality for all, they should chart our course as individuals, communities, and congregations.  Our failures of the past and present should illuminate our path towards the future.

Nearly two years ago, I posted the following thoughts in a post entitled “God’s Image.”  They ring true today more than ever:

“In a world characterized by polarization and division, we are quickly diverging from an important founding pillar – that all men are created equal because all men are created in the image of God.  As such, there is no room for the intolerable hate that often is directed towards those who are different from us.  This is especially true for Christians who are disrespecting our God whenever we treat anyone in a way not characterized with full dignity and respect.  God created each person just as much as He created you.  He loves each person just as much as He loves you.  Your disrespect for others will not separate them from God’s love, but will only separate you from God’s will.”

May Christians lead the way towards the Biblical understanding of equality, dignity, and respect for all people, and away from the ugly stains of bias, discrimination, and hate that plagues our society. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO LEAD TOWARDS A CHANGED SOCIETY THAT TREATS ALL PEOPLE WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT.  God’s image is reflected in each and every person.  May we treat everyone with a firm understanding that all men are created equal.

The following link will take you to “God’s Image”:  http://prayatlunch.us/gods-image/

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