April 8 - What do we receive by this New Covenant? -- Part 8 We Become Partakers of the Glory of God the Father
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18
And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.
For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
When Jesus, the incarnate son of God, was raised from the dead – we, those that believe Him, get not only access to heaven, not only spiritual life, not only our emotional, physical, and material needs met, but we get God’s own glory – His presence and goodness resting in and on us for all eternity for the whole world to see. We become His own children, just like Jesus, in His own image and nature. It is the greatest honor in the universe. Let’s celebrate Him. He is risen!
April 7 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 7 We Received Financial Prosperity for Every Good Work
Matthew 6:31-33 NLT
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Luke 22:35 NLT
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?” “No,” they replied.
Phil 4:19 NLT
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
2 Cor 9:8 NLT
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
In the new covenant, God has provided for everything that we need to live successfully for His Kingdom. That includes financial and material possessions. We are called to not love and desire possessions, but to build His Kingdom and be generous to those in need, and He will provide for all that we need. The flip side of this is – if we find ourselves with financial and material need that are not satisfied, the question arises: “Are we doing His will? Are we doing our part of the covenant according to His instructions?
April 6 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 6 We Received Healing of Our Mind and Body
In Isaiah chapter 53, the prophet sees in the spirit and describes the future sacrifice of Jesus, what happens in the spirit, and what it means for us.
Isaiah 53:4-5 Amplified
Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pain [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.
Isaiah 53:5 NTL
But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!
Matthew 8:16-17 NLT
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. All the spirits fled when he commanded them to leave; and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”
Jesus’s sacrifice includes not only the death on the cross, but the beating and mockery prior to it. Through His suffering, not only our spirit was bought back from the punishment of sin, but also our mind, emotions, and our physical bodies. In this New Covenant, God has made provision for our whole being – spirit, soul, and body – to be healed, healthy and functioning well in His service. When we suffer from sicknesses and distresses, physical or mental, the question isn’t “if God will heal us”, that already happened on the cross. The question is “What is preventing God’s healing power to flow to me and manifest in my life.”
April 5 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 5 We Received Authority over the Power of Darkness
And Jesus said unto them, “I saw Satan falling from heaven as a flash of lightning! And I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.
Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.
Ephesians 6:10-11, 13
A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Ever since the Adam and Eve’s sin, humans have been trapped by Satan in fear – of death, of sickness, of harm, of poverty, of depression. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He took the power of Satan – the keys of death and hell – and now those who believe in Jesus have the freedom and authority of live free from evil oppression and have the power to overcome every battle with evil – depression, sickness, lack, - that comes their way. In this New Covenant, Jesus’s own power and authority is given to us to use in our life daily
April 4 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 4 We Received Divine Nature
I Peter 2:5, 9.
And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please Him because of Jesus Christ. For you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
II Peter 1:3-4
As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature.
I John 3:2
Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when He comes we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.
When we believe Jesus is raised from the dead and accept Him as our Lord, God puts His own nature into us – we become His children, same as Him. We must reach daily to know Jesus better. As we know Him, and His promises and desires for us, the Holy Spirit works in us to give us God’s desires and His love, and then God’s goodness flows into our lives and becomes an example for others around us.
April 3 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 3 We Received Eternal Life
I Peter 1:18-19, 23
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. For you have been born again. Your new life did not come from your earthly parents, because the life they gave you will end in death. But this new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal living word of God.
Everyone who believes Jesus is raised from death is born again. The dead spirit inside us is re-created by God. We are now an eternal living spirit. Our body is getting older and will one day die and be buried or cremated. But we – our spirit, the real us – will not die, but ascend to God into the heavens in the dimension of the spirit.
April 2 - What Happened on the Cross? -- Part 2 We Received Freedom from Sin
Hebrews 8:8-10, 11
But God Himself found fault with the old [covenant] when He said: [in Ezekiel 31:31-34] “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to each their family, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me. And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins.”
For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ dies to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.
On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – the act that established the new and better covenant between God and human beings. Today instead of having to obey rules and laws in order to receive blessing from God, we surrender our life to Jesus in faith that He took our sins upon Himself in His death, and now we are no longer guilty of wrongdoing. And because we are innocent with Jesus’s innocence, we are free to receive God’s blessing and peace.
April 1 - What Happened On the Cross? -- Part 1 What Is a Covenant
But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, because He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no occasion would have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, God says: “Surely the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I rejected them, says the Lord.”
A covenant is a legal agreement between two or more parties, a promise of action. The old covenant was made between God and His people Israel – if they kept His commandments, God’s protection and Blessing would rest upon them. Because of our human sinful nature, the Israelites could not keep their part of the covenant. Yet God had a plan to create a faultless covenant – and this is the New covenant Jesus executed. Today’s new covenant is an unbreakable covenant, because it is between God the Father and Jesus, the Son. In Him we receive God’s protection and Blessing – better promises like the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says. Let’s learn, practice and celebrate those better promises!
March 31 - Be Still and Listen
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
Today's devotion is an audio reflection by Michael Stafford. Click below to listen.
March 30 - Jesus Speaks, Listen!
Again, He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what would happen to Him, saying, "Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. Then after three days He will rise."
Our God has always shown the future and shared His plan with His people and prophets. When Jesus was on the earth, He too spoke plainly with His disciples about what was to come - about His death and resurrection and about what was going to happen to the disciples. Today Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father God in heaven, but we have the Holy Spirit living inside us to teach us and guide us. Let's take time daily to quiet our mind and ask Him to speak to us about His plan and our lives - and have confidence that He is faithful and will do it. He will tell us of things to come, guide us in our decisions in uncertain times, and help us to finish our course as disciples of Jesus.
I grew up in the 1980s in Bulgaria, a small socialist/communist country at the time. I grew up atheist and didn't hear about the God of the Bible until my teens. When I saw in the Bible the most accurate description of the reality I lived in and saw the goodness of God, I decided to follow Jesus and became a believer. I also realized a very important thing - many things I had been taught before then were false. Since then, I have looked to the Bible to understand the reality I live in, and I've always found information there about any area of life where I needed knowledge - the voice of the Holy Spirit inside opens the words of the Bible to me and guides me in every situation.
Listen to Jesus and the Holy Spirit today. If you don't know how, just ask Him to teach you and you will come across the information you need. Be confident in Him - He knows the future and so should we.
March 29 - Easter Letter from Rev. Shiraiwa
Once again, we are about to celebrate our risen Lord!
Somebody says, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God, and the Christian faith is the absolute truth.” ( I Cor. 15:19-20)
While so many might only see colored eggs or bunnies, we know it goes so much deeper than that. This particular day is like no other. We are experiencing and celebrating His resurrection power in our daily lives. Let us give thanks to our risen Lord!
May grace and peace of the living Christ be with you all abundantly in this season.
March 28 - Losing Your Life
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Right after Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say I am?”, Jesus says these words before he goes up to the mountain to be transfigured. Peter responded to his previous question by saying that Jesus is God’s Messiah. Jesus then tells him that the Messiah is to be rejected, persecuted and then ultimately killed….and then he adds that we are to follow him. Let me repeat that, he is going to be rejected and killed and he is telling his disciples that they must follow him.
Jesus clearly lays down the requirements for being a disciple: (1) Deny yourself daily, (2) take up your cross daily, (3) follow him. Jesus says that we must deny ourselves of our urges and sins, be willing to take up the burdens of sacrificing and suffering for Jesus, and ultimately to follow his commands and words. Jesus makes it very clear that it is not easy to be a disciple, but the rewards are clear. If we lose our lives, we will save our lives with Jesus.
In this Lent season, we are waiting for the crucifixion of Jesus, but also his resurrection. Though Jesus asks us to follow him into this death, he is also asking for us to follow him in his resurrection. Have you lost your life? Are you even willing to lose your life? Use today to mediate and reflect on your life and actions. Reflect on the 3 criteria that Jesus laid out and ask yourself how you can grow in those areas.
March 27 - Who Do You Say I am?
Luke 9: 18-20
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
It is a simple question that Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?”. He already knew what others said about him, and Jesus does not care what they think. He asked his disciples, the people who followed him, lived with him and learned from him what they thought of him. Imagine Jesus asking you what others say about him, and then he asks you “Who do you say I am?”. Are both your answers the same?
I think what Jesus is asking his disciples (and to an extension us) is “What do you really think about me?” For some, the answer is a simple “You are my savior”, but for others it may be complicated. You might answer “Well, I know you are supposed to be a healer, but you did not heal my mother from her illness”. You might answer “I know you are supposed to be a provider, yet I am struggling with finances”. Your answer can also be “I am not sure who you are”.
Our relationship with Jesus is not a one-time event, but a journey we take with Jesus along with others. It is a walk of faith and growth where we must give some of our time to Jesus to allow ourselves to grow. If Jesus had asked the question to his disciples after their first encounter, do you think that Peter would have answered the same way? They experienced his presence and his teachings to the point where Peter can be confident in his answer (and yet they will all betray him still and later will have doubts in their beliefs when Jesus dies).
Take some time alone and image Jesus asking you “Who do you say I am?”. In your alone time, be sincere in your answers. What are the things that you absolutely believe about Jesus and what are the things that you want to believe about Jesus? Be real with yourself and Jesus so that he may grow you in faith in the areas where you feel lacking. Do not be afraid to reach out to someone else if you would like to process your thoughts and if you need prayer.
March 26 - Selah
Selah...a Hebrew word that can be found in the old testament. In English, it means to “take a pause.” This word stuck out in a book I thought I would try to finish, but it made me think about what it means in light of what we are all experiencing. The world has come to a pause so that we can all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Have you taken a time of Selah, to rest, reflect, or give thanks? With technology, entertainment, and our daily responsibilities, every minute of our days seems to be filled with a task or an activity. I know this very well in my own life. I am often working long hours, social outings any chance I get, attending and serving at church, planning my next trip, and often leaving little time for chores or personal time. So with sports, concerts, and life events being postponed, worship services being encouraged online, social outings and travel plans on paused, I am now given this time of Selah. We are all given a time of Selah.
There is good in everything, we just need to take the time to see it. I encourage you to take a Selah, rest from all the busyness, reflect on God's goodness, pray, and give thanks.
We do not know what tomorrow brings, but we can rest in the Lord, for He is
My thoughts based on reading the book When Changing Nothing Changes Everything, by Laurie Polich Short.
March 25 - Christ Our Living Bread
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
Jesus tells us he is our living bread -- our sustainer, provider, nourisher, and the source of our strength, energy, vitality and eternal salvation.
It’s so easy to react to uncertainty by stocking up and emptying store shelves. During times of plenty, it is tempting to rely on ourselves. But despite our station in life or circumstances, the truth is, we are ALL in need of God and always have been. I am reminded today that Christ alone can satisfy my hunger and that my utter dependence on him is continuous and eternal.
Christ taught us to pray for our daily bread. He cannot be stockpiled. We must seek him every day. At the same time, he promises to always be there for us. Just as the Israelites wandering in the desert could not save up the manna for the next day, we too must trust that God’s grace is sufficient for us today and that he will faithfully provide for us tomorrow.
Take comfort in the LORD, our living bread.
March 24 - Pastoral Prayer from Rev. Ann Hayman
From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snowcapped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight*
Holy One, during this time of social distancing and sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remind us that we are still connected to one another. We pray for those impacted by travel bans, those unable to connect with loved ones, those who have insurance, those who do not, those who are getting treatment, and all those who cannot get a hospital bed. God of all, to you we pray. . .
We pray for all of us, who are anxious and afraid. Remind us that we are infinitely connected to you, and we can come to you in prayer at any time, in any setting. And we pray for those who think this is all a hoax, or those who for what ever reason just think this is a big joke. God of all, to you we pray. . .
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every soul
Help us to be the Body of Christ that you call us to be in this moment. May we be your hands and feet right now, in neighborhoods, farms and small towns, hospitals and clinics, tribes and large cities as we work to safely feed each other, heal each other, look out for each other, and act as your instruments in this ailing world. Be with the very young, the school-age children as they watch this world around them.
Guide the healers on each continent, in each country, in each city around the globe, and be with them and each of us as we struggle to navigate new things in new ways. Sustain the researchers, virologists, laboratories and medical transport teams. God of all, to you we pray. . .
From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed
All economies around the world have been terribly affected over these past months. We pray for each of the ways it is impacting the small business owners, investors, our elderly, our homeless, the middle class, all of us in vastly varied ways. May we rebuild together without rank of who is worthiest, but, instead, guided by your light and filled with your love, stronger than we can imagine. God of all, to you we pray. . .
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They are the songs of every soul
May we hear your songs of hope ringing from the balconies of Italy. May we hear your songs of a common band like the Lummi Nation in the US Pacific Northwest as they have planned for months to protect their members. May we hear your songs of peace in the “caremongers” of Canada who out of kindness, not fear, have created online groups searching out need (#iso) and/or providing help (#offer). May we know that these are the songs of all of us, your beloved children. God of all, to you we pray. . .
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance
May God watch over us, and may we watch over one another, from a distance.
*Excerpts taken from From a Distance (Written by Julie Gold, sung by Bette Midler)
Source: World News this Week in Prayer
March 23 - So Lent and COVID-19, huh?
So Lent and COVID-19, huh? I mean, this is crazy! I wonder are you as blown away as I am? Perhaps this is just the way of things. If it’s not war, it’s AIDS, or SARS or H1N1… Life can certainly turn on a dime. It’s really challenging to be grateful these days, though I am extremely grateful that Michael Flatley is not doing a worldwide tour of the remake of The Lord of the Dance!
COVID-19 is impacting the entire planet. It is predominating my heart and thoughts, and I wish I didn’t have to think about it 24/7 or as a friend of mine calls it 7/24. But I want to be safe and healthy. I want my wife and our son to be safe and healthy. I even want my doggie to be so as well. It is in times like these that we can ask questions about God, church, Christian life, and ministry. Are you asking questions like, “what does it mean to be the church during this health crisis?”, “How do I minister when I am supposed to stay away from people?”, “Is God going to save me, save us, save our Church?”, “Is it ok if I am truly terrified?” I mean, I imagine that we all have plenty of questions right now. One thing is for certain, we are not certain about much these days. So, how about this: go on and eat your chocolate and drink your coffee and for lent we give it up! Give up certainty.
As I am asking my own questions and navigating the anxiety in my own heart, it does occur to me that this is the exact time to be the church. Perhaps, and again I am only throwing this out there, we are most likely Salt and Light during times like these.
During times when things seem overwhelming and (let’s just be “pull no punches” honest here) it is scary to reach out, to walk across the hallway to that neighbor with the kids, or to walk across the street, or just be open to help… I mean, shouldn’t we simply take care of El Numero Uno, Ichi-gō, Nanbāwan, my 3 amigos – me, myself, and I? But to be Christian means we are called to remember what God has done and step out in love.
I spoke with a lady at the grocery about hoarding. She said that she just wanted to have a little extra for herself. It feels like we are living in DefCon 2… and DefCon 1 seems imminent. But it is not how we should live. As King David wrote, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me…” We are Christian and we are called to the way of LOVE.
Let’s remember what Jesus endured during his great passion. It seems to me that Jesus understands what it feels like to deal with isolation, social distancing, and COVID-19. Though these are uncertain times, the way of this challenging and uncertain journey leads to Easter and new life.
March 22 - Grateful for God's Love
"For I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, nor principalities, not things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This Lenten season I wrote a haiku poem about God’s love. Haiku is a form of poetry, first made popular in Japan, which has become appreciated around the world. Haiku poets are challenged to convey a vivid message in only 17 syllables. In Japan these poems are valued for their simplicity, openness, depth and lightness. They have specific rules – to use exactly 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5-7-5, to avoid similes and metaphors, and to refer to a season of the year.
Haiku poems can describe anything, but are seldom complicated or hard to understand. Almost all Haiku has a dominant impression, or main idea, that appeals strongly to one of the five senses.
Here is my Lenten haiku poem:
IN LENTEN SEASON
QUIETLY SIPPING MY TEA
GRATEFUL FOR GOD'S LOVE!
March 21 - Prepare a Way for the Lord
Isaiah 40 3-5
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
During lent, we wait for the coming of the Lord on Easter when we celebrate Jesus’ victory of death. For many, though, Lent is just a waiting period and something you do every year. Lent is meant to be a period to prepare ourselves spiritually for what Jesus has already done in our lives. The passage above is the prophecy of John the Baptist, the one who prepares the way for Jesus, and who will come from the wilderness and proclaim the ministry of what is to come.
God does not say that people will make straight the path, he says that these immovable objects like the deserts, hills and plains will level themselves and open for God. We cannot stop what God already has planned. When God speaks, nature will move, and we will see his glory. Things do look sad out there and with churches having to close buildings and there is worry of what this means for the Church, but do not worry. God will move what needs to be moved so that all people will see his glory!
What are the deserts, valleys and hills in your life that you can straighten to make a path for the Lord? Too often we try to hide from God, or we have something in our life that is not allowing us to see God clearly. Today, use your time in reflective prayer. Ask for forgiveness if it is a specific sin that is holding you back. Ask for help if there may be an idol deterring your attention from God. Ask for discernment if you are unsure what is in the way. God does not hide from us, it is us who hide from God. For many, this will involve healing and possibly some time. Do not be afraid or worry if this is a continued prayer that you must do. Prepare your hearts for the coming glory of the Lord.
March 20 - Reflecting on the COVID-19 Crisis
Sometimes we seem to forget that Jesus included “pestilences” along with earthquakes and famines in his prediction of future events. He said all those things will occur but the end is not yet. He goes on to say that we are not to fear but to “stand firm and gain life” when those events take place (Luke 21:11-19). How can we stand firm at a time like this?
Pastor Mike shared in his message last Sunday that we are currently in a fierce storm. Many of us feel emotionally battered and spiritually challenged due to the unknown nature of the virus and by witnessing the wide-spread panic reactions among people. How can we stand firm in a storm like this?
Psalm 46:10 comes to my mind, which declares, “Be still and know I am God.” I have a busy schedule but during my free-time I am learning to meditate on Psalm 46:10 and to listen to the “still small voice” of the Lord in deep silence. Otherwise, it would be very easy for me to engage in my own negative speculations of what might happen as a result of the virus. This way I am protected from slipping into a state of fear and hopelessness.
I have heard that oak trees put their roots deep in the ground when they are battered by fierce storms. Mighty oak trees stand tall because they have been challenged by raging storms that tried to knock them down. Is there a lesson for me to learn here in terms of standing firm and gaining life?
By learning to be still in the awareness of God’s presence, I can go deeper in my relationship with the Lord. He is the Creator of the universe which is full of mysteries which my mind cannot completely fathom but He assures me that I can trust Him because He is in charge.
Currently, my daily life consists of doing what I need to do (while working full-time) with the added activities of learning to wash my hands properly, trying to disinfect my office and to maintain social distance as much as possible.
I am also carefully watching the daily statistical reports on how the virus is behaving. In China where the virus was first discovered, new cases have been steadily declining over the past several days, while the number of cases continues to rise in the rest of the world, including the US. It looks as if China has been successful in containing the spread of the virus, which means other nations can do likewise. I have been told that spread of viral infections follows the pattern of the inverted U shape and China is beginning to come down from the peak while the other nations are still climbing up. We need to continue to practice what the government is asking us to do without yielding to the temptation of falling into fear or despair, while fully trusting in the sovereignty of the Lord who knows all things.
-- Ken Yabuki
March 19 - Do Not Worry
Philippians 4:1, 4, 6-9
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hears and thoughts through Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things. Do those things which you have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."
Faith in God is not just a mental state, or a tradition. Faith in Jesus and God the Father is a reality that can change our thoughts and emotions. In uncertain and dangerous times, the apostle Paul teaches us to be firm in the Lord and protect our joy in Him. He instructs us not to dwell on bad news, but to submit them immediately to the Father in prayer. Paul tells us that God promises that His peace, which comes by the Holy Spirit, will keep our hearts and our thoughts if we reject any oppressive thoughts, fear and worry, and instead think of lovely, good and praiseworthy things. We are bombarded with bad news, scientific and sometimes less scientific reports, and with predictions from all kinds of organizations and people. But as Christians, we should remind ourselves that only our God knows the future, and He is able to protect us from any disaster because He loves us. Let’s practice the goodness of God towards others, remain generous and kind, and keep our thoughts focused on good and positive things. Thinking the bad news over and over again brings no relief, but reminding ourselves that the Lord is our salvation keeps our spirit refreshed and full of joy.
Rejoice in the Lord!
March 18 - How Do We Pray Alone?
“Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing (...) And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.”
Now what? I think we are all asking that question. As we get more reports of what the CDC recommends, then what is coming down from the President’s office, we are being forced more and more into shelter at our homes. Some of us may be sheltered with families, but there are many who are sheltered alone. We are not worshipping together or having bible studies together or even taking communion together. We are all alone, separated from one another. Many people are starting to realize that they may have relied too much on Sunday church for their growth, which is good, but they are beginning to realize that maybe they do not have an in-depth one-on-one relationship with God. Do you have a daily reading of scripture? Do you even pray alone daily? These are not meant to persecute you but to open your eyes. Without Church, how do you worship God alone?
You will have plenty of time to hopefully develop some new healthy routines and maybe even discover new ways that you worship God. Let us begin with the basic though; how do we pray alone? After feeding the five thousand, Jesus chose to go up the mountain on his own and he prayed till the sun came down. Jesus did not pray for a minute, he most likely prayed for hours amid a storm coming in. Can we do the same as Jesus did? Can we remove ourselves from our work, others and from distractions to find a place alone even with a storm coming in and just give God quality time? There is no one single method to pray or even specific words, but there is a specific posture to have. Can you open your heart to God, speak to him and allow him to speak to you? Are you willing to go past 5 minutes of prayer? Are you willing to mediate in the silence? You do not need to pray for hours, unless you feel led. What I am asking for is for you to be open and allow the prayer time to take as long as you think it needs. Turn off the TV and silence your cell phone. You can also read during your prayer or even journal. There is no structure, just give God your time, which I think we all have plenty of more now.
March 17 - Seek Him First
Therefore, take no thought, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) But seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you. Therefore, take no thought about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take thought about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof.
Currently our community is impacted by the threat of the fast-spreading coronavirus COVID-19. But even before these events transpired, I was considering the concept of the Sabbath – a period (a day, a year) of rest. In the Old Testament, God asked His people to not work a full day every week and one full year out of every seven. It dawned on me what work is – it’s providing things for myself. In those days, work consisted mostly of agriculture and raising animals for food, of building homes and making household items – all things necessary for daily life, things that take lots of time and effort. Yet the Lord promised them: give Me the Sabbath - spend time with Me, sing and dance before me, and I will make sure you are supplied with everything necessary for a happy and satisfied life.
Jesus confirms this promise in the New Testament in the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us not to spend all our time seeking things for ourselves, but to dedicate our energy to His purposes, to seek His kingdom, and to rest and trust in Him, that He will supply all our daily necessities and protect us from an uncertain tomorrow.
In times of distress, we are to resist fear and panic and to submit all our needs and concerns to Him because He is faithful to give us a life that’s abundant and overflowing with all good things. In His presence is fullness of joy – this is what Jesus got for us on the cross. As we prepare for this Easter celebration, let us remember the covenant of life we have in Jesus – He is faithful in that promise!
-- Vessie Kazachka