coronavirus

Teach us to Pray

One of the things children do not do very well is wait.  You know how they are impatient and want what they want right now.  There are adults just like that who are impatient and have never broken from the tradition of their human nature, but it shouldn’t be that way with the child of God, especially in the area of prayer.  Years ago, I was on the floor in our home praying and I said my prayer and got up.  Immediately when I stood up, God spoke to me.  He said, “Joe, you have not learned to pray until you learn to sit in my presence quietly.”  Another time I was praying and seeking God for direction for a message I was going to preach, and as I prayed the Lord said, “Joe, there’s no way you could hear what I have to say to you because of all the clutter in your mind.”  Over and over I have been reminded of the disciple’s request in Luke 11:1-4,

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

Being taught to pray sounds like a one-time class memorizing verses 2-4.  The reality, however, is that being taught to pray is memorizing a group of sentences or even a structure, but being taught to pray is about waiting on the teacher to show up every time you start to pray.  Most Christians never pray long enough for the teacher to even come into the classroom of our prayer closet.  We give God our list and go on and never wait on the Lord to meet us there.  To be taught to pray you must, you must wait on the teacher to show up.  For some they may start in prayer and the Lord shows up 5 minutes into their prayer, and for others they must be in prayer 10 minutes or 15 minutes.  If you’re praying just to be praying because it’s what you do, then you may never stay long enough in prayer.  But if you’re praying to meet with the Savior, you’ll learn to stay long enough for the Savior to show up.  

How do you know when the Lord shows up in your time of prayer?  One of the first things is there is a strengthening in your mind.  When you wait for God in prayer, there is a focus and clarity in your prayer that was not there before.  When you wait for the Teacher in prayer, He directs your mind in what to pray for specifically.  When you wait for God in prayer and He shows up, you don’t want to leave that time of prayer.  It’s true that we should have a child-like faith, but we should not have a child-like prayer life.  Wait on the Lord in your prayers and He will teach you how to pray. 

Going to the Next Level

Parents often are forced to go to the next level when attempting to gain the attention of their children.  It happens in every home where the child gets so captivated in a movie or in a game that breaking away to listen to mom or dad becomes a challenge.  But when the child is unresponsive to the beckoning of the parent, the parent usually goes to the next level to get their attention.  The first level is normal volume conversations and if that doesn’t work, the parent goes to the next level by turning their voice volume up.  If the child is unresponsive to the change in volume, the next level could be a threat to remove from the child whatever it is that has captured their attention.  When the volume level and threat levels do not work, parents still have another level to resort to and that is to turn off or snatch away whatever their child is mesmerized by.  

We must know that in our walk with God, when we become unresponsive to His attempts to get our attention, He goes to the next level.  This spiritual progression is often regrettable in that it should not take that much for us to turn and heed the voice of the Lord, but sadly, too often it does.  In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 we read,

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

God has used this coronavirus to get the attention of some of His children, but still there are many unresponsive inviting God to go to the next level.  One effective level God uses to get our attention is sickness and health issues, even death.  That doesn’t mean that every sickness and every death is a calling from God to get your attention, but it has proven to be effective.  Another effective level God uses is accidents that lay people on their backs, but again not every accident is God trying to get your attention.  God is not limited in the ways He works to get our attention.  Many times the plain preaching and proclaiming of His Word by men and women filled with the anointing of God gets the attention of those God is calling.  God got the attention of the Ninevites by the loud voice of a rebellious man who had been released from a whale.  

The point is, does God have your attention by what is taking place in the world today or does He need to go to the next level?  Joni Eareckson Tada once said, “God permits what He hates to accomplish things that He loves.” Perhaps God is gently using this short blog to say, “Hey, I’m talking to you, stop what you are doing and listen to me.”  

Long Prayers

Calvary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Texas was my family’s church growing up from the time I was 8 years old.  It was a small town church filled with godly people who loved the Lord.  Mason Gray was the pastor there when my family joined and he was the one who baptized me.  As a young kid I listened half the time, but when it was time for the service to end, there was like a renewed interest in the service that came over me.  It didn’t take long to know who prayed publically and who didn’t, and I never wanted our pastor to call on Brother White for the closing prayer.  Brother White prayed great prayers as far as I was concerned, but his prayers were stretched for seemed like ages.  He was very serious about the Lord, but spoke slow and somehow stretched out even one syllable words.  

Looking back on it today, I have come to believe that every follower of Christ should pray long prayers.  I’ve been in prayer circles where by the time you took your cap off and lowered it in reverence to pray, the “Amen” came and it was over.  I do believe in short quick prayers to God, but the follower of Christ is called to long prayers.  It was the apostle Paul who said to “pray without ceasing.”  Jesus said, 

“And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13

Praying should become such a normal part of our lives that we weave them in and out of our normal conversations.  For the follower of Christ, praying should be like breathing, and it can be and will be when our minds are constantly going towards heaven.  Whatever you do, don’t stop talking to God!  I heard a man praying recently and in the middle of his prayer he started talking to the people who were listening and then he went right back to praying to the Father.  God’s ears are always open ready to hear what His children have to say.  Pray all day long! 

Riverside Prayer

And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met [there.]”.         Acts 16:13

Some things should compel you to pray more than at other times.  The apostle Paul’s instructions were to never place the “Amen” on the end of prayers, but to “pray without ceasing.”  In this time of uncertainty and fear because of the pandemic and imposed global orders to stay at home, our prayers should be on the rise and never ending.    Those women mentioned in Acts 16:13 were in a prayer group encouraging one another and seeking the Lord.  It says nothing of a pandemic, but only a faithfulness to come together and pray.  So this suggests the question, are you in a prayer group?  How much praying to God is taking place in your home?  Is your prayer life on the increase?  Did you know that how much time you spend in prayer is one of the number one indicators of what you believe?  

It was when prayers were offered to God by the riverside that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to the truth of the gospel.  She worshipped with a closed heart until she heard the truth proclaimed by Paul.  How many people do you think are just like Lydia, in a prayer group worshiping God with a closed heart?  I would estimate many have been in our midst knowing they need to open their hearts to Christ.  It says, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14

Prayers were being made, the gospel was proclaimed, and God opened Lydia’s heart.  You need to believe that your prayers are moving mountains and that there is so much power when we come together to pray.  Right now is a great time to start a prayer group ministry with two or three or five people.  Someone has to lead in prayer just like someone led those women to the riverside to pray.  Why not you?  Step up to the mountain of fear that’s stopping you, gather some people with you and start praying and seeking God’s face.  He will meet you at the foot of the mountain, and as you pray, you will get to see the mountain move.  Let’s pray!

Jesus, Would You Get That?

In a world full of extreme diversity of experiences, we all find common ground in the experience of death.  You will die!  At some point in your life, if the Lord Jesus Christ does not return before that moment, your heart will stop and your lungs will cease expanding with breaths.  Right now death is on the hearts and minds of so many people with the pandemic virus as an updated death count is given throughout the day on the news.  Death also doesn’t discriminate race or economic status.  It will visit every home from the trailer house to the gated mansions.  And death doesn’t wait for you to get it all together!  You could be snatched away in a moment—even in this very hour.  And because we understand this is the nature of death, it’s all that much more important to prepare yourself for your death.  Look at this word on death:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  Hebrews 9:27-28

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.”  Ecclesiastes 9:5

So how do you prepare for this unexpected final event in your life?  Have you prepared?  Have you given your death much thought?  Solomon tells us in a general sense (since you know you are going to die, Ecc.9:5) we prepare for death by learning how to live right now.  

“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that [is] your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there is] no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”  Ecclesiastes 9:9-10

“So teach [us] to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalms 90:12

When you learn how to live you will be prepared to die.  In short, Solomon tells us that life is only worthy living when God is factored into the equation of your life.  We learn how to live by learning who to live for.  You do live for someone.  You can live for yourself or you can live to please everyone around you, or you can live your life for God.  The only way to live your life for God is you must have God, and the only way to have God in your life is to have God’s Son.  

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11-13

Death will come visit you one day and when it does, just let Jesus get the door.  

Guards in the Cemetery

Who has ever heard of stationing guards at a cemetery?  Usually when we think about guards, we think about prison guards who are assigned shifts to secure inmates so they don’t escape.  But there are guards in many other segments of society, such as guards in local jails, guards at banks, guards at large corporations, and guards who transport money from businesses to banks or smaller banks to larger banks.  

It was fear or faith that made the chief priests and Pharisees go to Pilate after the death of Jesus to request guards be stationed at the tomb.  Even though the followers of Christ didn’t remember how Jesus spoke of rising up after three days, the religious leaders did, and feared it would either happen or wanted to stop any opportunity for His body to be removed.  Pilate told them,

“You have a guard; go your way, make [it] as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”  Matthew 27:65-66

This fear or faith still exist today and the guards are still positioned to prevent Jesus from escaping the tomb.  Guards are placed in every church house disguised behind the scriptures that say, “Let all things be done in decently and in order.”  I Corinthians 14:40. 

You cannot argue against decency and order because it says it right in the Word.  The guards are also in the church disguised in leadership positions who control every single aspect of ministry with strict rules, because of the fear that someone might actually shout “Hallelujah” or lift up their hands or worship with true freedom.  I am not against decency and order, and I am not for fake spiritual shows, but I am also smart enough to know that when a church is led by the Spirit of God, there will be decency and order whether or not you are comfortable with it or not.  Our God is not a God of confusion or chaos.  Too many of us want to stay spiritually comfortable when all God wants to do is come alive in dead churches.  Christ is alive, but is He alive in our assembly?  

The guards are not just in the church, you have a guard assigned to you personally.  This is the guard of your flesh sealed to your soul and spirit.  Your own flesh is the guard who refuses to surrender completely control of your life to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  All the guards in the world could not have stopped Jesus from coming out of that tomb on the third day.  The guards didn’t stop Him, so don’t let the guards stop you whether those in the church or that one assigned to you.  Let Jesus be resurrected in your life today.  

Pray for the Children

The collateral damage of the coronavirus pandemic will be so much more than can be added up on a calculator.  Yes, there is the loss of jobs and the unfortunate loss of a business, and the saddest is the loss of life.  But there are so many more things damaged with the (Stay-at-home) orders.  The greatest collateral damage will be on the hearts and minds of little children.  Many children suffer today because of immature parents.  Many children suffer because their main teacher is whatever is on the television.  Other children suffer because they catch the anger expressed by mom and dad because they cannot pay their bills and they cannot stay sober.  Our hearts would fail us if we knew the kind of abuse many children are exposed to and suffer.  The sexual abuse was at least limited when dad had to go to work.  We must cry out to Our God who is,

“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, [Is] God in His holy habitation.”  Psalms 68:5

“But You have seen [it]; for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it with Your hand: the helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.  Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.”            Psalms 10:14

There is a lawful responsibility to report child abuse and there is a spiritual responsibility to bring this to our Father in heaven.  I have seen this on a personal level and how it devastates a family, and many families live silently in that devastation and distraction.  The collateral damage is often seen years later when the abused children commit suicide or become addicted to drugs or they themselves turn into what they hated in their childhood.  We can pray for the children we know who are around us, and we can also praise God for the day the police show up and the family is broken up, but the abuse ends.  

Where is God the Father in all of this?  He is there in the midst with complete power to intervene, but He is also there with a plan to turn all the pain that child suffers into a fierce advocate for children and a counselor and a trophy of His transforming grace.  God will right every wrong one day, but today He wants you to pray.  God may ask, “Where are you in all this?”  “I never saw you at the throne, I never heard you cry out for my help for the helpless and abused.”  Let’s pray for the children.

Don’t Say That!

My children were not allowed to say certain words as they were raised.  They were not  allowed to tell each other “shut-up” or “stupid” or “dumb.”  When unexpected devastating events come against a nation, or specific regions of a nation, there is a word no one wants to hear or say and that is “judgment.”  When a global pandemic comes and claims lives, removes our freedom, takes our jobs, and threatens our future, still no one wants to hear about the judgment of God.  For some reason when anyone calls a pandemic the judgment of God, they are labeled as a doomsayer. But if we view Gods Word as more than a historical antiquated document and actually see it as a relevant living document, then suggesting the pandemic might actually be judgment of God would be logical. 

Many of the prophets of the Old Testament were called to preach a message of judgment.  Their message was, “repent and get right or God is going to get you right.”   Jonah was the rebellious passenger in a ship with other men headed to Tarshish.  He had received the command of God to preach a warning message of judgment to the Ninevites, but decided he didn’t want that assignment, so he set sail in another direction.  As a result of that rebellion and disobedience, the Amber Alert was sounded and God rocked the sea and gave a whale an assignment.  Many times when judgment comes, we think it is because of the wickedness of men, and in some cases it is, but most of the time it is because of the rebellion and disobedience of God’s people.  Think about what this means.

“For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”           1 Peter 4:17

You will never find an article on preaching on the judgment of God in any of the new church growth books, and seldom will you ever hear of a series focused on the judgment of God.  But you will find the subject of judgment as a consistent theme throughout God’s Word. In fact, the last book in the Bible is filled with the details of the future unthinkable judgments that are still to come. This coronavirus may be or may not be the judgment of God, but because God is such a good Father and the church in many cases has set sail in another direction rejecting the holy commands of God, there are strong indicators that it is.

When God’s judgment falls, respond with repentance, that’s what the Ninevites did.  We also know that God gave Jonah another chance.  Our God is so full of grace, love, and mercy, but He is also a good, good Father who will always respond when His children disobey. 

Press On

DON’T GIVE UP!

We all made have decisions we later regretted and we’ve all experienced life events we wish we had skipped over. From the selling of a good running paid off car to quitting a good-paying job for what looked like a better opportunity, to diving into a relationship that ended with an emotional explosion, we’ve all been there. What has happened, has happened and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you should press on. This coronavirus event has most people waiting and wondering about what to do and the answer is, press on. Just because we are personally isolated doesn’t mean we have to be socially introverted. Take what life has given you at this moment, (Stay at home orders, quarantine, job loss, business closed) and don’t sink in it, but press on with the attitude and vision that God is going to guide and lift you out of it and some point. For the sake of your family and children and your witness for Christ, press on. The apostle Paul knew very well about the potential to get stuck spiritually. He said,

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do,] forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

In the Old Testament, Joseph, the son of Jacob understood how to press on when life pressed in.

“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners [were] confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who [were] in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything [that was] under [Joseph’s] authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made [it] prosper.” Genesis 39:20-23

You cannot afford to allow the corona-virus pandemic to dominate your life and shut you down. But you must press on spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically using the gift God gave you. You can give up or you can get up in the morning and tell yourself, “I’m pressing on today!” Listen you are not someone who can be stopped, just like Jesus could not be stopped. You may not have a job anymore with the company, but you have a job with the kingdom of God. You are still on a mission even in quarantine, so press on.

Draw Near

God in heaven watches your every move, records your every word, and understands your every thought and motivation.  In a crisis, a prudent man’s natural response is to draw near to God.  God uses the trials and troubles as spiritual tools to draw us closer to Him.  In moments of fear and uncertainty, drawing near to the father is what children do.  The question is, however, since the pandemic of the coronavirus, have you moved towards God?  Have you been awakened out of the spiritual stupor we all tend to fall into?  It is still possible that the coronavirus pandemic has not moved you at all spiritually.  It is possible to listen to the news, hear the coronavirus confusion, feel the anxiety and fear rising up in you, and still never move an inch towards God.  The Psalmist speaks for himself when he said,    

“But [it is] good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.” Psalms 73:28

Some will draw near to the facts and the science of the matter.  Some people will draw near to whatever it is that will help them escape the reality of the pandemic.  Still others will draw near to the illusion that it will all soon be over and it will only be considered as a close call or bad dream.  Some will draw near to their stockpiles of food and supplies and keep count with rotating their inventory.  Some will draw near to God as the Psalmist did.  Just as one of the state governors announced yesterday he had looked at recent data to see the movement of people from the tracking devices of their cell phones, God sees who moves towards Him and those who draw near to other things.  In a time of crisis, we all draw near to what we trust in.  What is it for you?  

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