Tomorrow, I’ll be preaching from my home. In an effort to protect our church members and guests from exposure to Covid-19, we won’t meet at our church building until Emergency Management officials feel that it is safe to meet in groups of more than ten.
To be honest, I’ve been amazed at the responses I’ve seen on Facebook regarding the canceling of church services. Some have said, “We’re going to meet like we always do. God will protect us.” Others have said, “The government can’t shut us down!”
My response is the same as when we talked at church last Wednesday. Given the average age and health conditions of our church members, it would be irresponsible to insist on “services as normal”. Protecting everyone from possible exposure to a deadly global pandemic is the “new normal”. Yes, I think that the panic-mongers in the mainstream media are hard at work. And they are succeeding. I mean, just look at the TP shortages. What could be more illogical in the face of a global pandemic of an upper respiratory virus than hoarding TP?! The two are utterly unrelated.
Ok, I’ll step down off my soapbox now.
If you’re available, please join me at 11:00 am CDT for my Sunday Morning sermon. Because we don’t have a license to stream copyrighted music, we’re following the law. Who knows how long this will last. God does. And He is stretching the church to do things differently.
In today’s Bible reading, the writer of the book of Hebrews urges his readers to respond in a positive way to hearing God’s voice. He quotes Psalm 95:7-8 and urges his readers to not harden their hearts if they hear God’s voice.
There is a danger to being familiar with God. The danger is that He becomes so much a “friend” that we no longer find Him awe-inspiring. We no longer see Him with a sense of wonder. Instead, he fits neatly in a box of our creation and choosing.
But the reality is that God will never really fit in a box. God cannot be tamed. God will not be tamed. We must always remember that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29) If you get too close, you will be burned.
There is also a danger to being familiar with God’s Word. Unless you guard against it, you can go through the motions of reading and hearing God’s Word without listening to His voice. He urges his readers to encourage each other daily to prevent sin from deceitfully hardening their hearts.
As you spend time in God’s Word, ask Him to speak. As He speaks, ask Him to show His majesty. Ask Him to show you His magnificence. Ask Him to give you a fresh taste of His greatness. Linger in His Word until you get a fresh taste. And worship.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your heart from being hardened is to strive for instant obedience to whatever God says. Remember that God is God and you aren’t.
A few days ago, I mentioned that demonic encounters in the Bible are relatively undramatic. And then in today’s Bible reading, we see a very dramatic demonic manifestation with a boy who is thrown to the ground, his mouth foams, he grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. When Jesus casts out the demon, it cries out and convulses the boy’s body. (Mark 9:17-29) That’s pretty dramatic!
But as I said, demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Jesus is mighter than our enemy, and much more so than our enemy’s servants. There is never a question in Scripture who is stronger and has more authority! If God’s Holy Spirit lives in you — and He lives in all Believers — you have access to a greater spiritual force than your enemy.
So why were the Disciples unable to cast out this demon? Jesus says that sometimes they can only be driven out by prayer. (Mark 9:29) So how were the Disciples trying to drive out the demon? We don’t know, but obviously they weren’t using prayer.
Why do we so often turn to prayer as our last resort? I mean, we may do everything we can. We may ask for other people to help. And then, when we’re at our wit’s end, we turn to prayer. Why?
It goes back to our fallen nature that we inherited from our First Parents, Adam and Eve. They chose independence from God. They chose self-reliance. They chose to do things their way. And so do we, even as Believers.
Spend a few minutes today declaring your dependence on God. Remember that Jesus knew that He could do nothing on His own initiative (John 5:19). And if Jesus had to live in submission, in dependence on God, why would you think you can?
In today’s Bible reading, we see two witnesses given authority to prophesy/preach against the people’s sins for a period of time. During their allotted time, they are immortal; no one can harm them. At the end of the allotted time, people martyr the witnesses and leave their bodies on the street until the witnesses are resurrected on the third day after they are killed. (Note: The word we use for “witness” is the Greek word “martyr”.)
The witnesses are called home to heaven, and an earthquake on the earth follows. FINALLY, the people are terrified and glorify God. (Revelation 11:13)
How long? How long does it take for God to get your attention? How quickly do you respond? How deeply do you respond?
“Oh, Believers will be raptured before the ‘end times’ begin so we don’t have to worry about the End Times!”
Not according to Jesus!
When Jesus showed up and began ministering two thousand years ago, the “end times” began. (Luke 11:20) In other words, we don’t have to wait for the “end times”. We’re living in it. The Kingdom of God is already here. The Kingdom of God has come, but it hasn’t been consummated. Right now, we’re living in the overlap of This Age and The Age to Come. For now, we live in the tension of “Already, but not yet”.
In other words, eternal life doesn’t begin when we cross over to the other side of eternity. Eternal life begins on this side of eternity. We can know God now! (John 17:3) We get to experience Kingdom of God life now!
Spend some time today thanking God for sending Jesus to initiate The Age to Come. Look for ways you can partner with God to usher in His Kingdom. Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33)
Several years ago, one of my favorite videos that made the rounds on Facebook was the one of the little girl who told her daddy to worry about himself. As she struggled to free herself from her carseat, her daddy offered to help her, but she kept saying, “Worry about yourself!” It seemed that she would never be able to press the button and gain her freedom. But she was not going to let her daddy help. She was at the precious stage of life where she thought she could do everything herself without help from anyone else. Some of us never grow out of that stage.
Today’s Bible reading includes a little story of a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter asks what would become of John the Beloved Disciple. Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:22) In other words, Jesus tells Peter, “Worry about yourself. Don’t concern yourself with the fate of others. Make sure that you follow me.”
Why is it that we are always concerned about other people when Jesus starts “getting up in our business”? Just when He begins to answer our prayer to, “Search me, O God” (Psalm 139:23), we shift the attention off ourselves and onto someone else. Why do we do that?
I think it has to do with the fact that we know deep down that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24) As much as we want to claim that we love God with all that we are, deep inside, I think we’re afraid of God. Some of that fear can be good. We must always be on guard, lest we become too familiar with God and forget that He is to be respected. He is to be feared. He is awe-inspiring. I recently began reading a book, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. It’s important to remember that although God is kind, He is not tame.
How comfortable are you with God? It’s important to see Him as a Friend. But He is so much more than a friend. And we must always remember that God is not like us, though we are like Him. We can never be buddy-buddy with God because He is so beyond us and so beyond our comprehension.
Spend some time today praising God for His greatness and awesomeness. Read through Bible passages like Psalm 8, reflecting on how the infinite God has revealed Himself to finite humanity.
If you’d like to read more about having a healthy respect, a healthy awe for God, take a look at the book I mentioned above. Admittedly, that book is a very deep read. A couple of books that are a little more approachable are Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck and Awe: Why it Matters in All We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp.
 Hat tip to CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, the Fawn tells Lucy that Aslan is a very good lion, but he is not tame.