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Amid Covid – C.O.V.I.D.

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He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5 NASB)

Today I want to encourage you with a simple COVID acronym to strengthen you during this season of separation and social distancing. For too long the word “COVID” has injected doubt, fear, and perhaps even anger into our hearts; from now on, when you hear the word, I hope you’ll be inspired to worship the One who is Lord of all—even the Lord of COVID-19. If this message encourages you, please feel free to pass it on.

C = Christ

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47)

O = Our

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14, 16)

V = Victory

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” (Revelation 5:5)

I = In

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

D = Doubt, Discouragement, Disappointment, Darkness, Disease, and Death

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 ESV)

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

No matter what happens while this terrible virus runs its course, whenever you hear the word COVID, remember that Christ is Our Victory in Doubt, Discouragement, Disappointment, Darkness, Disease, and even Death. Jesus always has the last word. He is the living Word of God! Jesus is sitting on His throne, sovereignly in control of all things, and He is working all things together for His glory and for the good of those who are His.

And Jesus is coming back to finish what He started! One day He will return to earth to make all things new, and the new heavens and new earth He has promised to create for us will be so perfect and so glorious that we will not even pause to shed a tear over the dark times which seem to be brooding over the entire world at this time. They will not even be a distant memory as we behold the perfect splendor of Christ, who is and always will be the Light of the world, world without end. Amen.

Until that day comes, keep looking to the One who holds you in the palm of His nail-scarred hand and has promised never to let you go.

You are in my prayers and in my heart.

Purpose and Passion,

Pastor Tommy

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Amid Covid – Almighty Anchor

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We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

As we head into the fourth week of this global pandemic, it can begin to feel as if we are adrift on a sea of uncertainty, trapped on a boat with no rudder as we veer perilously close to running aground on the rocks of disaster. But I want to emphasize to you today that it only seems that way, because the Christian is on a boat that is steadily running its intended course with its sovereign, unwavering Captain standing at the helm.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the anchor of our souls; He keeps our hope firm and secure, regardless of the storms we find ourselves in, including this unprecedented, unrelenting virus. Jesus has assured His followers that we are in Him (John 14:20), and He has promised to keep us safe in the midst of the storm winds of life. Because we are in Christ, and Christ is unmovable, we too are unmovable when the waves of challenge wash over us, including the challenge COVID-19.

The song “My Soul is Anchored,” written by Douglas Miller, encourages and instructs us to stay anchored in the Lord, no matter how hard or how long the winds of challenge and confusion may blow: “If the storms don’t cease, and if the wind keeps blowing, in my life, my soul has been anchored in the Lord.” Remember, Jesus never promised us a storm-free life; in fact, He told us to expect just the opposite. But He also promised that He will take us through every storm that comes our way. And one day, in His sublime, sovereign timing, He will command the storm, “Peace! Be still!” And the raging waves of COVID challenges will become a flat calm.

We live in a broken, sin-stained world as broken, sin-stained people, and so we suffer. But so did Jesus! The King of kings was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He who was sinless suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18). He suffered the heartbreak of rejection by His Father (Matthew 27:46), and he suffered the unimaginably agonizing punishment for your sins and mine (1 Peter 2:24). And Jesus the Christ endured all that suffering so that we would one day enter into the new heavens and the new earth, where there will be no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more suffering, and no more death.

Until we cross the Jordan and reach our glorious, eternal abode, let us fix our eyes on our Almighty Anchor, who promises never to leave nor forsake us. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

You are in my prayers and in my heart.

Purpose and Passion,

Pastor Tommy

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Amid Covid – Power in Powerlessness

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He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

No one likes to feel powerless. Yet in times like these, we are all faced with this absolute biblical truth: We are powerless! We like to think we are in control of our lives until something like COVID-19 smacks us upside the head, reminding us that we are not. But there is a Power that can give us great comfort when we feel most powerless. I’ve quoted Steve Brown here before, who likes to say, “God is bringing you to the end of yourself” . . . to which I add, “And the sooner the better!”

Powerlessness is actually power beyond measure, because that is the place where we acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives. Daniel flatly told Belshazzar that “God . . . holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 NKJV), and what was true for the king of Babylon is just as true for you and me.

But before going on, know this: powerlessness is not—most definitely not—a place to pull over on your life’s journey and put your life in “Park.” It is however, the place that opens the door that will connect you with the one true Power in the universe, and His name is Jesus Christ. This is the place where surrender intersects with strength—true strength, a God-honoring strength—a power that will never flicker, falter, or fail us. This was the place where Paul lived his life of service to the Savior, for he knew well that “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Beloved, God is as all-powerful as He is all-present, even in the midst of this pandemic and even when it looks as if He is not engaged. But think back; He did not look all-powerful when the young shepherd boy laid aside armor and sword, taking only a sling and 5 smooth stones to face the giant Goliath. But He was! God did not look all-powerful when a little boy handed over his five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus to feed a crowd of thousands. But He was! Make no mistake, our God will always appear underwhelming to the watching world. And that is the way He most likes to work, so that when the victory is achieved, there can be no doubt as to Who was responsible for it.

We will get to the other side of this virus, by God’s grace and by practicing our mandated social distancing and the “stay-at-home” orders. But when we do, remember that it was God who brought us through. To be sure, He has provided every means available for us to be responsible citizens of this world as we love our neighbors and obey our civil magistrates. But it is our all-powerful God whose power is made perfect in our weakness. And so let us “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).

To my church family, I can only say that you have no idea how much I miss you and how much I love you. You are in my prayers and in my heart.

Purpose and Passion,

Pastor Tommy

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Amid Covid – Almighty Fools

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God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

Today is the First of April, which traditionally is an annual day of playing practical jokes and pulling hoaxes on others. The perpetrator of the trickery will reveal their behavior by shouting “April Fools!” at the person who was the object of the prank; the victims of the chicanery are referred to as “April Fools.” Now, I suspect that while we are in the midst of this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, not many people are feeling lighthearted enough for playing pranks . . . or for being on the receiving end of one either! But since today is “Aprils Fools Day,” I’d like to encourage you to be an “Almighty Fool.”

Today’s verse provides a powerful word of encouragement for those who are in the family of faith. We are not God’s adopted children because of anything “good” that is in us. When Jesus left His throne in heaven and came to this earth, He chose twelve disciples; note well that He did not choose those whom the world considered wise or powerful or influential. On the contrary, He choose a few poor fishermen and even a despised tax collector, all men of low esteem and position in the community. They had no special learning or ability to do what Jesus was calling them to do.

The world would have expected Jesus to choose the scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the Law, but He did not. He chose the foolish things of this world to shame those who exalted themselves as wise; He chose weak people to shame those who presumed themselves to be strong.

Why would Jesus do such a thing? He had available to Him the elite within the religious community, as well as the elite outside of it—learned Greek philosophers and powerful Roman rulers. Yet He chose the powerless and uneducated so that that no one would mistake the reason for their success in ministry. The more foolish they looked to the watching world, the more glory would be ascribed to the wisdom of God. The more powerless they appeared, the more praise would be given to the strength of the sovereign Lord. Whatever good they were to do would all be attributed to the only One who is truly good (Luke 18:19), and who had called them and empowered them to do it.

When was the last time you considered yourself to be an “Almighty Fool?” You may not be greatly esteemed in the eyes of the watching world, but you are of inestimable value in the eyes of the One who chose you to be His. Remember, you don’t need any special education, position of influence, wealth, or wisdom to be a servant of Christ and to show His love to a lost, broken, and hurting world.

And at this time, when tens of millions of people around the world are gripped by uncertainty, fear, and even despair, remember that all you need to minister to them is Jesus and the willingness to go where He is calling you to go and to do what He is calling you to do. We have been instructed to avoid coming into physical proximity with others, so your ministry this day may be as simple as picking up the phone and reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken with in some time in order to let them hear a calm, loving, caring voice—a simple action that can carry a profound impact.

So . . . probably no Aprils Fools’ jokes today; but let us instead be Almighty Fools who are intent on spreading the love of Christ to a world that needs Him now, more than ever!

Purpose and passion,

Pastor Tommy

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Amid Covid – Perspective

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We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And yes, “all things” includes this global pandemic. Before we go on, notice what the apostle is not saying. He is not saying, “All things are good.” There is a lot of bad in this world, and that includes the coronavirus. People are being infected, many are getting sick, and tens of thousands have died. People are losing jobs, losing income, and, yes, losing perspective. Yet our God promises to work even this for the good of those who love Him.

Keeping this biblical truth in view is the proper perspective for you and me to maintain, especially now. Here are just two of the good things God is working through this dreadful virus.

Confidence Corrector

When the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is shining brightly, we have a tendency to work through the details of life in our own strength. Self-confidence seems to soar when things are going well for us. But when storm winds begin to blow, the waves of challenge have a tendency to correct our self-confidence and shift it to Savior-confidence. Think of it this way: Even with extreme social distancing measures, people all over the world are getting sick. As I write this, more than 30,000 people have died from the virus. With no known vaccine yet, and the estimated time for scientists to create one still months away, we now must look to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, rather than focus on the gifts themselves.

This confidence corrector also extends into our work world. Businesses and entire companies are closing and income is being affected. Some businesses may never recover. The only way out of this mess is up, as we look to our Savior and trust completely in Him.

Where have you been placing your confidence lately?

Idol Identifier

I grew up with a love for sports, having participated in many; injuries have prevented me from continuing to play, but I still watch them. But now the only sports available for viewing are reruns, because the entire sports world has been put on hold. In the past, people have confessed to me that when they are forced to choose between watching a sporting event or worshipping God on Sunday, the sporting event takes precedence. I say all this to say that I believe God is using this virus to help us identify some of our idols, including our professions, our prosperity, and even some of our pleasures, like sports and food. These are all good gifts that our God has given to us, but as I’ve often said here, good gifts become bad gifts when they become ultimate gifts.

Are there any hidden idols that have been exposed in your life while we have been sequestered socially? Remember, proper perspective is knowing that inasmuch as all things are not good, all things will ultimately be worked together for our good, including COVID-19.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. You are in my prayers and in my heart.

Purpose and Passion,

Pastor Tommy

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Amid Covid – The Witness of Wrestling

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I will not let you go unless you bless me. (Genesis 32:26)

Wrestling with God is not a sin, nor is it a sign of faithlessness. Rather, it is a sign of a heart that is being challenged and changed under the weight of what we don’t yet understand. Read on and be encouraged today!

Jacob was on his way home to Canaan after spending twenty years on the run from his brother Esau. After hearing that Esau was approaching with 400 men, Jacob was fearful for his own life and the lives of his wives and children. Instead of spending the night in passionate prayer, Jacob wrestled until daybreak with God. When the Lord determined that Jacob had wrestled long enough, He dislocated Jacob’s hip and demanded to be released. But Jacob cried out, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” To this God responded, “Your name will no longer be Jacob [deceiver], but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:28).

The witness of wrestling has much to say. It says “Lord, I don’t understand but I want to.” It says “I am confused but caring.” It says “I am hurting but still hopeful.” Because we see only a tiny fraction of what our God sees, often we cannot see the relationship between what He is doing in the present and what He has promised to do. All throughout Scripture we read about those who have wrestled with God. David and Job come immediately to mind, but there are many more. Some wrestled in confusion . . . some in frustration . . . some in uncertainty . . . some in grief. But all wrestled with hearts that were beating for the One with whom they wrestled. And just like Jacob, they would not let go of God until they received their blessing.

How is it with you? Have you been wrestling with God in the midst of all the uncertainty and fear brought on by the Corona virus pandemic? Fear not! God is not surprised or shocked by your wrestling, just as He is never surprised by events in the world. He invites you to come into the closest possible contact with Him, moment by moment. Right now we’re all being instructed to maintain “social distance” from each other, but you never need to maintain any distance from the Lord, nor should you! Like Jacob, hold on tight and refuse to let God go until you have received your blessing.

I have repeated this promise from the Lord Jesus many times here, but His words provide the perfect conclusion to today’s word of encouragement:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;

and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Amid Covid – Encouragement

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The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 119:165)

To be sure, we are living in distressing times unlike anything we have faced in the past. Yet we have a stronghold promised to us in times of trouble—times such as right now, when we are in the midst of the spread of COVID-19.

When I look for a biblical definition of encouragement, I understand it as God’s supernatural way to fill us with cosmic courage to keep going when we would rather not. We have all experienced encouragement, and we know instinctively how to recognize it when it shows up. It’s a word that speaks and a work that shows just how much someone cares. It’s like seeing that rainbow arcing across the sky after a day of pouring, pounding rain, a message from our God that shouts to us, “I am with you . . . I am for you . . . and I have gone before you!”

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “encourage” is parakaleo, which means to bring comfort, but also to strengthen, to exhort, to urge. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 we are commanded to “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” If we all need encouragement—and we do—then we all need to be encouragers. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). Who in your life right now could use a little extra encouragement from you with a word you can speak or a work you can show, knowing that you simply cannot give without also receiving?

It is my prayer that this Amid Covid series will provide a source of biblical encouragement to you and those you love as we all walk and work together to slow the spread of this virus for the glory of God and the good of all our neighbors. In this unprecedented time, which has cast a shadow of fear over the entire world, let our faith in the Savior be a source of hope and comfort—not only for ourselves, but for all those with whom we come in contact.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

I’ll be back again on Friday. You are in my prayers and in my heart.

Purpose and Passion,

Pastor Tommy

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