Sunday, April 12, 2020

Who can endure?

Malachi 3:1-3 (CEB)

Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces. Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can withstand his appearance? He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. They will belong to the Lord, presenting a righteous offering.

I know. This quarantine situation is hard to endure. I get it.

I consider myself very blessed because God has shared with me so much and I often cannot believe it. I have a beautiful home, an incredible wife, two daughters (and a daughter-in-law) who work and love in great faithfulness... So when it comes to being asked to self-isolate, it isn't exactly a difficult thing for me.

But I know a lot of you are in difficult situations, restricted in a small space, or with perhaps not the best companions, and I want you to know a lot of people are praying for you.

To that end, I wanted to share with you something a friend of mine shared on Facebook. It is the story of a women's Bible study where they were learning from the book of Malachi. At one point, they noticed verse three in the third chapter, where God is compared to a refiner and purifier of silver. Accepting the analogy, they continued, but one woman thought there might be more in that to understand. So after the study, she went to the local arts community and found an individual who actually had some experience in refining silver.

She went to his studio, and there, he showed her the process. Taking an unrefined amount of silver, he placed it in a crucible and with iron tongs he picked up the silver and held it over a fire. The fire was scorching, but the craftsman was steady holding the silver in the inferno, keeping a close eye on the silver as the smoke of the impurities slowly burnt away.

She asked, "How long must it be held in the fire?"

He replied, "until it is exactly pure, and not a moment more, or it shall be destroyed."

Then she asked, "How will you know the exact moment?"

The refiner replied; "When I can see my image in it."

So here we sit, held in a fire. This can be a time of great refinement, or we can stew and worry and burn until we are destroyed. Know that as we endure this event that God is keeping his steady eye on us. Eventually the fire will end. Trust that God knows exactly how much you can take, and that you will come out pure and stronger for the trouble.

You were made in God's image, and He resides in you, if you allow Him. Let this be a time when you allow yourself to reflect His image. You can do this. You can endure.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Let Them Know Your Gratitude

1 Corinthians 12:24-27

"But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other."


It is a word we hear a lot of these days. Behind the news of petty politics and spiraling statistics, there are countless stories of people who make sacrifices on our behalf.

Doctors and nurses are working to exhaustion to care for patients. Medical researchers are working around the clock to find treatments and cures. There are countless more who risk their lives daily to be on call. There are grocery stockers, checkers, delivery personnel and managers trying to keep up to provide groceries and paper goods. Truck drivers are doing double shifts to get those goods delivered to your store or front step. Clerks become personal shoppers for online orders.

Airline pilots, attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers have had to make major cutbacks while still helping people get from point A to point B. The Travel business has come to a grinding near-halt as passengers on cruise ships and in closing hotels seek ways to get home. Construction workers and planners come together to build temporary hospitals and convert stadiums and warehouses into useable. Even some top-paid executives forgo their salaries to ensure their minimum wage employees continue to be paid. Millions of employees are able to work from home, staying inside to keep the infection curve flat.

And of course, there is always our military coming to the rescue offering assistance in communities, converting ships for medical service, and secure the sources of our supply. Ministries and charities of all kinds look for ways to lighten the burden in their communities. Crafters have turned their sewing rooms into mini-mask factories.

All across America, and around the world, there are people who are making sacrifices for their fellow humans, and every effort, no matter how small, helps in the overall picture.

Sacrifice. We all see it, and we all benefit from those who do it.

Weary from confinement? Here is a suggestion: If you have the means, do something to show these people your gratitude. Make them a meal, give them a gift card... even just write them a thank-you card. Tip a driver and a deliverer. Pray for them and with them. And then do it again. Let the people who sacrifice for you know their efforts are appreciated.

When you reach out beyond yourself, you won't feel so confined. Adopting an attitude of gratitude extends your world beyond your four walls. Let those who sacrifice know you care.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Curse, or An Opportunity?

Matthew 5:10

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Few things break my heart more than to hear people react negatively to Christianity, or any expression of faith. Recently Mike Lindell, the "My Pillow" guy, had an opportunity to stand next to our President and say “I encourage you to use this time at home to get back in the word, read our Bibles and spend time with our families... With our great president, vice president, the administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.”

These were strong words of encouragement. They were inspiring and filled with positive energy.

So naturally the hate began to flow. When Lindell endorsed prayer and the Bible, and especially standing next to President Trump, he immediately became the target for trolls.

Okay, I get it that a lot of people never let the chance to bash Donald Trump pass by. Their disdain for Trump has never ceased ever since he won the Presidency. There are many on both sides of the aisle who cannot see past their prejudices. Okay. That has always been. There have been a few Presidents I never cared for either, I am sorry to admit. Often that blindness gets extended to anyone else in the President's circle. That is politics at its worst, and I don't imagine for a minute that will ever end.

But there are also many who are quick to be hateful toward anyone who expresses their faith in God, Jesus, prayer, and the Bible. As a Christian, it cuts me to my core. I cannot help but feel it is because they have felt wronged by the church or its members. They may have been treated poorly by a Christian who felt compelled to condemn them for the choices they have made. They have been harmed by the church or by someone they thought they could trust. They feel disrespected and belittled because of their beliefs.

I once worked for a church, and nearly every day I encountered the sinful nature of people, both within the organization and outside. It was there that I first heard the phrase; "The church isn't made up of saints, but of sinners." People would leave their valuables laying around, assuming they were safe because they were in a church. Big mistake! Churches, and especially mega-church organizations, attract an unseemly crowd! Church leaders took unfair advantage of their positions. Grifters prey on the trusting nature of people who often drop their guard in a church setting. Confidences are betrayed. It happens, and people get hurt, angry, and end up rejecting faith.

I think of all the times in my life when I represented Christ poorly, and I am ashamed. I know I have hurt people and I know I will never gain their forgiveness or trust again. How I have fallen short, and how I pray I did not drive a wedge between them and belief!

This is an unusual time for all of humanity. It is a time when we can choose to curse our confinements, or we can turn out hearts toward healing. Right now, an entire planet has been brought to reckoning.

Use this time as a time of retreat, unlike any time you have had before. Reflect on how you choose to live, and the legacy you want to leave. Let this be an opportunity for you, and not a burden. That may seem like a tall order when we spend our days hoping to snag some supplies or find a way to pay the rent. I know these are big concerns for many. But be assured that there will come a time when we will once again have all the paper supplies and hand sanitizer we want. Of course, they are important... but we have a bigger need.

What we really need is release our fear and anger and embrace renewal instead. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and learn from them. Become the better you, because we will one day all emerge from this darkness. Some may continue to live in anger and bitterness. But is that what you want for your life?

Let yourself heal, because the world is going to need people of kindness, generosity, and mercy. Be that person.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Coming Together Without Coming Apart

Hebrews 10:24-25

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

These are certainly unusual times, and this pandemic has affected us in so many ways. As I sat to write this, I started to enumerate the problems it has caused, but why? You know the extent of the problems. After a while, it becomes overwhelming. That isn't why I decided to resurrect this blog. Internetspirations has always been about encouraging people, and so I am writing now to do just that.

I know it is hard living within the same rooms day after day, some of us alone and without company. We feel disjointed, sometimes feeling that we are coming apart at the seams. But I have good news for you: God has you right in His hand, and His love for you is genuine. Centuries ago He gave us assurance of His love, breaking down the walls of isolation. He cares about each of us, individually, and He stands at your side even during lonely times.

Hebrews 10 talks about "not giving up meeting together," but in the midst of an event where we can't meet, it is important that we tap into other ways to keep in touch with each other. Back in the Apostle Paul's day, he could not have possibly imagined the resources we have today. With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Facetime and all the other popular social media tools, we can still "meet together" without actually being in the same place. And we can still reach out by telephone to those less than savvy with computer skills. To that end, Paul's encouragement to spur one another toward love and good deeds is still great advice today; perhaps more than ever.

So, for today, take a moment to think about those you know who are isolated and living alone. Give them a call or send a text just to check in with them. Share a memory or a laugh with them if you can. Post a photo of you with them, and tag them with a message about how you are looking forward to that approaching day when you can get together again. If for no other reason, just let them know you are thinking of them.

In this way, you can minister powerfully to friends and family. You will become the presence of love, just as Christ loves us. Demonstrating your love and concern goes a long way in boosting the morale of others. Encourage them, talk with them, listen to them, and be compassionate. In so doing, you will encourage one another, and we will come together, instead of coming apart.

Minister to others, and you will find your spirits lifted as well.