No Longer Normal

In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.

Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.

For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.

However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.

For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.

However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?

The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.

The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.

There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.

2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.

Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.

Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.

NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –

Life is no longer normal!

Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!

Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!

It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!

Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!

Is it well with your soul?

Thank you to J.L. Pattison for sharing this poignant hymn from Sovereign Grace. The beautiful words and story that accompanies Horatio Spafford’s beloved “It is Well” still rings true today, especially for those who learn daily (and sometimes hourly) to trust in the sovereign purposes of God.

Tomorrow, we will be sharing a very special post on behalf of J.L. Pattison and his family. This dear friend and brother has been a great encouragement to our family as well as to the extended readership of “Truth in Grace” and previously on “Defending Contending.”

In the meantime, I would ask you if it is well with you? If so, realize afresh and anew that we have the privilege of coming into the throne room of grace and petitioning the Father with our cares and concerns.

Be blessed today as we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith – Jesus Christ!

Don’t Forget

I am reading through the book of Numbers and remembering how important it is to not forget the good things God has done. Unfortunately, humankind hasn’t changed and, when trials come, it’s easy to wonder how God can do these things to US–His servants! Bad things do happen to Godly people, however, and you must remember it is these things that increase our faith and have the capacity to make us more Godly if we would surrender.

This is a reminder I needed today. I have seen God’s hand at work so many times and, even when I can’t see, I need to trust and know that everything He allows in my life is for my good and His glory. It is often in the valley that I take more time to seek His face and listen for His voice. I admit this to my shame but it is something I think about when trials come. If this is the only way that God can get my attention, then I need not complain but, instead, I should be praising Him for His faithfulness in continually drawing me closer to Him.

I pray I never forget His goodness and His love for me. I hope you don’t either. Over and over in Scripture, God told the Israelites to Remember. God is still saying that today. Thank Him for His blessings for they are many.

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Will the Real Christians Please Stand Up?

This is different than probably anything I have ever written. I have wanted my writings to be a means of encouragement to those who are struggling or who need a pick-me-up. I do believe, however, that God laid this on my heart so I hope you will bear with me for this very solemn post. I am sure most of you have heard about what is happening over in Iraq; however, if you can’t handle the details, feel free to skip to the second paragraph.

I have read a couple short articles on the atrocity that has been happening in Iraq the past few days. I didn’t read more than that because, honestly, I can’t handle it. My heart is breaking for those people, however, as I pray for their strength and comfort. Many watched their children beheaded or cut in two. They had to flee their homes which have now been taken over by this terrorist group. I am reminded that Christian persecution has not ended. For a while, it has been out of sight and out of mind, but I am endeavoring to begin praying for the persecuted church like never before.

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Here in America, we have had it so easy. Any persecution we have faced has been really minor compared to what our Brothers and Sisters in many other countries have experienced. I am grateful for this but I don’t believe this freedom will last forever. We very well may live to see the day when our lives are in danger as well. If this doesn’t happen in my lifetime, my children and grandchildren may see that day. Would I stand firm as so many martyrs have done and boldly declare that Jesus is my Lord? The Sunday School answer is, “Yes!” I know that’s easier said than done though. I think I would probably have the boldness to die for Christ but what about being tortured day in and day out for months on end? Or what about seeing my children tortured in front of my eyes? Is my faith and devotion to Christ strong enough to withstand those things?

I am not trying to scare anyone. Life is plenty scary and uncertain without me adding to that. But I do want to tell you that this is the time to choose who you will serve. This is the time to get as close to God as you can without any compromise. If you are not fully surrendered to Him now and willing to do whatever He asks of you, you will not be instantaneously willing to suffer for Him when that day comes. Second Timothy 3:12 tells us that “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of when and to what degree. The call is still the same, however. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

I am challenging myself as I challenge all of you. Whether you agree with me or not that America will see immense persecution, I hope you will at least agree that this is a wake-up call. Christians in other countries are being massacred while we live a life of extreme ease. If this doesn’t break your heart, it is way too hard. We do not live here because we are special. We have been the recipients of God’s gracious mercy. Every day that we wake up, we should be rejoicing and asking God how we can best serve Him with the time that He gives us on this earth. God told the lukewarm Church in Laodicea that He would spit them out of His mouth. I can’t imagine anything more dreadful.

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God, give me a renewed determination to live for You wholeheartedly. Remind me daily to pray for my Brothers and Sisters who are being persecuted for Your name’s sake. Fill me with the fire of Your Holy Spirit so that I do not become lukewarm or mediocre. Continue the work that You’ve begun because You are faithful! And please give comfort and a special grace to Your people in Iraq who have lost their homes and seen friends and family members brutally murdered. No one could get through that with You. Let them feel Your presence in the midst of their grief more than ever before.

Scam Into Blessing – Part 16

One by one, 35 pastors and church leaders lined up shoulder to shoulder behind me as they looked back out at the remaining seated congregants. As I turned to face the 35, I looked into the eyes of each individual and quickly realized that not included in the group who had walked forward were the three pastors who had been involved in the original attempt at duping me at the airport.

Seated behind the 35, Pastor Togba was looking at me and waiting for a response. His look seemed to be a mixture of surprise and an acknowledgement in the sure expectation that the Lord was doing great things in the country of Liberia.

My first response was, “Pastor Togba, I was not expecting this. What should I do now?”

Pastor Togba responded, “Pastor, do what you believe the Lord would have you to do!”

While I had been praying that people would respond and come afterwards to speak with either myself or Pastor Togba, I was not expecting in any way that they would of their own accord make such a public declaration before their peers. Up to that point, it had been my intention to conclude with a brief lesson that summed up the three days of teaching. Instead, I turned my attention to the 35.

The outside world blurred into insignificance along with all the problems that had brought me to this point. Facing away from the audience of on-lookers, I briefly summarized what had been heard from Paul Zawolo regarding his own faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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