Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Helpful Hugs and Healing Touch

If you’re not connected with a church body right now, let me encourage you to find us on Facebook at Petersburg First Baptist Church. It’s not like, you know, gathering in person to fellowship and worship with other live human beings, but we hope to give you an online place to find encouragement and hope and life in Christ Jesus as we seek to comply with the new “rules” of the day.

You can also watch our worship services on YouTube by searching Petersburg IL FirstBaptist Church and look us up on our website at

If I knew for sure that I was not a carrier of COVID-19, I would stand on the square and offer free handshakes and hugs to anyone in need. There’s a personal connection through touch that just feels good and is important to our well-being.

On the website, scientists offer seven benefits of hugging. Similar findings are published online in Time, Psychology Today, and WebMD, but here’s what I found first in my quick research project.

1. Hugs reduce stress by showing your support. When we’re going through a difficult or painful experience, a comforting hug reduces the stress.

2. Hugs may protect you against illness. In one study, participants with a greater support system were less likely to get sick, and those who did had less severe symptoms than those who didn’t.

3. Hugs may boost your heart health. Reductions in blood pressure and heart rate have been discovered in a study related to holding hands and hugging with a romantic partner.

4. Hugs can make you happier. Maybe you’ve heard of the “cuddle hormone” Oxytocin, a chemical in our bodies associated with happiness and less stress. Scientists say its level rises when we hug or touch or sit close to someone.

5. Hugs help reduce your fears. In people with low self-esteem, scientists have found that touch can reduce anxiety.

6. Hugs may help reduce your pain. In a study of people with fibromyalgia, participants were given six therapeutic touch treatments, reporting an increase in quality of life and reduced pain.

7. Hugs help you communicate with others. You probably don’t need a scientific study to know that!

And the more you can get, the greater the effects.

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was His healing touch.

He touched the leper and cleansed him. He touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law and the fever left her. He touched the eyes of the blind and gave them sight. He even put His fingers in the ears of the deaf man with a speech impediment, and “after spitting touched his tongue” (Mark 8:33), and the man’s ears were opened and his tongue released. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home.

And, of course, Jesus took up the children in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them (Mark 10:13-16).

Please don’t mis-hear me saying that we should ignore wisdom in the midst of a pandemic virus, but let’s not forget the value of the human touch. And if you’re in need of healing, Jesus offers the touch of His saving hand to you, free of charge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Standing in the Gap

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30).

God’s judgment against His people Israel did not come flippantly nor hastily. In fact, He sent prophet after prophet warning the people to turn away from their sin. He gave repeated opportunities for the people to ditch their idolatry and return to Him with all their heart. He pleaded with His beloved to recognize His own faithfulness and goodness and mercy toward them so that they would desire Him more than other lovers.

But their stubborn, selfish, sinful wills prevailed. And if you’re looking for a catalogue of their misdeeds, the prophet Ezekiel outlines such sins as bloodshed and violence, idolatry, sexual immorality, bribery and extortion, oppression of the poor and needy, failure to keep and teach the holiness of the Lord, and forgetting God.

So the Lord eventually poured out His holy, just, and righteous wrath upon them. God raised up king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to invade and destroy Jerusalem. Many were killed by the sword and many were taken into exile.

As the book of Ezekiel details, God was vindicating the holiness of His great name among His own people and among the nations. The repeated theme is this word from the Lord: “And you shall know that I am the Lord.”

As I read and think about these things, the verse I led with in this article strikes me. What if God had found just one man who would stand in the gap before Him? Was there no one among the princes or the prophets? Was there no movement of righteous men who would lead the people back to God? Were there no faithful and courageous followers truly devoted to the Lord who would be found on their knees pleading night and day for the land’s repentance and sincere return to the ways of God?

Do we deserve any more time to repent than Israel? He is patient with us, yes, and does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9). But the Day of His judgment will eventually come. Isn’t God giving us a window of opportunity right now to recognize our need to turn away from sinful things and turn back to the living God?

Is there anyone to be found today standing in the gap before the Lord so that our land may not be destroyed?

Oh, that such prayers might prevail and we might long for the holiness of God! Oh, that the church might humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His glory! Oh, that we might come running to the merciful arms of our loving Father and find forgiveness and grace abounding through Christ Jesus our Lord!

When God looks down will He find us standing in the gap?

Monday, April 27, 2020


Well, this has been anything but a typical Easter season! But I do hope that your joy in the Lord is in no way diminished. I hope that your faith in Jesus is stronger than ever. And I hope that your longing for heaven and the resurrection that awaits believers in Christ grows in anticipation with each passing day.

Doesn’t this havoc on earth make you hunger for the heavenly courts of the Lord?

I’m still wondering about all the stuff going on here, but I know that the resurrection of Jesus wins the day. So rather than getting weighed down with worry over what I cannot control, I find peace and hope in setting my mind “on the things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Because when I fix my eyes on Jesus and seek His face and turn my heart to heaven, these troubles below seem but light and momentary in comparison with the eternal glory that far outshines them all.

At the same time, however, we’re living in the present and I want to be sufficiently heavenly minded so that I can be of some earthly good. And I know that means doing such work as praying for one another, encouraging one another, serving one another in love, and teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. Fellow Christians, let us be found faithful to building up the body of Christ and caring for the least of these.

It also means proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of heaven, that Jesus, the Son of God, died the death we deserve on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day. And everyone who repents from sin and believes in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life. Friend, if you’re not trusting in Jesus for salvation, now would be a good time to believe!

And now would be a great time to pray for our leaders. I don’t know if we’re taking enough steps to curb the virus or have gone way overboard. I don’t know if this is God’s way of disciplining or judging us, or if China’s setting us up to take us over, if it’s an inside job, or it’s just an innocent virus that we’re doing our best to combat.

But I know we need to ask God to guide those who are making life-altering, globe-impacting decisions. And I know it would be wise for God’s people to “humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” expecting the Lord “will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

And I know that because of the resurrection of Christ, death is defeated and swallowed up in victory, so I’m seeking the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and where heaven’s looking sweeter every day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A better day is coming!

Like you, I hate this. I hate the fact that people all over the world are getting sick and dying from this novel virus.

I hate that people are losing their jobs and don’t know how they’re going to make it. I hate that others are working twice as hard under extremely difficult and stressful conditions.

I hate that we can’t gather as a church. I hate that family get-togethers are out. I hate that schools are closed. I hate that grieving families can’t even have a proper funeral. I hate that weddings can’t be celebrated as they should. I hate that nursing homes and prisons and hospitals can’t have visitors when they need encouragement the most.

I hate that some politicians are using this crisis to point fingers, create division, and seeking their own agendas. I hate the way the media fuels panic and fear through sensationalizing seemingly every story.

Thanks for listening. Just had to get that off my chest.

It’s a mess, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, though, what I really hate is the curse of sin that brings all kinds of trouble and sorrow and death into this world.

But you know what? I am awed to think that Jesus stepped into our mess to rescue us from all this pain.

This week in particular we’re reminded that the Holy One took on human flesh and dwelt among us, felt our sufferings, and eventually laid down His life for ours in the most horrific fashion.

I’m humbled, but I’m hopeful because we also remember and rejoice in Jesus’ victory over sin and death by His resurrection from the grave on the third day. We know that these “light and momentary afflictions” will be far eclipsed by the eternal weight of glory revealed when Jesus Christ comes again and establishes His reign of eternal peace, righteousness, and joy. In that Kingdom there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more death.

So we do not lose heart. Rather, we “fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Keep the faith, my brothers and sisters in Christ. There’s a better day coming, for He is the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25). Our King has triumphed, death has been swallowed up in victory, and we shall be raised with Him in glory!

Friend, if you’ve not repented and put your trust in Jesus, then I urge you to do so now before it’s too late! “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).

Monday, April 6, 2020

Waiting...but ready!

Have you ever had to wait for someone to show up? UPS guy, furnace repair guy, cable guy, Schwann’s guy. You know they’re coming sometime on Monday between 10 and 6 (remember back in the day when we weren’t all staying at home anyway!), so you just have to wait around the house all day until they show up.

And you know that if you leave for just 5 minutes to go run an errand, that’s when they’ll come and you’ll miss them and have to reschedule the whole thing for another day. You almost hate to even go to the bathroom because as soon as you sit down you’re sure to hear a knock at the door! Hopefully, at least, you can wash some dishes or do that easy repair job you’ve been putting off so long.

Waiting is a hard job, but when the knock comes you want to be ready.

It feels like we’re in a season of waiting through this pandemic. We don’t know the impact this virus is going to have on our health, our finances, our relationships, our emotional state, nor do we know how long it’s going to last. Some are already feeling the pain and the strain of it all. Maybe you’re afraid or anxious for what may come – and there is certainly a right level of concern to take care of ourselves and others.

But let me urge you not to waste your waiting in panic or fear. Instead, now is the time to look to Christ Jesus as Savior. Now is the time to call upon His name for help. Now is the time to get your spiritual house in order so that when He shows up you’re ready.

The Bible tells us that Jesus will come again, and it’s the faithful and wise servant taking care of the Master’s work who will be ready for His arrival.

Let me ask you this: Are you ready for that day? Is your house in order? Are you trusting in Christ for salvation? Are you obeying His will?

Listen, we don’t get a second chance at this. Whether the coronavirus takes you or you get hit by a bus or swept away by a tornado or whether Christ Himself returns today, are you ready to meet the Lord? Tomorrow may be too late.

Why not confess to Him now in a prayer of repentance and faith, “Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned against You, and I am truly sorry. I believe that You died on the cross to forgive my sins, and so I confess my sin to You and ask You to cleanse me from all my sin and guilt and shame. And I believe You rose from the dead on the third day, and I trust in You now for new life, abundant and eternal. Come and take control of this heart and make me live to honor You as Savior and Lord. Amen!”

If that’s your prayer, I’d love to talk with you more. Call me at the First Baptist Church number, 217-632-2488.