Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sayonara, 2020! Auf Wiedersehen! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And take your junk with you!

If only it were just as easy as evicting a bad tenant, renting a dumpster, cleaning house and starting over – oh, wait. No evictions, which is great for those who have been seriously impacted by the financial conditions of 2020, but as with everything else there are freeloaders and scammers who take advantage of the situation. And landlords stuck with problems they can’t do anything about. So it goes.

When the government was handing out cash earlier this year like candy at a parade, somebody apparently fabricated a business using my name and address, and now I’m getting statements from the U.S. Small Business Administration reminding me that my loan balance of $9,800 will be due in August, and it’s accruing interest as we speak.

Upon some research, a Bloomberg business article reported on how astonishingly easy it was to loot from the government’s COVID-19 loan program for small businesses. Literally all you had to do was complete a five-minute online application, say you had at least 10 employees, and collect your $10,000 in a few days.

In one district in Chicago, loan payouts were 12 times greater than the number of eligible recipients. I know, shocker, right?

And now with the newly signed $900 billion stimulus deal in motion, I hate to even think of the wasteful and fraudulent ways that money will fly out the window. But don’t worry. You’ll get your $600.

Unfortunately, we can’t evict 2020’s junk. We may turn the page on the calendar year, but the problems carry over. The virus isn’t going anywhere. Small businesses are still going under. Racial tensions haven’t been resolved. Political corruption remains rampant.

Are we listening to what God is trying to say? Isn’t it time we trust in Him with all our hearts, resting in His care, and seeking Him as our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble?

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). My fellow Christian, if we care to tune in, we’ll hear Him saying: I’ve got this, I’m with you, and I’ll save you!

God is still enthroned on high and no earthly calamity or king of any nation will ever threaten His eternal reign.

God still abides with us. He is Immanuel (“God with us”), and as we abide in Christ and His Spirit dwells within us, we will know the glad reality of His presence.

God still saves to the uttermost those who draw near to Him through Jesus. His promise of eternal life to those who believe in Jesus still stands, for He is forever faithful to His Word.

So be still. Rest your raging, anxious spirit in the Lord, and know the stillness of knowing God.

But if you’re not a follower of Jesus, then you need to heed this word: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15a). God longs to show you mercy and pour out grace upon grace, but the door will not be open forever. Who knows what 2021 may bring? The time is now: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15b).

Monday, December 28, 2020

Love in Jesus

No, the announcement of the Savior’s birth did not come first to the religious elite in the hallowed halls of Jerusalem, nor to the political powers in Rome, but to shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem as they kept watch over the flocks by night.

Lowly, powerless, insignificant, nameless shepherds. Facing all kinds of fears, no doubt, from bandits, wolves, disease – and bearing the shame of high society.

How often do you suppose these shepherds may have wondered if God noticed them at all? If He really cared for them? Or if He even existed? Too many ticks on the clock with a flock of fickle sheep can trick your thinker into some discomforting theological pickles. And life certainly wasn’t blowing them any kisses.

Yet on that night with the brilliant light of God’s glory shining about them, and with the joy they discovered when they found the baby lying in the manger, every question was answered and every doubt and fear erased. This message of good news of great joy is indeed for all the people, and even these shepherds recognized their great worth in the eyes of heaven.

Friend, no matter how lowly or insignificant you feel, how unloved or unappreciated, or how shamefully others may treat you, and no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, this message of salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord is still good news of great joy for all people!

You are of such great worth in the eyes of heaven that Jesus literally came to give His life for you. The depth of God’s love for you is demonstrated at the cross, where mercy flows freely and grace abounds richly to all who believe and receive Him as Savior.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

May your Christmas season abound with the love of God through Christ Jesus!

Joy in Jesus

Do you ever find that your heart is not as full of the joy and wonder of your faith as it should be? Ever feel numb or indifferent to the spiritual things that you know ought to excite your soul and set your spirit ablaze?

Try beholding the glory of Jesus. John was absolutely captivated by the glory of Christ, and he never got over it. Writing his gospel account some 50 years after being with Jesus, he’s still in awe by the thought that he saw His glory.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Somehow, in some supernatural way, the Holy One from heaven, the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God Most High, Creator of all things, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the giver of living water and the bread of life, the light of the world, the Savior of the world – took on the flesh of mankind in all of its weakness, struggles and temptations.

And He revealed the very face and glory of the invisible God.

Re-ignite your complacent soul this season by gazing afresh upon the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. See Him with your eyes of faith through the Scriptures. Let His goodness and mercy and beauty recapture your heart and set your spirit ablaze.

And I still affirm that the experience of worshiping together with the body of Christ (the church) remains essential. That’s why we invite you to join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church every Sunday morning. We need the encouragement of fellowship and corporate worship experience. 

By the way, did you see the Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey released recently? It showed that the only demographic group who reported improved mental health in 2020 were those who attended weekly religious services! In a year full of stress and fears and chaos of all kinds, the fellowship of the church has become more important than ever.

Yes, we are taking all necessary safety precautions for your physical health. And yes, we respect the decisions of those who feel they should stay home and worship online instead. 

But we are created for community, and the community we find in Christ can be found nowhere else. The fire of a church set ablaze by the Spirit of God in worship of the Son of God will light up your soul with the glory of God! Come experience the joy and wonder together!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Peace in Jesus

I know the pressures and stressors of life are off the charts right now for many people, but I also know that peace is possible no matter what you’re facing.

When the angels announced the good news of great joy to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, they declared the glory of God in the highest and peace on earth to men. That peace is found in Jesus, and those who know Him as the Prince of Peace experience the blessing of His peace even in the midst of the storm.

If you find your heart in turmoil and despair, crushed under the weight of worry and anxiety, turn to Jesus and find peace for your troubled soul. Let me encourage you, friend, to take some time this season to meditate on these truths from God’s Word:

“For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Again I say that when you fix your eyes on Jesus, trusting wholly in Him and walking in His ways, He will keep you in perfect peace. That doesn’t mean your problems will all disappear, but it does mean that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus so that you will not cave to fear and anguish and panic but rather find the comfort of God’s presence and promises of His provision and protection to be real.

Now, a word of warning must accompany this truth, as well. While the Lord’s healing peace is made available to all, the unrepentant will never know it. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21).

Friend, come to Jesus and discover peace you never thought possible. “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11).

Monday, December 7, 2020

Hope in Jesus

What are you hoping for today? Are you hoping the Bears get their act together before the season ends? Hoping we might still get to watch some Bluejays football or basketball sometime this year?

Are you hoping for peace in our nation? Hoping for a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19? Hoping for an end to world hunger, a workable answer to climate change, or a cure for cancer?

What are you hoping for? Are you hoping your car makes it through another winter? Hoping your job doesn’t get cut? Hoping you or your babysitter doesn’t get sick?

Are you hoping your marriage survives? Hoping your wayward son comes to his senses and returns home? Hoping that your mom in the nursing home is getting the care she needs?

Life can be filled with headaches and heartaches, anguish and agony. Indeed, life can be flat-out overwhelming. Maybe today you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of despair. The waves of trouble seem unrelenting, and you have no where to go, no one to turn to, and no hope in sight.

Friend, I want you to know that in Jesus there is hope for better things yet to come.

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in the land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:1-2).

The people of Israel in the prophet Isaiah’s day had turned away from God and faced the consequences of their rebellion – spiritual darkness, wandering, weariness, and hunger. Yet even then, rather than humble themselves in repentance to the Lord, they raged against God and cursed Him in defiance, which thrust them into further darkness and distress.

But when the light breaks through, the darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

God was giving His people hope by announcing the coming of their Savior. Even upon such a stubborn-hearted, stiff-necked, ungrateful and unholy generation, the Lord of mercy and grace was not abandoning His promise but fulfilling His Word with the hope of salvation.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“…and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

If you’re looking for hope in your despair or light in your darkness, look to Jesus. The promise of His first advent (“coming”) brought hope to those in gloom, and the promise of His return gives us sure hope today for better things to come.