Life Interrupted, but Still Right Side Up

COVID19 has affected America, and the world in such a way none of us could have ever imagined. It has affected all of humanity. This is my son’s Senior year of High School. He is a Brilliant young man. Throughout his entire academic career, he has worked hard, to be the Honor student he is today.

But, like other Class of 2020 parents we are deeply saddened that our children may not have the opportunity to celebrate Graduation, Prom and other senior activities. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the decision to cancel or postpone for the sake of Public Health & Safety. So, this is not a complaint.

Rather, I’m just pointing out how the recent events have stalled many plans and perceived growth opportunities. For instance, I can remember a relative saying to me that he felt he had picked a bad time to start getting his life together. Honestly, I could relate.

As the days progressed, so did the death tolls and infection rates.  A sense of worry and panic came over me. I spent my days visiting stores, and preparing to be shut in. And, as we began to adjust to our current circumstance what worried me most was the uncertainty of the days to come. My faith was being tested. Indeed, it has been tested.

From Love, Comes Rebuke!

I knew I needed to pray. I knew enough to know that I was being attacked by the spirit of fear and hopelessness. Therefore, as I prepared for bed. I began to pray. The Lord led me to the book of Amos. As I read, I felt both a sense of terror and calmness. Terror not based in fear, but of awe. An awe of the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe.

God is a good Father. And like any good parent, he will not just sit silently while his children continue down a road towards their own destruction. No, as any good parent would, he intervenes. He will fight for their deliverance. Even if that includes letting them suffer for a little while the consequences of their own actions. For whom he loves, he rebukes. (See Revelations 3:19).

The book of Amos details the reason God had allowed disaster to come upon the people of Israel, and their neighbors. Because of their inability to do right, he was going to send fire against their cities, and their strongholds. In other words, he was going to permit the destruction of everything they trusted in so dearly. Below is a snapshot of the reason’s God sent punishment on the land:

  • People shut up their compassion
  • People were betraying the sacredness of Brotherhood
  • People were mistreating their neighbors
  • People had rejected the Law of the Lord
  • People had Trampled the Heads of the Poor
  • People engaged in Sexual Sins
  • People had hindered/despised the Prophets of the LORD

As I read, I could see many similarities between the civilizations of antiquity and contemporary society. Actually, all of the wrath producing behaviors are in operation in the world today. Consequently, our markets, pleasure and vanity have been severely disrupted.

Yet, the Lord never left his people stranded without a way to be blessed. No, instead he gave them the key to heal themselves and the land. The same message he spoke over 2,000 years ago is the same message he is speaking to us today,

“Seek Me and Live.”

 His word to the believers, is to come out of Spiritual laziness. He never called us to be light within the four walls of the church, he has called us to be Light to the World! So, Shine! Seek God and Live.

All the sinners among my people who say: Disaster will never
overtake or confront us, will die by the sword. (Amos 9:10 Holman CSB)

His word to the world, is to Humble yourself and receive the gift of his son, because he loves you. He hates your pride. So, Repent! Seek God and Live.

I loathe Jacob’s pride and hate his citadels, so I will hand over the city and everything in it. (Amos 6:8 Holman CSB)

Edify, Exhort, Console

While COVID19 is of a serious nature, it is temporary. Just as it came, it will also go. Sadly, many lives will be forever transformed, after the loss of loved ones. And to those, I am praying for your comfort. May the God of Peace keep you and bless you. May you receive a double portion blessing in the name of Our Lord and Risen Savior Jesus Christ. You are not forsaken, nor defeated.

 After this season, many will emerge as Victorious. Many will be confirmed and established in the Faith. For you, I pray that from now until Jesus returns you continue to draw near to God, and that your hearts and conscience remain true. I pray that you promote love and good works while holding on to Jesus, the savior we profess. We are not of those who draw back and are destroyed, but we are of those who have faith and obtain life. (Hebrews 10).

I admit, I was upset with God at first, and I boldly confessed it to him. He already knew what was in my heart. I cried out to him, and he didn’t shun me away. He didn’t turn his face from me. Instead, he heard my cry for help, and saved me.  Rather, than kick me out of his graces, he held me tighter.

For all the good the Lord has done for me, how can I repay him? I will drink the cup of his salvation. Now, I know more than ever before, there is no need for me to be afraid. God is for me. He is for you too.

“I Ain’t Mad at Cha”: Better to Forgive

I recently had an encounter with a former acquaintance. I wasn’t quite sure how the interaction would play out since we didn’t exactly end on the best of terms. I was pleasantly surprised because the meeting went better than expected! We talked about current events in our lives, we even discussed a few of the misunderstandings we had between us. As we chatted, I realized the fierce anger I once held in my heart towards this person had cooled.

When people wrong us, we naturally want justice. It’s in us to want people to pay for their misdeeds, we want them to hurt and suffer the same pain we believe they have inflicted upon us. Think of unforgiveness as a brick wall, and the longer we hold on to it we add another layer of brick to it day by day, year by year until are our hearts have become encapsulated by stones.

The truth is we are more like God when we forgive others. Also, harboring anger in our hearts towards another individual robs us of the creative energy, joy and peace that our Savior died for us to experience in our everyday lives.

Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting the offence, nor does it diminish the severity of the offence. Rather, forgiveness is acknowledging that we are fully aware that we too have fallen short of perfection, and it fully acknowledges that only God has the power to fully administer justice. Forgiveness may not always be easy, but it is ALWAYS necessary. More simply, we forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven.

Now, once an offence has been forgiven, it is our responsibility to set up proper boundaries and expectations by clearly articulating to others what behaviors we will and will not tolerate. After all Jesus said to his Disciples “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:6 NIV). After extending the forgiveness we are commanded to be alert, prudent and astute in our judgement; we are to be careful to not carelessly offend others as well.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the love you have shown to us. For while we were still unworthy sinners you sent your only Begotten son to bear in his body the penalty of our sins. Jesus, we are so thankful that you bore the penalties of our sin in our place, so that we through you can stand in the presence of Our Holy Father fully forgiven. Holy Spirt, please reveal to me any hidden malice, or unforgiveness I may still have in my heart towards others. Help me to fully forgive them, just as you have fully forgiven me. Give me your love for them, teach me how to be more like you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

With the aid of the Holy Spirit, list the names of the people you may have not fully forgiven.  Write a letter to God about each one. Tell God how they hurt you, and then think about how you have grown past the hurt. Afterwards, pray for them and then pray for yourself. For this exercise I want you to write them on separate sheets of paper as there will be no space given in this section. After you have written the letters and prayed over them, then destroy the letter. This will serve as a physical manifestation and demonstration of your ridding yourself of the offence. Do this as often as you need to.