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3 Reasons I’m Still Hopeful

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I wrote this blog in early March. I thought now, in mid-May, that it’s worth a review. How have we done? I view it kind of like a report card. Judge for yourself. Here goes.

The news isn’t encouraging. That’s an understatement. The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. The pending threat of a pandemic outbreak is real. But I am hopeful. I really am. Here’s why.

We know how to take care of each other.

We have a track record in McDowell County of taking care of one another. Eleven years ago when gas prices skyrocketed and food prices soared, and the unemployment rate in McDowell County was on the rise (eventually reaching 16% in early 2009), we came together to feed hungry children. Called Lunch Bunch, churches, businesses, the local newspaper and individuals said “not on my watch” will kids go hungry. Since then we have provided food for 500 kids a summer–McDowell Countians have given more than $500,000 to make that happen. No grants. Just people helping each other. We know how to take care of each other.

We know how to work together.

We have the best Emergency Management Department in the state, led by compassionate and capable people. We have compassionate and capable leaders in every sector of our local government–they care about the people of McDowell County more than themselves. Last year when our county was threatened by repeated floods, I sat in a room with a team of remarkable leaders. Everyone checked their egos at the door and we offered our resources–whatever we had–to get us through. The CEO of the hospital, County Manager, Superintendent of Schools, Sheriff, leaders of other law enforcement agencies, Director of the Department of Social Services, and many more…put our heads and hearts together to do whatever we could to make McDowell Countians safe. We know how to work together.

We know how to trust God.

Psalm 112 is my “goto” Psalm when my trust in God falters. It begins with promises I’ve clung to more than once.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:2-3, ESV)

It then turns to the inevitable reality of life. It is from these words that we glean timeless truths we can hold onto during temporary bouts of difficulty.

Darkness must give way to light.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.  (Psalm 112:4, ESV)

The upright, happy, blessed person who fears the Lord will still face darkness. Just as day gives way to night, dark times are inevitable. However, for the God-fearing, Jesus-delighting follower, darkness must give way to light.

We can help–not hoard.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. (Psalm 112:6,9, ESV)

Notice how the righteous person responds in crisis, in dark times: he or she deals generously and lends. She distributes freely. He gives to the poor. Already shelves are emptying as people “panic-buy” in light of the approaching crisis. Christians have a history of running “to” the crisis, not away from it. We go to the epicenter of earthquakes, rush to ground zero of hurricanes. We give instead of take, go instead of stay, help instead of hoard. The coronavirus must be no different. Begin thinking now, how can I help? I promise you, this will change your mindset.

We can trust–not be terrified.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. (Psalm 112:7-8, ESV)

Bad news is inevitable. No one is saying that the coronavirus isn’t bad news. For some, it can be dangerous. For others, it is simply threatening. For all of us it’s real. But it isn’t the end. It’s bad, and it makes for bad news. When bad news comes, we have a choice. A steady heart is a trusting heart. A firm heart is a trusting heart. God is trustworthy. He’s brought us through before and will do it again.

None of Psalm 112 calls for abandoning wisdom. Wash your hands, cover your cough, take care of yourself.

And if it rolls into our county, I can’t wait to see how God will work…and we will too. We will “look in triumph on our adversaries.”

He Sees What We Don’t

I’m not sure if I’ve ever lived in a time where more confusing information abounds about what we are going through. It is hard to sift through, throw out the bad and keep the good. In times like these it’s imperative to focus on what we do know, not what we don’t know. And it is also necessary to focus on a God who knows all.

Last night we gathered again around my piano and sang some old songs. (I tried to clip a video but that is way above my pay grade!). So if you will scrub over to about 26 minutes in on this video you will hear a song called, “He Sees What We Don’t.” It’s powerful.

 

Bless the Lord for Blessed Assurance

There are five books of songs in the Bible, combined into one book called the Psalms. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how they’re organized but the books are not evenly divided according to chapters. Opinions vary as to why there are five. Some think it mimics the first five books of the Old Testament–the Torah. One thing we do know is how each of the books ends.

Book One (Psalms 1-41) ends with this verse: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

Book Two (Psalms 42-72) ends with these verses: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

Book Three (Psalms 73-89) ends with this verse: Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.

Book Four (Psalms 74-106) ends with this verse: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen! Praise the Lord!”

The last verse of Psalms, and of course the end of the 5th book, is this: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

The theme is obvious: Bless the Lord! Praise the Lord! These days, as in the days of the writers of the Psalms, there are many opportunities to complain, many reasons to whine,  multiple situations that can easily cause frustration. My challenge to you today: praise the Lord! Bless the Lord!

Fanny Crosby (1839-1908) had reason to grumble. Blind at the age of six weeks, Crosby grew up in a world unaccustomed to caring for the blind. She began writing hymns as a six-year-old, and became a teacher at the New York Institute of the Blind at the age of 22. One of her most famous hymns reiterates the thrust of the Psalms:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine…She goes on to write. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.

If Fanny Crosby can praise the Lord, and if each book of the Psalms ends with praising the Lord, then we should (must!) too.

Selah

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How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah  (Psalm 62:3-4)

David’s quiet waiting on God is punctuated by a reminder that his enemies are real. Often the silent times of our lives reveal our deepest fears. David is in a desperate place. He likens himself to a leaning wall and a tottering fence. Leaning walls are in danger of falling. Tottering fences can easily be compromised. He is under constant attack.

Perhaps that’s where you are today. You feel like a leaning wall, a tottering fence. You wonder how much more you can take, how much pressure you can endure.

Every believer has three enemies: the world, our own sinful nature, and Satan. Our enemies combine forces to do what David describes: they only plan to thrust him down from his high position. Jesus reiterated David’s words in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” The world will allure you, your sinful nature will appease you and Satan will attack you. They take pleasure in falsehood. The world lies. Your sinful nature lies. Satan is the father of lies. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.

Sin always has a facade–behind it lies the smell of death.

Selah. Why would David have us pause and think about this? Here’s why. You will appreciate your rescuer when you realize what He has rescued from. Pause today and reflect on where you would be without Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus went on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That’s worth waiting for.

The Waiting Seeker

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The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:25 ESV)

It’s Tuesday morning and some of you are already anticipating Friday! You’re in “wait” mode. For you waiting is a daily exercise, a weekly routine. To think of waiting on God has no appeal to you. Yet here the writer of Lamentations applauds waiting. The Lord is good to those who wait for him. If that’s the truth (and it is…God’s Word is alway true), then perhaps we should spend some time thinking about what waiting on God is and isn’t.

Waiting on God isn’t waiting on an appointment at the dentist’s office. Waiting on God isn’t waiting on a meeting with your CPA to figure out how much taxes you owe. Waiting on God isn’t sitting outside the principal’s office because you’ve been caught…again.

The word “wait” in the Old Testament describes a longing feeling, a heartfelt desire accompanied by action.

As a matter of fact, there’s something at work in the above statement that any of my Old Testament students could have recognized (if they had paid attention!). It’s called parallelism.  The two statements in Lamentations 3:25 are an example of synonymous parallelism–they mean the same thing.

In other words, waiting on God isn’t sitting idly doing nothing. Waiting on God is seeking Him. Waiting is an active endeavor. Waiting on God is getting dressed for that first date, making sure your hair is right and your cologne is evenly sprayed…because you can’t wait to see your girlfriend. Waiting on God is driving home from college and knowing where the first glimpse of the mountains is while anticipating the aroma coming from your mom’s kitchen. Waiting on God is rehearsing the questions you want to ask your mentor as you fly across the country to meet him for the first time.

So here’s my challenge for this week: wait on God by seeking Him through His Word. Read one chapter every day this week. Before you read, ask Him to speak to you. Clear your mind and heart and listen for His voice. If you seek Him, you will find Him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Revel in His long anticipated goodness this week.

W. A. I. T.

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Our family really enjoys Disney. Our last trip was by car and it seemed we would never get there. Though we scheduled the drive to include a significant amount of “sleep” time (leaving in the middle of the night), it was still long…for two reasons: it’s a long way to Disney from Old Fort, and we can’t wait to get there!

In Psalm 25:5 David writes, “For you are the God of my salvation, for you I wait all the day long.” In order to understand biblical waiting, we must differentiate between waiting in traffic on Highway 70 and waiting on God. Highway 70 is annoying…waiting on God is filled with anticipation.

Waiting is action with an anticipated outcome.

Waiting on God does not indicate inaction any more than waiting on getting to Disney means sitting at your house wishing you were there. If you’re going to Disney, you drive while you wait. You stop and eat while you wait. You sleep while you wait. You have visions in your head of seeing Cinderella’s castle while you wait. You see yourself on your favorite ride while you wait.

Recently Joe Head shared this with me…

W.A.I.T.=Will Answer In Time.

I think of it two ways:  we can w.a.i.t. because 1) God WILL ANSWER and 2) He will answer IN(/at the right)TIME.”–Joe Head

I wonder what God is going to do while we w.a.i.t.

The Power of a Song

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Last night two friends, Jamie Burnette, Savannah Allison and I gathered around my piano for more than an hour and sang some old hymns and gospel songs. I was reminded by all of the comments how important it is to “sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21, ESV)

I think if Paul were writing today, he could say “and do not get drunk with the news, with who should have done what, with Republicans and Democrats, with conspiracy theories, with…” the list could go on and on. When there are so many things you do not know, focus on what you do  know.

Again in Colossians Paul writes:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17, ESV)

Do you think Paul struggled to understand the times? Of course he did! Nero was the emperor, Rome the oppressive regime. What did he tell the Colossians to do? Let Christ’s peace rule (don’t miss this word) in your hearts. How do you do that? Sing! Yes, sing!

So here is a link to last night. While you’re doing whatever this Friday demands, listen to these songs. Worship. I cannot guarantee you that you will answer questions so many are asking–but you will have peace.

Our People…Praying for You

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” As you join Evelyn Kinninger, Ryan Holland, Sarah Bristol, Jay and Glenda Glenn and Bill Hiatt as they pray for us, pray that you too will trust in the name of the Lord.

Calling All Sinners

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If you want a scholarship for college, you have to make good grades in high school, do well on the SAT and be at least marginally involved in your community. If you want to join the military you have to be able to pass a physical exam. If you are going to be a nurse you have to take a mind-blowing test before you can be licensed.

That’s how life works…work hard, prepare, be dedicated and you will go somewhere. It’s not how God works.

David wrote in Psalm 25: Good and upright is the Lord, therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8-9, ESV). We really expect this to say: good and upright is the Lord, therefore you’d better be good and upright to get his attention. Be honest. That’s our attitude. “If I don’t measure up God won’t show up.”

Only the ignorant need to be taught. Only sinners need to be saved.

God teaches sinners. I love the old hymn, “Come ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore…” The Pharisees, zealously religious people in Jesus’ day, accused Jesus of being a “friend of sinners.”

Jesus befriended sinners.

If you’ve blown it, come to Jesus. If your mistakes loom larger than your successes, come to Jesus. If you’ve failed, come to Jesus. The old hymn continues, “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power.”

Calling all sinners. Come to Jesus.

It is Well With My Soul

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Horatio Spafford

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Horatio Spafford’s life. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. (From Wikipedia)

This pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. Some have lost businesses, others have lost loved ones. Some are lonely, others are restless. Some weary, others afraid. Let the words of Spafford’s hymn comfort and encourage you. Make them a prayer of declaration today.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
it is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well
with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
my sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
even so it is well with my soul!

 

Take time to watch this. You’ll discover why 14 million others have done the same.