Today is . . . hey, it’s Friday!! March 3, 2020, in the fifth week of Lent. Peace be with you!
Nine days until Resurrection Sunday. Sadly, we will not be gathering in person to celebrate. But we will celebrate!
I had a chat with my mother, last night (phone call). We called to check on her because we got news that the head maintenance man for their church tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, the entire staff, including the pastor, is at risk, and are all being tested, as well. While they were not having physical services, a handful of folks were presenting a streamed worship service each Sunday morning, from the church stage. A rotating group, small enough to be “legal” would be there, the music leader would sing some songs, and the pastor preaches a sermon. Please join us in praying for all of them.
Mama has not been exposed, I’m confident, as she has not been to church in weeks, due to the pain her knee is causing her. I don’t even think she has left the house, except to go to the doctor, in several weeks. We called her because we knew she would be upset and probably need someone to talk to.
That’s pretty much all the news I have. Except for this:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalms 23:4 ESV)
In spite of all the panic, in spite of all the fear, and even in spite of any risk, “This world is a perfectly safe place for us to be” (Dallas Willard). If we live by the words of Psalm 23, we can have a life free from fear.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah. because they do not change and do not fear God.
(Psalms 55:16-19 ESV)
Today I am grateful:
1. That my mother is safe.
2. That we continue to be well, here, in spite of me going to work every day.
3. That, so far as I know, the virus has not hit our little church family.
4. That You have chosen me and brought me near, to dwell in Your courts (Psalm 65.4).
5. That You, alone, are my rock and my salvation, my fortress: I SHALL NOT BE SHAKEN! (Psalm 62.6)
6. That, if we follow You, we will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail (Isaiah 58.11).
To the choirmaster. Of David, for the memorial offering.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!
(Psalms 70:1 ESV)
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
(Psalms 65:4 ESV)
He who teaches man knowledge—the LORD—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law.
(Psalms 94:10-12 ESV)
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
(Luke 17:26-30 ESV)
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.
(Psalms 62:5-12 ESV)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:1-8 ESV)
This life is temporary. If anything, this virus scare is illustrating that. Yet, we do everything we can to hold on to this life. Jesus taught us differently.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
This does not mean we should act foolishly, and, in doing so, endanger the lives of others. This involves more of a state of mind, and is the reason that I can quote those words of Dallas Willard, “This world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” In the words of a somewhat popular rock song of the eighties, we need to “hold on loosely” to this life, and hold on to Jesus Christ with all we’ve got.
The Scripture passage from 2 Timothy came from today’s reading in Our Daily Bread.
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!
(Psalms 20:4 ESV)
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalms 37:4-5 ESV)
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:10-11 ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
(Psalms 44:17-26 NIV)
The psalmist boldly cries out for God to wake up! But God does not sleep. Yes, Jesus slept in the boat with the disciples, while they freaked out and panicked. But, as we see in Psalm 121, “He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)
“God is not asleep, but he won’t be rushed. He knows what he’s doing. He has a plan and it’s a plan of love.”
“Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the boat during the storm your disciples accused you of not caring–but you were never out of control and you saved them. I confess that to me also you seem not to care, to be doing nothing. That is wrong. The cross proves incontrovertibly, eternally, that you do care. I praise you and rest in you for that. Amen.”
Father, I know that You do not sleep. Yet, as the Kellers have indicated, it does seem like, at times, that You are not acting, maybe even ignoring us. But that’s my humanity talking, my flesh. Help me to keep my mind renewed, and help my mind to think about You in ways that match how You really are. Help me to keep a firm grip on reality, especially in these days. You are God. You are Almighty, and You are in control. We can be free from fear. Help us to realize this freedom today.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:1-6 ESV)
Grace and peace, friends.