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Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. Psalm 130:2 NKJV
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34 NKJV
America is on fire, literally. Distraught and distressed people in Minneapolis, and others in the North, the South, East and West cities in America are protesting, rioting and looting, and burning and destroying businesses, crying out: “No justice no peace” in their frustrated—can’t take it no more—response to the nation’s systemic racism, which reared its ugly head again; most recently, in the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minnesota. While the nation burns, where is the church of God? Where are the voices of the “so-called Christians”, especially the white brothers and sisters? Jesus said that the church would be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13, 14). It appears often that “the salt” has lost its savor” and “the light” doesn’t shine, especially in trying times as these.
It all began in the year 1619 when descendents of Africa was first brought to America against their will, and forced into the bondage of slavery, America’s original sin, and still the nation’s un-repented sin. This original sin of our country still stains deeply the soul of our nation until today. America must repent if it ever, truly, wants racial healing and international exceptionalism (2 Chron. 7:14). After 401 years here in America, including after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction period; post-slavery amendments to the U.S. Constitution; and, after a vigorous, on-going and unrelenting civil rights movement, black Americans have at best achieved some integration in society, but not equality and equal justice under the law. It’s time for the true church of God to take a Biblical look at unsettling truths. Isn’t this what God requires “but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God”? (Mic. 6:8).
Let us never condone violence, looting, and the destruction of property, under no circumstances. But peaceful protest is a worthy and lawfully protected American value. Instead of injudiciously blaming the looters and the violent, take a prayerful moment and try to understand that the oppressed blacks of America are sick and tired of being sick and tired. How long must they wait for equality, police reform and a fair criminal justice system? How long? It’s high time for change to come. They have been waiting since the year 1619. The church of God is the one institution that can be the most effective catalyst for effecting positive racial change and justice in America (Matt. 16:18).
The riots across America are responses to the violence that people are forced to live with every day, i.e., violence that flows from oppression, poverty, injustice, and alienation. Dr. Martin Luther King once said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The church can’t afford to turn a deaf hear and turn a blind eye to the centuries-decades long problems that have been “swept under the rug.” It’s time for the church to pay attention and hear (Prov. 31:9), stand up and speak up!
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10 NKJV
Most commonly speaking, an elevator is a cage or platform for conveying people or things from one level to another (Merriam-Webster). During my years as a corporate executive, I often needed to take an elevator to reach a floor of my office, in a high rise building The Scripture shows that God is our “spiritual Elevator.” He elevates us from one degree of glory to another when we humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and then He exalts us in due time above our circumstances and situations. Elevation happens when we cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). But without a heart of gratitude, we would never cast all our cares upon Him and be elevated.
We are admonished by Apostle Paul that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Thanksgiving follows a grateful heart, and a truly grateful heart requires humility. It’s an attitude of gratitude that determines one’s spiritual altitude. Gratitude is a force, i.e., the energy that diverts the “bad air” of your circumstances down, and fuels the promised elevation—the lifting up in due time. God is the Elevator!
There is a difference between gratitude and thanksgiving. Gratitude precedes thanksgiving; it is a feeling of appreciation in your heart. Thanksgiving is the expression or manifestation of gratitude. The life of Moses is a good example of the relationship between humility, gratitude, thanksgiving (See. Num. 12:3; Ps. 90:12). A grateful heart is a humble heart; and gratitude and thanksgiving are choices we make daily. As an act of your will, you can choose to be grateful for what is, rather than being ungrateful for what is not. Don’t allow adverse circumstances, problems, and disappointments render the “elevator in the building of your life” to be out of order. Find something to be grateful for and offer thanks unto the Lord.
What happens when a building’s elevator is out and you desire to go to another level? You toil, strive, tire and get exhausted, and get weary climbing the stairwell, rather than humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord (1 Pet. 5:6). But Jesus said, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Isn’t it better just to cast all of your care upon the Lord, for He cares for you? (1 Pet. 5:7). Carrying your anxieties, worries, stresses, and daily struggles by yourself shows that you have not trusted God fully, nor have you been grateful. Although you know God, you must glorify Him as your Elevator and be thankful, lest you become futile in your thoughts and foolish in your hearts (Rom. 1:21). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift (elevate) you up (Text). God is your Elevator!
[I]n everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Never allow a circumstance or situation stop you from being grateful. No, you shouldn’t thank God for everything bad that happens, but rather, thank God in everything. Why? Remember God’s promise to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience . . . let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). When you’re “perfect and entire”, you have ascended higher in the things of God. It’s your attitude of gratitude that determines your altitude, spiritually speaking.
Evil things like viral pandemics, sickness, and suffering are allowed by God, but they don’t come directly from God; neither do feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. So why would you thank God for any of it? When evil circumstances rare their ugly heads, you can still be thankful in it for two reasons: (1) you can be grateful for God’s presence (Ps. 16:11); (2) and, be grateful knowing that God will accomplish His good, notwithstanding the circumstance (Rom. 8:28). Bottom line: it is the will of God, according to His pleasure and purpose that you have an attitude of gratitude, so stay submitted and humble to His Word and He will lift you up, higher and higher! (Jas. 4:7, 10).
Gratitude is a force that works much like the Law of Lift. In Physics, the science of matter, motion, energy and force, Lift is the Third Law of Physics that explains how birds and airplanes achieve lift in order to fly. For example, “the wing of the airplane must change something of the air to get lift. To generate lift, the wing must divert lots of air down, then the lift of the wing becomes equal to the change in the momentum of the air it diverts (Newton). You can change the “air of your circumstances” with gratitude, which will divert the “bad air” of your circumstance down; rather than allowing the circumstance to get you down, with gratitude and thanksgiving, the Lord will lift you up!
Social scientists and mental health therapists are now saying that one of the best ways to overcome feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression is to feel gratitude (Psychology Today). Circumstances and stuff happens in life; they really come with living your life (Phil. 4:11-13). But be grateful. To be grateful is to count your blessings, not your problems; give thanks for the abundance of all of the good things that God has ready blessed you with (Deut. 28:47).
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
There’s a song that we sang in the “old church”—the church of my upbringing, entitled: “I Woke Up this Morning with My Mind, Stayed on Jesus.” What was the import of that song? Well, a stayed mind is a mind at perfect peace; a single mind; a sound mind; and, a strong mind—a mind that leans and depends upon the Lord and takes hold of the unchanging truth of His Word (Ps. 119:160; Matt. 24:35).
A stayed mind will love God above all else at all times (Matt. 22:37). Nothing is more important even in the face of a crisis, test or trial. You love God with your entire mind, i.e., intellect and deep thoughts (Phil. 2:5), with your imagination (Eph. 3:20), and with understanding (2 Tim. 1:7). On the other hand, an unstayed mind is a double mind (Jas. 1:8). A double mind is a two spirited mind, vacillating in opinion and purpose; a mind that is unstable mentally and spiritually. In the field of mental health, double-mindedness can be a symptom of Schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and to relate properly to others. Let us not be a “spiritual Schizophrenic.” God is good all the time!
Any serious challenge, crisis, or temptation that you face will reveal your state of mind. If you mind is stayed on the Lord, you will show perfect peace. If not, you’ll display your hidden hurts, or some unresolved issue in your life. But regardless of the challenge keep you mind stayed on the Lord, because a stayed-mind never gives in to circumstances (Phil. 4:6, 7). Keep your mind stayed on God’s goodness. Don’t give in to sickness and disease, financial problems and uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, depression and despair, and relationship problems. Why? Because the “Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29:11). Be encouraged and keep you mind stayed on the Lord!
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
So, what is God saying in current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic), which is causing people to suffer sickness, financial problems and uncertainty, unemployment, mental and emotional breakdowns, loneliness and isolation, depression and marital problems, spousal abuse and child abuse, and even substance abuse? God is saying, “[I] will keep [you] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [God].”
We can’t avoid conflict and problems in this uncertain world, but with God, we can be at peace even in the midst of this pandemic, affliction and persecution, chaos and confusion. When we are faithful in our relationship with God, our whole attitude can be healthy, stable and steady, supported by God’s unchanging hand of love and His mighty power. And, if we keep our thoughts on God and trust in Him, we can have, not just peace but perfect peace!
Perfect Peace is double peace (Shalom Shalom, Hebrew Text). It’s peace upon peace; it is to feel wholly peaceful and safe, happy and healthy, well and prosperous; and to feel all is well. The Bible speaks of two kinds of peace: peace of God (Text) and peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The peace of God is your mind-set and peace with God is your heart-set and righteous standing before God. The key to perfect peace is a stayed mind, i.e., your mind leaning upon the Lord and taking hold of God by standing on His Word. A stayed mind is having a sober and healthy attitude, not disturbed by sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical or emotional problems.
Satan uses adverse circumstances to rob you of your peace— things like affliction, fear, trouble, disturbances, distractions, and inconveniences. If your mind isn’t stayed on God, these circumstance will certainly reveal hidden and unhealed hurts and other unresolved issues in your life (See Mark 4:35-41). Every crisis you face is also is an opportunity to refocus your faith and reset your relationship with God. At the core of all these problems are fear and anxiety (Phil. 4:6), but God promised perfect peace, and He “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rom. 16:20).
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV
Do not think that it’s strange; don’t be surprised, when you experience a fiery trial—something used by the devil—that is so calamitous, so devastating, so severe—in order to destroy your faith. Your adversary, the devil, is out to steal the Word of God from you. Just remember, it isn’t God sending the fiery trial, but it’s the devil.
Satan’s number one weapon that he uses to steal the Word from you is affliction and persecution (Mark 4:17). Affliction means “pressures of life.” Affliction includes sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical and emotional problems including anxiety and depression. So, what is the will of God concerning fiery trials?
The apostle James said that you should “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of your faith works patience” (James 1:2-3). Various temptations (tests and trials) are to be received with joy and endured with patience. The word, “temptation” translated means evil solicitation; tests and trials (Greek text); and Jesus called temptation evil (Matt. 6:13).
If Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, then how could tests and trials be the will of God. And, in the same teaching on prayer, Jesus first taught his disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Since there are no fiery trials, tests and trials in heaven, then obviously, these pressures of life aren’t the will of God here on earth.
The will of God is to endure, i.e., be patient (Jas. 1:12-14); not waiting for something to happen, but enduring what is happening. Remember the devil comes to steal the Word with affliction to cause you to fail, to quit, and go back into sin (See Mark 4:15-20). When you are faced with a fiery trial, including this Coronavirus pandemic, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4).
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12, 13 NKJV
The Twilight Zone was a television series aired on CBS back in the early 1960s with episodes of science fiction, suspense, horror, and sometimes a psychological thriller with an unexpected twist. The show fantasized about strange things that happened to people. This Coronavirus pandemic that we are experiencing can feel like a twilight zone, but it is nothing more than the trying of our faith, and we should not think that is strange.
We are told by the apostle James to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). According to James, the trying of our faith is various temptations, i.e., tests and trials, troubles and problems. We are told to count it joy when we fall into—not walk into or jump into a temptation. If we fall into a situation of no making of our own, God will give us the grace to overcome it and come out on the other side better and stronger. But make no mistake about it; trials don’t come not to try us, but rather they come to try our faith—to test what we really believe about the Word of God. Too many Christians believe in the Bible and even worship it, but not enough will act on what it says. Every trial is an opportunity, if we have an attitude of joy.
Test and trials don’t make us stronger, but we can come out stronger if we take the opportunity to stand on the Word—that’s what faith is. Faith is like a bridge over troubled waters, and patience is the pier to uphold our faith. And, patience works by us being constant and consistent in our faith. And, it is patience that perfects us, not the trial itself (Heb. 10:36).
Further, we must have the right perspective about the trying of our faith, especially during this COVID-19 viral pandemic. Is it God’s will? Not according to scripture (Matt. 6:10). Will this test and trial make us grow and become more like Jesus? No! It is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that makes us grow stronger and be more like Jesus. Test and trials come to take the Word out of us, to cause us to fail, and to cause us to go back into sin (See Mark 4:14-20). Whatever the will of God is in heaven, it is also His will for us here in the earth. So don’t think that this pandemic is some strange thing. It is a trial which is to try us!
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NKJV
Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross and buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day He arose; and those who went to His grave—first the women, and afterwards both the women and Peter and John—found an empty tomb (John 20:1-8). He was resurrected from the dead!
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the heart of the Gospel message. Without the resurrection, we have nothing to stand on as believers, and our faith in Christ Jesus would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). Jesus’ bodily resurrection tells us that the grave could not hold Him and that He demonstrated power over death. This in-refutable fact holds the promise that we too, who believe, will also have victory over death (1 Cor. 15:55). The empty tomb is the evidence that Jesus is not dead; He is alive and well (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).
Both the cross and the empty tomb are significant in the Christian faith. Why? The cross symbolizes our atoning sacrifice for sin (John 1:29; Heb. 9:22). It is also the universal symbol of Christianity, but it has no saving power. The cross (timber of a tree) was an instrument of capital punishment and suffering and shame. It only symbolizes what Jesus did (1 Peter 2:24). And, the empty tomb is a symbol of the resurrection and victory over death—speaks of what Jesus is doing right now in the lives of believers. The empty tomb gives us the hope of our victory over death and our resurrection.
Much is said and sung about the cross, but little or nothing about the empty tomb; believers even wear and display crosses as a symbol of their faith. Some will even hang a cross around their neck. But why do we hang a cross around our neck but not an empty an empty tomb? Jesus is no longer on the cross; He is not dead, He has risen! It is the empty tomb that tomb demonstrates that death is not the end for us but only a new beginning in the presence of the risen One (1 Cor. 5:3)
So, the empty tomb is the evidence without question or dispute, “[that] without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Because of the empty tomb, we are forgiven of sin; we are saved by grace through faith; we have eternal life; we are filled with the Spirit; we have life in abundance; we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus; and, we have hope against hope, today and tomorrow!
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NKJV
The Lord is your Helper and He promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5); yet, one of Satan’s most powerful and insidious weapons used against the people of God is fear: fear of failure, fear not having enough, fear sickness and disease, and in these days, even fear of contracting or dying from a viral infection.
Fear immobilizes and paralyses you by instilling dread in your heart and mind. But if you are faithful, focused, and fearless, you will triumph in victory by staying present in the moment, keeping your eyes on Him, and showing courage in the face of fear.
What Is Fear? Fear is the opposite of fearlessness and courage. It is a feeling—and can be a spirit—of dread caused by the expectation or realization of danger, or any unfavorable outcome. What causes fear is the uncertainty of the future (See Gen. 15:1). Fear is an acronym (F.E.A.R.)—any circumstance presenting false evidence in your mind but appearing real; and thus, you react as if it were so. Therefore, fear is faith in reverse. But God says, “Fear not, for I am with you!”
The two greatest emotions among mankind are fear and love. Always choose love because God is love and there is no fear in love; in fact, perfect love casts out the torment of fear (1 John 4:7-8, 18). Remember you are dead with Christ in God (Col. 3:2, 3), and “dead men don’t sin’ and dead men don’t fear! But truth be told . . .
It is only natural in your humanity to have some fear, but choose to respond to fear in faith and not react with dread in your heart. “Fearless” isn’t the absence of fear, but having courage in the face of fear, just as Moses told Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Fear produces bondage, but fearlessness produces liberty and victory (Rom. 8:15; 2 Tim. 1:7). Fear not!
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2, 3 NKJV
Living in a day and time of COVID-19, the Coronavirus pandemic, can be unsettling in many ways. These perilous times can try your faith, distort your focus, and shake your courage. But you must not let plagues, pestilences, life’s troubles, and other distractions dampen your faith, blur your focus, or grip you with fear. You must continue to do God’s will, and in the end, you will triumph if you remain faithful, focused, and fearless. You need to stay present in the moment and keep your eyes on God. Just keep eyes on Him!
In scripture text above, we are told to set our mind on things above—not on the things of the earth—because we are dead in Christ (Gal. 2:20) and our life is hid and protected with Christ in God. What God is saying is that we are to focus on Him and not be moved by everything happening in the world. Focus is fixing your spiritual eyes, i.e., your mental sight. “Where there is no [mental sight], the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). To focus on God is not glancing at Him, His Word, or His promise in the times of trouble (Ps. 41:1; 59:16); it is time to gaze and not glance. When you gaze at God, you are focused on Him and maintaining a clear image of a vision of victory—coming out of this crisis on the other side.
Let us set our minds and spiritual eyes on God. Instead of seeing only the discouraging and mounting number of infections and deaths caused by this invisible enemy, let us look unto Jesus, our Lord (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:2). “Let [our] eyes look straight ahead, and let [our] eyelids look right before [us]” (Prov. 4:25). And, if you believe what you see by faith, stand on Isaiah 44:23, “Sing O heavens for the Lord has done it. Shout you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing.” It’s time to focus on God; it’s time to sing; it’s time to shout! “When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him (Isa 59:19). Just keep your eyes on Him!