Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Comfort During Crisis

How are you feeling? What thoughts are running through your head this week and each day? Most of us have a mixture of emotions and thoughts that we are trying to process. The staggering amount of data can overwhelm us and the variety of topics is challenging: microbiology, public health and public policy, micro- and macroeconomics, sociology, psychology, and cultural anthropology. And then...we have to actually live our lives! Teleworking or dealings with kids shifted to online learning formats, grocery shopping, exercise, and maintaining relationships - how we do do it all?

The guiding principles for how we navigate our thoughts, our choices, and our emotions are found in our worldview. The core beliefs about life, identity, society, and God form the bedrock upon which our lives come crashing down and they form the forecast for what we believe will come when today ends and a new day comes. So take a deep breath and take a moment to think on the level of your worldview. Some people talk about meditating and mindfulness, trying to think about how all the pieces fit together and pay attention to things you're missing. Business leaders talk about taking a balcony, birds-eye, or 30,000-foot view. It's also called meta-cognition, thinking about our thinking (thought process, that is, and judging the validity of our thoughts). You could also call it asking God to show you the Big Picture, His view on things, and taking every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So what do you believe?

As Christians, we believe God created life, and He did so with purpose. We were the end of His creative process, the only ones created in His image, and originally created very good. Mankind turned away from God and threw our relationship into disharmony through that rebellion, thus suffering the consequences of an estranged relationship with our Creator and Sustainer. But God, in His mercy, sustained us even through the consequences. He sustains us still, through things like disease, warfare, and even death. Into this desperate darkness, God Himself came, in the form of a man, and lived among us. "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 ESV). He spoke words of comfort many, He cried with a few, He spoke words of healing to some, and He spoke words of hope to all, and He gave His life to reconcile us by taking the ultimate consequence of our broken relationship with God. The cross says God knows us and loves us. And then Jesus reassured His followers that He would be with us until His work is finished.
     And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

We believe that God is with us. And we believe that God is working out His plan (Romans 8:28). And we believe that God will finish it (Philippians 1:6). And we believe that God's plan is good, perfect, and pleasing (Romans 12:2). So we believe that we can follow Him through difficulty (Psalm 23), and that He will help us even when we are overwhelmed in our hearts and minds (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We believe that God is still good to us (Deuteronomy 8, Luke 11:13). Let us let our knowledge of God help us to deal with our crisis of today.

God, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for showing us who You are and who we are. As we wrestle with our current crisis, help us to bring our worries and fears to You, that you can help us with open eyes, open ears, open minds, and open hearts be strengthened by the truth of Your presence and love for us, that we with open hearts and open hands can help those around us as well to find comfort and peace in You. Thank You for sending Jesus, and for being with us in Your Spirit still. In Jesus' name, Amen.

If you haven't yet heard the sermon from this past Sunday, here's the link to our virtual Sunday Worship Service video: https://youtu.be/0DKXmaLwSW8.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer - February 9, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer 2020
Day 40: Pray for Steadfastness

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 ESV

Will you keep praying for one another? Will your love for God and love for others last? What about when trials come, when there are arguments and divisions and hurt feelings? What about when there is confrontation of sin and accountability?

If we are following Jesus and experiencing His goodness, then we will know that God's love for us overcomes afflictions and grows through difficulty. We can be steadfast because God is faithful to us. His purposes for us are not frustrated or negated. Trials will come, but God knows that. He works all things for good for His purposes (Romans 8:28). Do not give up praying for one another! Do not give up loving one another! The ability to remain steadfast is us experiencing God's strengthening and sustaining presence through His Spirit. Above all things, abide in Christ's love for you, and you will stand.

As we wrap up these 40 days, I am thankful for the good reports I've heard of how people have responded to the love that's been shared. This is historic; it happened and no one can deny it or change it. Believe in God' working through our relationships with one another, through our prayers for one another. Pray for two more people today, for them to have steadfast faith even in whatever trials they are facing. Send notes to those for whom you pray and encourage them with God's real, good love for them and for all of us. This is day 40 of praying for good, but it is not the end! Keep praying for good, and God will show up!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer - February 8, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer 2020
Day 39: Pray for Increasing Love

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 ESV

What holds us back from loving others? Fear? Hurt? Judgment? Selfishness? Which do you identify with strongest?

Jesus said the most important commandment was loving God, and then He quickly added that loving others is just like it. Paul celebrates that the Thessalonian Christians have faith that is growing abundantly and love of everyone of you for one another in increasing measure. They are growing in love. They are growing in their capacity to love. They are growing in their expressions of love.

What a church! What allows us to grow in these ways? When we receive God's love, we have love to give. As God works in us to humble our hearts, convict us of sin, and to move us off of our sinful, judgmental perches, we are given over to love from Him, love for Him, and love for others. God wants us to be marked by love. God does not want us to hold back. This is His goodness working through or relationships. So here is the question: do you love the people in your church? Are you growing to love all of them more and more?

Pray for two others to grow in loving one another! Pray for reconciliation where there have been broken relationships - this is not to be in the family of God! Pray for healing and grace, for mended marriages and friendships. Send notes to those for whom you pray and ask them how you can pray for them beyond this as well. This is day 39 of praying for good!

Friday, February 7, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer - February 7, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer 2020
Day 38: Pray for Growing Faith

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 ESV

As we wind down our forty days of prayer for our church, let us give thanks to God as we ask to experience His goodness. God is with you, wherever you are. God is for you, as He desires to bless us and bring us into His good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2), for His own name's sake (Ezekiel 36:15-21). God calls us to faith (Genesis 15:6), and to grow in walking with Him. This is a blessing - to be able to grow in our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11) in God because He is faithful and trustworthy.

What does it mean to live a life of faith? It means we've tasted and seen the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) and are willing to go where He leads (Psalm 23). He is the good shepherd (John 10) and we trust Him because we are His. Let your faith grow abundantly! Have more and more faith, learning to trust Him with everything in your life. Pray about everything - lift it ALL up to Him. Give God everything! Do not hold anything back! To trust Him and live by faith is a good thing. Putting ourselves in God's hands and stepping out in faith is the best place for us to be. This is His goodness under, over, in front of, and behind us.

Pray for two others to grow in faith! Pray that their burdens would be lifted up and that they would truly learn to trust God and live by faith. Send them a note and ask them how you can pray for them beyond this as well. This is day 38 of praying for good!


Comfort During Crisis

How are you feeling? What thoughts are running through your head this week and each day? Most of us have a mixture of emotions and thoughts ...