Wednesday, July 29, 2020

This Time I Understand

When I was young, I remember on the nightly news there would be a counter in the corner of the television screen showing the number of deaths that day in Vietnam as the war raged on. It was too abstract of a concept for a nine year old to really understand. It was just a number. I did not have the ability to fully comprehend that each digit represented a human life and a family that would be forever altered by the reality of what it meant. I mean, it did not affect me, really. Not personally, and it was on the other side of the world. Still, for some reason, I have never forgotten. I have thought about it often over the past almost fifty years since.

Today, I know there are people just as fixated on the daily numbers we get regarding the coronavirus. In the United States, as of yesterday, 148,056 people have died from Covid-19. This time it is not on the other side of the world. This time, right here in Connecticut 4,418 people have died. This time, several people I know have friends or relatives who are infected. I have older parents and church members who are a high-risk for serious issues if they get it. I have friends with compromised immune and respiratory systems who are in a very high-risk category if they were to be diagnosed positive. As someone in their late 50’s with Type-2 diabetes, I am at a higher risk myself. This time, I fully understand every number we see on the news represents a human life and a family that is be forever altered by the reality of what the numbers mean.

This reality we find ourselves in should make us think about the future. If Covid-19 were to be my end, am I confident of what comes next? Jesus says in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That means if we hope for heaven, Jesus is our only hope. It is not a matter of what I do. I cannot do enough good things. It is not a matter of what I say. I cannot offer enough prayers. It is not about how good of a person I am. In Mark 10, Jesus is clear, “Only God is truly good” (Mark 10:18). The Bible is clear. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. My only hope for eternal life in heaven with God is to repent of my sins, ask Him for forgiveness and put my trust in Jesus Christ. He is the only way, truth, and life. Have I done that? That is the question we should all be asking ourselves.

None of us know how long we have. It is only by God’s grace, I have not had a car accident, a cancer diagnoses, been caught in a mass shooting event, that terrorists or anarchists have not detonated a bomb in downtown Hartford. Such are the times we live in today. I am going to die from something, some day. Hey, six months ago, we had never even heard of Covid-19. I do not focus on it. I am not paralyzed with fear about it, but it is a reality. One day I will draw my final breath here on earth. So will you. The question is where will you draw your next one? Have you trusted in Jesus for your salvation? Truly? Just as importantly, have those you love done so? Is your family saved? Your friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? Do not wait. The Bible says, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Once I trusted in Jesus, it was not as if death is okay for me now. I still want to live a long, full, healthy life, but now, when the end comes, and it will come, I am not afraid. I eagerly look forward to eternity. I pray you do too. If you do not, call me here at the church – (860) 249-8627. Let’s talk. If you have trusted in Jesus and your fear is gone as well. How about your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors? Are they okay? Do you know? Have you asked them? Do you care? If you do, Covid-19 is an opportunity to talk to them. “Hey, Jim, I was wondering. If you were diagnosed with the coronavirus and it did not look good, have you thought about what came next?” You see, Jim is not just a number on a screen. He is my friend and I care about him. If your family and friends are not just numbers – tell them about Jesus. Share the gospel with them. It truly is a matter of life and death. Eternal life or death. 

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

It’s Hot!

It has been hot here in Connecticut recently. Now, I know those of you in states like Florida, Texas, New Mexico or Arizona, you laugh. Hot? We’ll show you hot! Nevertheless, for New England, when it gets between 90 and 100 degrees with 62 percent humidity – it’s hot. The opposite is the case in January when temperatures are regularly in the teens. I mention this because the weather affects what we do. In an effort to be safe, we do not go out much in the middle of a blizzard or a heat wave. I fear, however, we have become a bit spoiled. Americans are a little too attached to their comfort. It is a common first world problem. Can you ever imagine buying a car today that does not have air conditioning? Forget that. We would not consider a car without cruise control or on board GPS. We are in the midst of developing self-driving automobiles because, I guess it is too taxing to drive ones car? Where am I going with this?

Well, I have long been a supporter of the organization Voice of the Martyrs. This ministry does everything it can to help, support, and encourage the persecuted church all over the world. Places like Comoros. Have you ever heard of Comoros? Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean between African mainland country of Mozambique and the island of Madagascar. Nearly 99 percent of Comorians are Sunni Muslim, and family members and the government heavily persecute anyone who leaves Islam. Believers must meet in small groups and can only share their faith through one-on-one personal relationships. Every time believers gather to read their Bibles or speak about their faith, they risk physical and societal persecution from their communities as well as imprisonment by the government. Recently, all foreigners associated with an international church were expelled, and some locals were arrested when a children’s Bible was discovered in boxes of toys donated to Comorian children.

Yet, they still gather faithfully, every Sunday. All around the world men, women, and children risk their freedom and/or their lives in order to meet together and worship the Lord. However, here in Connecticut (and all across America really) all too often, I hear, “It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I was up really late last night. The moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter has aligned with Mars, so I’m not going to be in church this morning.” I wonder what a family from Comoros would say.

Now, God is not taking attendance, but our desire to give Him worship does reveal something about our faith. About our heart. As the Bible says in Hebrews 10, “…let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).       

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

An Amazing Journey!

Again, I can never encourage you enough to regularly spend time in the Bible. When we do, we learn, we grow, we are blessed to be able to speak with the Lord through His holy and inspired Word. I finished reading the Book of Acts last week, and I want to share something with you that God revealed to me. Acts 21:1-7,

“After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbor of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home. The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food” (Acts 21:1-7).

It is incredible to think of how many places Paul must have stayed, lived, or visited over the years. Personally, I have moved sixteen times in my life. Some would say that is a lot. Paul would likely say, “And?” As I read these verses this time the Holy Spirit convicted me with a sense of deep appreciation. I was reminded of Paul, along with all the other disciples and evangelists, and how they were always on the move for the cause of the gospel. The same was evident when Jesus responded in Luke 9, to someone who said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said something with a sense of warning. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). This suggests following Christ can sometimes mean a transient life.

When we say we have “given it all” to God, “all” means “all.” It is a declaration that we are willing to do, say, or go wherever the Spirit leads. If God is asking you to do something, say something, or go somewhere, like Paul, respond in faith. God never asks you to do anything He will not provide the means to achieve. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. Moses certainly felt unqualified. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:19, “…don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time” (Matthew 10:19).

No matter what it is, where it is, or how illogical it may sound. God will give you the courage, the words, or whatever support you need to accomplish His plan for you, because it’s ultimately for Him. So, trust Him. I promise you. It is an amazing journey!

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.