NO Spiritual Distancing!

 

Social distancing has become the latest description of how we are to interact with others. COVID-19 has interrupted all of our lives. Social distancing has been introduced as a way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Six feet between us and others. No hugging. No touching.

Although my and husband I have not been going out in public, we have been going out for walks. Others are doing the same. We smile and shout hello as one couple stays on the sidewalk and the other couple moves to the street. More than six feet apart!

A few days ago, it was our granddaughter’s birthday. We wanted to give her a gift. We went to their home and handed her gift through an open window. We chatted for awhile. Charity and her family were inside and we were outside. More than six feet apart!

Later that evening, I was reading Max Lucado’s He Still Moves Stone. The affects of social distancing were still on my mind. Lucado wrote about Peter keeping his distance from Jesus after Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Luke 22:54 says, “Then they seized Jesus, led Him away, and took Him into the house of the high priest. And Peter followed at a distance.

Lucado expounds, “He (Peter) was loyal . . . from a distance. That night he went close enough to see, but not close enough to be seen.”

Hmmm. Peter was social distancing! It was not long before Peter regretted his actions of not staying close to Jesus. Let us not be guilty of spiritual distancing.

God is not interested in spiritual distancing. He wants to be close to us no matter what our world situation looks like. There is no need for us to keep a safe distance from Him. He is not afraid to give us a hug. In fact, He wants us to come closer to Him at this time.

James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Yes, I cannot help noting that God is telling us to wash our hands. He is referring to spiritual hand washing. Currently, we are constantly hearing about physical hand washing. A way to avoid spiritual distancing is to be cleansed spiritually.

James 4:7, says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Satan is the one from whom we must practice social and spiritual distancing. He is trying to disrupt our lifestyle, but he will not succeed spiritually.

Psalm 145:18 declares, “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.

In Give Him 15 for 3/2020, Dutch Sheets shared the following. “Draw near to Him in a place of abiding. Abiding is being vitally united to Him. As you draw close to Him, listen to His voice and not to the voice of fear and chaos that so many media outlets are causing and promoting. He will speak to areas that He is causing us to think differently in, and even give us new ways to walk out our faith during this time. . . .  He is our refuge. Spend time with Him and draw near that His glory will be your canopy and shield.”

Psalm 91 is a good Psalm for us to declare over our families, church fellowships, nation and world. I will highlight a few verses. Verses 1 and 2 say, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” We can actively abide with the Lord as described by Dutch Sheets. Verse 4 tells us, “He will cover you with His feathers; under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and rampart.We can’t get much closer than under God’s wings! Verse 9-12 promise, “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling— My refuge, the Most High— no evil will befall you, no plague will approach your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.Verse 15 declares,When he calls out to Me, I will answer hm; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him.No space for any spiritual distancing!

For medical reasons, social distancing may be necessary at the present time. However, this only accentuates the need for NO spiritual distancing. Joshua 1:9 encourages us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

The Lord promises no spiritual distancing throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Deuteronomy 31:6 emphasizes, “the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” In Matthew 28:29, Jesus says, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

The Lord calls out to us in Zechariah 1:3, “’Return to Me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.

My Reader, declare with me Psalm 73:28, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.

Spiritual Peace in a Physical Storm

Mark 4:35-40 records Jesus calming the sea. With the COVID-19 currently on everyone’s mind, let’s find a lesson in this story.

35When that evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us cross to the other side.” 36After they had dismissed the crowd, they took Jesus with them, since He was already in the boat. And there were other boats with Him.
37Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. 38But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”
39Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!” He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm.
40“Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?”

In verse 36, we discover that Jesus was already in the boat before they left the shore. We can be encouraged knowing that Jesus is in our lives before we encounter any of life’s storms. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He comes into our hearts and lives. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Colossians 1:27 tells us that Christ in us is the hope of glory.

However, having Jesus in our lives does not prevent us from encountering storms and turmoil. In verse 37, a storm buffeted the boat. The wind blew and the waves rocked the boat. The disciples didn’t like it. They became fearful. Do you feel virus waves trying to splash upon you? Are you buffeted by bad news being reported? We may not like what we are experiencing. However, we are told to walk by faith and not by fear. Isaiah 41:10 comforts us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Most of us are familiar with this verse. But, sometimes it is easier to say these words than to walk them out during the storm. The stormy waves can throw us off balance.

In verse 38, we learn that Jesus was sleeping. The disciples didn’t appreciate being rocked in the boat. Jesus let the waves rock Him to sleep. He had peace regarding the storm’s outcome. Is your faith being rocked by wavering waves? Don’t give up. There is more to the story. Verse 38 continues to tell us that the disciples called upon Jesus. They woke Him up. We, too, can call upon the name of Jesus. We can pray. However, we do not need to awaken Him. Psalm 12:4 assures us that God never slumbers or sleeps. We may think Jesus is sleeping. However, He is at work in our present circumstances.

Verses 39-40 gives us Jesus’ response. The first thing He did was calm the storm. Next, He questioned the disciples about their faith. Jesus wanted to help these men overcome fear and learn to walk by faith. Hebrews 11:1 NASV defines faith saying, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Jesus used this storm as a teaching moment for His disciples. He wants us to learn from our stormy time as well. According to Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Jesus wants us to remember His words of John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

In verse 39, Jesus used the words “silence” and be still.” In other words, He was speaking peace. I usually think of Jesus commanding the storm to cease. I also think Jesus was speaking peace to the disciples. Where are you currently experiencing the most storms? Are your storms coming from the situation around you or the turmoil within you? The Lord says in Psalm 46:10, ““Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Presently, we are not guaranteed outer peace. However, we are assured of inner peace through Jesus. He said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

At this moment, we do not know the medical solution that will calm the COVID-19 storm. It appears almost impossible to contain. Nevertheless, Jesus declares in Mark 10:27. “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. God specializes in the impossible! Jesus is also speaking John 16:33. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Isaiah 9:6 is a prophecy of Jesus’ birth. One of the names given to the child to be born is Prince is Peace. In the New Testament, Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus Himself is our peace.

The medical forecast for today may appear quite stormy. However, the spiritual forecast says it is to be a Son day. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Numbers 6:24-26, declares,The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

I close extending the message of II Thessalonians 3:16 to you. Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

Little Boy in Big Boots

I want to begin by sharing an experience our granddaughter recently had at work. Grace wrote the following story.

“I know this picture is sort of silly and very random but I think it holds such a precious little story within its borders.
This is a two year old boy wearing my boots while asking to go outside.
I think a lot of times we can ask for something but we do not quite understand how to get there. This little boy wanted so badly to go outside. I hadn’t gotten him his own shoes yet, so he took things into his own hands. And although he looked adorable and made me laugh, as soon as he took two steps he toppled over. He couldn’t keep his balance. Very slowly he tried to get where he wanted. He was repetitively tripping and getting frustrated.
Why is it that when we want something so badly we take matters into our own hands? We sometimes tell God what we want and where we want to go. But instead of waiting for Him to put our pieces together and “grab us our shoes”, we put on someone else’s shoes and/or things that don’t quite fit and start the journey. This leads us to tripping and falling. We must turn back for help and probably will need to start over again.
If this two year old had only waited a little while longer. Then he would have known I had his shoes in hand and was about to step down to his level and place his shoes upon him. This would have allowed him to run freely and be stable.”

I want to support Grace’s comments with a few specific scriptures.

We often forget Psalm 31:15. “My times are in your hands.”

We take situations into our own hands. This toddler put his feet into his situation. Hands or feet – similar results. Like the little lad, we want to do things our way in our timing. Let us remember Isaiah 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The little boy was anxious (excited) to go outside. We tend to become anxious (worried) about serious situations. Which ever definition we choose, being anxious can be detrimental.

The two-year-old thought Grace was being very slow. He wanted outside NOW! He did not realize she was in the process of fulfilling his desires. We can identify with this boy when it concerns God answering our prayers. We want answers NOW! We must realize God is at work. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Grace was not being slow. God is never slow. God is more concerned about the souls of people than the boy was about the soles of his boots.

The boy just needed to be patient and trust Grace. We need to be patient and trust God. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The little lad would not have tripped and fallen if he had waited for Grace to put the right sized boots on his feet. Throughout our spiritual journey, we will trip and fall when we do not trust the Lord.

Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If this little boy was going to be delighted by going outside, then the proper preparations had been made. God often needs to make preparations and adjustments in our hearts. When we praise (delight ourselves in) the Lord, our desires come into agreement with His desires. How delightful it is when our desires and God’s desires are the same!

Beth Moore has written, “Our attitude toward timing may shed light on the desires of our hearts. If our heart’s desire is the will of God, we will wait for His timing even when the pause is long and uncomfortable.” Like the two-year-old, we gain nothing by running ahead of God. We will be displeased with the results. We will become frustrated. Beth Moore adds, “Do we truly believe God knows what is best for us? Then we can also believe God knows when is best for us.”

Grace loves this little boy. God loves us. Isaiah 40:31 NKJV promises, “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” This verse is applicable whether it is a little boy running and playing outside or our running the race of life.

Ishmaels or Isaacs

Ishmael and Isaac were sons of Abraham. Ishmael’s mother was Hagar. Isaac’s mother was Sarah. Ishmael was approximately 13 years older than Isaac. He was a son conceived when matters were taken into human hands. Isaac was a son promised by God.

It all started when God spoke to Abram in Genesis 12:1-2. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.

Abram and Sarai were obedient. They left. But, it looked like God was not doing His part. There were no heirs for this great nation.

For the next 10 years, they waited for a son to be born. Finally Sarai had an idea. She suggested that Abram take her maidservant Hagar to conceive a son. (see Genesis 16:1-4) Abram followed Sarai’s advice. The result was the birth of Ishmael.

Abram had a son, but everything was not right.

This plan had not worked. Now what?

About a dozen years after Ishmael was born, God and Abram had another conversation.

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah.

In Genesis 17:6, the Lord assures Abraham, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful.

Although Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90 or a little older, they finally had the son God had promised so many years ago. Abraham named him Isaac. (see Genesis 21:1-3)

Ishmael was born when Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands. Isaac was born when Abraham and Sarah left things in God’s hands.

Did God move as quickly as Abraham and Sarah expected? No, but God had a time set in history for when He would fulfill His promise. II Peter 3:9 says,The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.” (There was a lesson for them to learn – and we, too, need to learn it.)

Did everything go the way Abraham and Sarah expected? No, but God had thought through His plan. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (They needed to know this – and we do too.)

Was God’s timing the same as Abraham and Sarah’s? No, but God had His own timetable. II Peter 3:8 reminds us, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.(They had another lesson to learn – and we, too, should learn it.)

Over the 25 years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah gained many insights. However, I believe the most important thing Abraham and Sarah discovered was the faithfulness of God.

Hebrews 11:11-12 states,By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

Deuteronomy 7:9 declares, God is faithful to fulfill His promises. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

This, too, is for us. We have the potential to create either an Ishmael or an Isaac. Do we only have confidence in ourselves or do we have faith in God?

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us,Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Abraham and Sarah lived life and learned lessons. Ishmael and Isaac were conceived. The lives of these men were influenced by Abraham and Sarah’s choices and actions,

Genesis 25:12-18 tells of Ishmael’s 12 sons.

However, it is through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that the 12 tribes of Israel emerge. This is the heritage of the great nation promised by God. (see Genesis 35:23-28)

The descendants of Ishmael and Isaac have historically been enemies. The animosity remains to this day.

This will also be true of the Ishmaels and Isaacs we create. Our Ishmaels originate from our fleshly desires. Our Isaacs are born through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-17 says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another.

Let us create Isaacs rather than Ishmaels!