May the Lord comfort you in times of trouble, steadying your hearts and minds and spirits in Himself. To give thanksgiving, to have drawn His line in your sand and stand, to do good and not tire of it, to continue to pray and not cease, to remember what He has done for you, to watch carefully what He is doing even now, to listen to what He is saying, and following Him in trust and love.
I’ve been contemplating this pandemic and wondering what it’s all about. Is it the Lord’s will, does it have a purpose, what good might come of it, what evil might fall. Every day so long as it is called today is an opportunity. Someone near you, and someone far off, may be saved. Prayer is powerful. Maybe many will come to Christ Jesus in this tumultuous time. I have prayed for my family, the Church, my friends and neighbors, that they remain untouch by the virus. Or is that totally correct? I rather want people to be touched by the hand of God, to be turned from their sin, to be awakened or reinvigorated, to see clearly, to hear the Word of the Lord sharply, and lift their eyes to Heaven, to the throne of God and His Right Hand, to give praise and thanks for all He is and does.
Throughout this trial, I have taken note of my own heart and spirit. I am not anxious, I am not fearful. Neither am I reckless. I give thanks to the Lord for His blessings, provisions, for his mercies, for the faith that is in me.
And it’s occured me that I should not stop at praying for this pandemic to end, but should and do add, Thy will be done. This is important, since I do not know the scope of His aim in these things, but I am sure that All things work together for good to those that love God, to those that are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
I am taking more note as to how I respond to people and articles I see on the internet, not wanting to either slander, or be mean, or hurt delicate faiths or bring the Church into public scorn for lack of agreement across members and denominations. It’s hard to know what to say, or how to say it. I’ve thought sometimes about what Paul said, that he presumed to know nothing except Jesus Christ and His Gospel. And so I’ve been working on myself, or rather submitting to the Lord’s wisdom, to temper my speech, knowing that if I have an opinion on say politics, or knowledge of what is right, and speak it into the air among those who, lacking grace by faith, cannot understand it any way and ridicule truth and wisdom and reply with antagonisms…is that fruitful? Not being gentle enough sometimes. And other times, perhaps casting my pearls before swine. It stinks to read an article about Christianity and see only mean-spirited, evil and heckling remarks in the comments section. I want to engage them and offer some insight into how wrong they are, correcting their abusive words, but they cant hear or see. They just want to quarrel.
I’ve found that ‘Thy will be done’ is in scripture some 90 times. This is more important than praying for the pandemic to end, I feel. God’s will be done, not mine. Not ours. His will. Take a moment to see what scripture says about, Thy will be done.
Thy will be done – 90 verses in Bible
We among Christ’s Church have a lot of questions right now. Should churches be closed. Should we defy stay at home orders and assemble any way. I personally dont think that I can be shut up from prayer. I pray. And I study. I can call on the members of the body. When given the opportunity, I talk with my family about Jesus, about studying His Word, about prayer. Those moments dont come around very often, and I dont know that they hear me, but Im still trying. We are not shut up or incapable of unity. We can study and pray and lift each other up, albeit over the phone or internet perhaps. Maybe a prayer for one another and the Church is like a virtual holy kiss or a loving embrace. I read and hear about some of the faithful catching the virus and some succumbing to it, dying. Pastors, teachers, choir members, and so on. Perhaps we need to reevaluate. What does scripture say? Who is the Church? We are the Church, not the building. Maybe the enemies of God have it mind that they can shut us up if they close our doors. And I dont know that governing authorities are singling out churches to close, when practically every business was closed for a time. I expect we will reopen in time, and I’ll be there at the door, ready to worshop together and fellowship. Our hearts are open, our hearts are softened, the Church IS open. You and I are the Church. Let us praise God, let’s give thanks, let’s surrender our fears to the Lord, let’s trust Him all the more.
Why aren’t all in the faith spared the virus? Some of us are testing God when we shouldnt, I think. I don’t reckon I know God’s whole plan through this pandemic, but I believe it has a purpose. We may use this time to evaluate our faith and readiness to stand in His Word. We may examing what constitutes the Church, you and I, and all of us together, sometimes separated by miles or theological differences or stay at home orders, but in the same family of believers united beyond what’s physical.
I decided recently that when the pandemic concludes, though perhaps it won’t be very soon, I want to enroll in a Masters of Divinity tract at a seminary, perhaps mostly or exclusively online. Id rather meet in a classroom and forge relationships, but I’ll do what I can. I envision that seminary tuition may be strained at most campuses if not all, certainly at this time, and yet the cost may be more palatable when they reopen. I dont want to go into debt again. It took so long just to get debt free. I would attend a seminary if I could pay it off as I go. It might never be as affordable as I think it will be soon.
Ive had a hard time these past 5 years or so grappling with the suggestion from some church leaders that I am not anointed and cannot serve in the body of believers, in some part of ministry or another. I think they are quite wrong. They ask me what the Lord’s calling on me is, and I have said clearly, citing scripture, To be filled with the truth, knowlege of the Lord, pursuing holiness and love, to take a stand and be ready at all times, to serve, and be willing, selfless, with gladness. I have said, I aspire to be an elder in the Church. The Word says that is a good aspiration. Yet I have been told, That is not the usual responce they hear, or want to hear.
Look, I dont want to argue about it any more. All Ive ever asked was to be discipled. And I think they take that as an affront, as if Im judging the local church or their leadership as not discipling. Well its true. Many a church body are not discipling, they’re not mentoring. At some point, they stress seminary, which coincides with the end of what theyre willing to teach you. But I am elated to learn that I am not the only one that feels this way. There are many students and some professors who say the same thing, I have found. Discipleship has long been divided. The body of believers divided. Milk for the lay person, meat for the obviously gifted and well spoken. That’s not scriptural, but its what’s common. For some who are perceived as natural leaders, charismatic speaker, teachers sand who have the financial ability to attend, there’s seminary. For everyone else, theres the local church. And leadership among churches have believed that practically only the seminary graduates are knowledgeable and capable to preach and teach and serve in a ministry capacity. All others are practically dismissed as lay persons, to sit in pews and organize picnics, mow the grass and pay their tithes. I find that to be disgraceful, and it is not what we see in scripture. Id like to see more effort in the local church to help the brothers and sisters recognize their talents and gifts, help each other through life and struggles with sin and expeeiences, and see to it everyone has a place to serve and are truly loved, belonging.
But my attending seminary, if I can get there, will not be an admission of defeat. I aim to bring discipleship back into the house of prayer, into the bible studies and offices and homes of all believers. We need to rekindle the biblical mandate that discipleship is for all believers, and being filled with the knowledge of God is not only for some who can afford it. At all times we should venture to know one another as brothers and sisters and love one another, more than blood. Lift one another up and teach one another, all being students, and none lording their education or authority over all others. I submit to the Lord, and point others, with grace and love, to do the same. Some of the leaders said, when I said I just wished to be more involved, more useful, serve, share my gifts, But you you you dont Have To do anything, right?
It wasnt a question, they were being rhetorical, trying to persuade me from asking anything further. For some reason they didnt think much of me or encourage me. I was wounded, but not down and out. It strirred me to understand and persevere. And the Lord’s Word filled my spirit and my mouth, just like it had the apostles and subsequent disciples, and like Paul said, I am compelled to serve out of an abundance of gratitide and love. How can I not want to serve, it’s who I am in the Lord. To me, the will to serve comes by faith, and faith by God’s grace. I do not want to be like that servant who hid his talents in the gound. The Lord freely gave me, and I will freely give. It all seemed to fall on deaf ears however, to my surprise initially and then it began to anger me. But it was reassuring some, to find that I was not alone in this experience. Searching online, I found a lof of men and women were so easily dismissed just like me.
The lack of grace and gentleness I received, I will pay back with an abundance of grace and gentleness. Though I’ve felt ignored and dismissed, I will bless. Though I’ve felt unloved, I will love the more. Though I was met with lack of patience, I will become most patient. I believe my motives are pure. My conscious is clean. The world surely tends to think that anybody who wants to give something freely only wants something in return. Surely, the Church cannot be like the world in this pessimistic, jaded spirit. But as I have discovered, some are. Or perhaps some like to keep the inner circle of a local church closed off. I don’t know.
I am not frankly sure that I am up to the task. I doubt myself. I dont even know exactly where the Lord may place me after I complete seminary. Early on, when I got saved, when I believed the Lord, I felt called to the mission field. I have stated that every time Ive met with a church leader, and can recall those conversations. Every time, it wasnt enough. One missions director said, How do I know you wont go and get caught up in sin a long way from home? And while I should have said, check my references, Ive worked with several pastors, let them vouch for me, I stayed quiet. I didnt know what to say. How do you judge me in hypotheticals without knowing me. Why dont you try. Just try. But they dont want to be bothered, I suppose.
In scripture we find that the various of churches had need for someone to go, and they chose men of good standing to represent them. Paul says he tried out a number of men, and some didnt work out, but Timothy and some others did. I was personally never given a chance, but dismissed without a thought, though I was in good standing and trusted by the pastors. I dont understand what was the matter, but those experiences really discouraged me for a time. It wasnt right. Remembering those times still rubs me the wrong way. How can it not? And yet it dawned on me at some point, that church and some others Ive attended, do not send their own people. They dont raise up qualified men to send on the mission field. I dont recall anyone else going except the youth group and a chaperon or two. Theyd go for two weeks to somewhere south or central america, build a church or paint or bring aid, sing and play with the children. It seemed more like a christian travel agency and a tiny taste of missionary work, more like humanitarian aid, than a serious mission sending team. And I think those experiences are good for youth, and good for the communities they visit. But we were a very large church. We sponsored men and women on the mission field, but they were not home grown missionaries. Some other church, some other men, raised these men and women up, not us. It’s a shame.
Yet I dont doubt the Lord though Ive had a lot of disappointing experiences like those. I am believing the Lord that He can and will make me what He wants. For what I may lack this moment, He will add. What I dont know right now, He will teach. If I waiver, if I so much as turn to the left or to the right, he will straighten and strengthen my backbone. The Lord has shown me kindness, mercy, patience. He has been incredibly patient. He has disciplined me as His son. I fear Him, and I love Him. And sometimes He says, Show me what I’ve taught you. And I am pleased to prove myself His son for his pleasure. Who am I trying to please? Myself? My earthly father or mother? Or gain the favor and praise of other men? Or God? My own brother called it correctly, I still care sometimes what others think, and sometimes it pains me, but I don’t let others dictate who I am or what I do, nor what I can or cannot do. If a leader tells you you cannot serve – for no biblical reason that would disqualify you, I would submit that they are not fit to lead. But even so, who am I that I can change how people feel or what they do or dont do. And I am not a trouble maker or sow dissension. Ive found it best to simply say, Ok, Lord, where do I go now? And where hes taken me these last few years has really surprised me. He has taught me Himself, through diligent study, difficulty, disciplining. I’ve often felt left out, but the truth is, I was taken in. And I get it now, what consecration means. And I got what I was yearning for, personal discipleship, personal relationship with the Lord. I was barking up the wrong tree.
I turned 40 over a week ago. No matter how old I get, I am always a child to God. I will never outgrow my need for Him. He will always care for me. I see in hindsight, He always has. My life has been a life filled with solitude, against my wishes, but I have come to realize that God has filled the space of my life, my heart, my thoughts, and spirit with Himself. He has broken me from this world, from desiring riches and status and things. And it’s wonderful. And nobody is impressed by it. Ha This is my personal experience. For some church leaders to insinuate it’s just my imagination (that the Lord has plans for me), it hurts. But I’ll press on. There was a choice, Whom shall I serve? And I’ve long made it. Now let me learn! Help me grow! Why are some standing in the way? I don’t get it. And if ever the Lord trust me to act in the way those I looked up to had, I will certainly not behave in the same way. This is not to say there havent been some great people in my life. Pastors, some old women I worked worked for, a few friends. But I certainly had expectations that it’d be a lot more. And much fewer disappointments. Even so, God led me to some that had hearts for Him and loved me, pouring into me what they knew. I will forever be greatful.
Now all I have to do is believe, trust, pray and listen for the Lord to direct my walk. Which seminary should I enroll in? I have a hard enough time finding a local congregation. And right now it almost doesn’t matter, seeing as we cannot meet in person. It may be soon, or it may be a long time. I want to be consistent and persistent. This is no time to relax and hang back; keep moving forward, if even from afar and under social distancing. Use your time wisely. I think it’s still right to obey the earthly authorities, as scripture says, as there is no indication that they are trying to cause us to sin against God. It may however be way past time we build up small home ministries, 2 or more people. But maybe right now, continuing to do so remotely. We have to remember even during this pandemic, there are widows and shut-ins who dont have anybody else; theyre home alone and may need help. How do we help them, safely? I do reject the premise of some that faithful christians cant be exposed to or spread the virus. We’ve seen that it doesn’t care who you are. What can we take away from that? I personally think we should respect how serious it can be, we dont know who it will hurt, and we ought to act responsibly out of love. This pandemic certainly stresses us and has some discipline lessons about it. I work Monday through Friday, wear a mask in stores, and keep my hands germ free as best I can. I pray, I continually pray, that I am helping not hurting, and that this pandemic ends, and yet Thy will be done, Lord.
I would challenge you, and myself too, to find some way to do good, to bless others, to share the love of Christ, without being seen by others for any reward or praise, not even among your Church family, or socalled nuclear family or even your roommates. Know this, what you do in secret, our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward in secret. Just between you and Him, carry on. And it couldnt be easier, what with wearing a cloth mask out in public. Call around, maybe a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen or pantry, ask what they may need? If they say just prayer, lift them up. If articles of clothing, see what you’ve got, drop them off. What could you do right now to make a difference in the life of another? And yet if somebody asks you, be prepared to answer to, Why are you doing this? Give praise to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ your savior and redeemer.
I also wonder, if I cant quite find a seminary I fully agree with, I may… I may choose one any way rather than be complacent. I am concerned somewhat that I may be taught something that isn’t so, yet I trust God the more to make it known to me so that I am not decieved.
Do you want prayer? Just ask. I havent much of tangible things to offer, but I’ve got time, and I can encourge, and I can listen. Don’t forget to smile sometimes. God made giving feel good. It’s more blessed to give then to receive. That’s the way He made it, so be thankful and rejoice. God loves you! Be blessed.