One month after we began this quarantine the newness has worn off. Reality begins to set in, and the reality is that each of us has experienced some loss. Some have lost loved ones, and it is easy to minimize the loss felt by those who have lost less. Loss, though, is still loss. Some have lost jobs, income, friends, projects they had been developing, or dreams for which they were planning. Students have lost school, graduation ceremonies, and proms. Businesses have lost income or closed. Churches have lost connection with people and now they are losing traditional Easter practices. Families are cancelling reunions and are not able to come together to grieve or celebrate.
Some losses are greater than others, but all losses are losses and must be grieved. It is easy to recommend some Pollyanna type advice and say, “Focus on the good.” It is easy to compare your loss to others and feel like you have no right to grieve. Stuffing down your losses and not feeling them will, however, lead you to an eventual collapse. You can’t change your world if you collapse. Grieving losses is essential work for this season so that you are prepared to help others.
It is easy to say you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Truthfully, feelings were made to be felt. Feelings can’t be helped, and feeling a loss is the only way to move forward. Suppressed feelings never go away, they just come out later when they are stronger and able to damage you more. In this age of Coronavirus, you need to feel whatever losses you are experiencing. You need to feel and not compare your loss to another person’s loss. It is ok to feel.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross taught us that you feel grief in five ways: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t follow any order, and each of the feelings may be seconds apart from another. Some deny loss, ignore it, or hide from it behind addiction. Some lash out in anger and try to make others feel their pain. Some try to bargain with God or others (Maybe the toilet paper hoarding has something to do with feeling in control of something and bargaining our way out of danger. “If I only have enough TP I will be ok?”) Some feel depression. Remember, each feeling is an expression of loss and must be felt in order to get to the place of acceptance. Feeling isn’t wrong. Actions are wrong. When we fail to feel, we tend to do wrong things.
We ask “why” in our loss, but we almost never get to a real “why.” Some pretend to know “why” but they fall short of the real “why.” God knows and He isn’t telling us. Maybe God doesn’t tell us why because we wouldn’t understand it anyhow. His plans are not our plans, and He sees our loss from an eternal perspective that at best we see through a “dark glass.” God does, however, tell us “what.” Once we feel our loss, we finally get to acceptance where we can hear His voice tell us what to do next.
Soon, our world is going to need Christians who have felt their own pain and loss. The world will need Christians who can hear God’s voice. We may never, on this side of Heaven, be able to say “why.” We will, however, be able to help others feel their own loss and hear God tell us what is next. We can’t get back what is lost; we can only accept it and look to our future.
Reinhold Niebuhr understood this in his great Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Feel your loss so you are free to change the things you can rather than being stuck in the things you can’t change.
One of the hardest parts of quarantined life in a pandemic for world-changing believers is that many of the ways we worked to change the world are now difficult or impossible. LCC is not doing our large outreaches, our children’s outreach team is not face painting or twisting balloons, and it seems like we are observers rather than game-changers.
One thing we can still do (as of 4/1) is walk around our neighborhoods. As long as you maintain distance, walking is good for you and your immune system. Instead of just walking, let’s try prayer walking. LCC’s prayer walking guide says, “We bring the light of Christ into the area and impact spiritual darkness just by our presence as the children of light.”
Some Practical tips: Wear comfortable shoes & appropriate attire; pray for protection before you walk, pray out loud and maintain a prayer focus throughout your walk; if walking with others pray in agreement and reinforce each other (of course make sure your group is small and only made up of those already in your quarantine circle); ask God to reveal the things that are on His heart; ask God to help you see our community as He sees it; ask the Holy Spirit to give us insights and specifics so we can pray more effectively.
Start with praise & worship: Praise God for who He is the only True & Living God, the Creator, Almighty God who desires that all people to be saved & know Him.
Claim the Community for Christ: God’s promise to Moses that wherever his foot touched, that land would be his and his ancestors (Deut 11:24) Joshua 1:3: “Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you, as I promised Moses.”
Declare Christ’s truth in a place filled with falsehood.
Proclaim Christ as the answer.
Pronounce blessing in the name of Jesus on homes, schools, businesses, churches, etc…
-Intercede on behalf of the community coming against authorities and powers that bring corruption & bondage.
-Pray with authority in the Name of Jesus; Bind & loose as directed by the Holy Spirit (Matt 18:18); Pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
-Intercede on behalf of the community for a spiritual awakening that will lift the standard of righteousness and bring an end to violence, crime, and evil manifestations in the area and most importantly for the salvation of the people.
-Pray in the Spirit – the perfect will of God
You might even ask those you meet if you can pray for them (from a safe distance).
We are not powerless in a pandemic! Pray for each home you walk past and bring the Spirit of Hope and Healing to your neighborhood.
Fasting is a way to more clearly hear God’s voice and to prepare ourselves for ministry. In a time when we are hearing many conflicting voices concerning the current crisis we need to hear the voice of God in how to protect our family and be the Church in our community. I believe we are called to be salt and light in this season, and every LCCer needs to prepare for the coming season. If we could hear God’s voice and prepare, we can be a powerful force in helping our neighbors.
I encourage you to fast during this season and to hear God’s voice. Every LCCer has a call to do something.
Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer L. Towns is a great resource, and much of this post is drawn from Dr. Towns’ work. Fasting is not an end in itself; it is a means by which we can hear God’s voice and submit ourselves in obedience to Him. We don’t make God love us any more than He already does if we fast or if we fast longer! One of the greatest spiritual benefits of fasting is becoming more in tune to what He wants us to become and do.
Jesus taught us that fasting is for today. He says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, pour oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matt. 6:16-18
Christians should fast when faced with situations requiring extra strength. Jesus said that the disciples would fast when He was taken from them. This implies that fasting can be associated with mourning. Thus, one purpose of fasting is to express grief while being close to God and receiving His help to get us through difficult times.
Fasting is useful before temptation (Mt. 4:1-2), during worship (Lk. 2:37), in preparation for ministry (Acts 13:3), and in times of deeper commitment to Him (Acts 14:23). Fasting allows us to more clearly hear God’s word for accomplishing His will in the world. Isaiah teaches us: “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (58:5-7) Fasting will give each of us a clear plan of action for responding to this crisis. Isaiah continues, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (8-9)
Some practical suggestions for fasting: 1) Take fasting seriously and prayerfully. Fast when you face a difficult situation or decision seeking divine intervention in your life. 2) Start slowly and end slowly. Skip a meal or two and take that time to pray. Increase your fasting time gradually. 3) Consider your personal health. If you have any health problem, you should check with your physician before fasting, especially for extended periods. Currently, use wisdom in length. Do not compromise your health. Longer is not better.
Linda and I usually spend a lot of money eating out. I believe we can and should use the money we are not spending to help others. We have committed to donating this money to local food pantries. If you want to share this commitment with us, designate this money as “Crisis Help” and we will pass it on to our community. You can give through Tith.ly, our PayPal link at https://www.positivelifechange.org/contact , or mail a check to PO Box 130 Bealeton, VA 22712.
Jesus’ disciples could have asked Him for anything. What they chose to ask Him was to teach them to pray. They knew that prayer unlocks all of God’s blessing and protection. All of His promises are realized through prayer.
In this pandemic, we need God’s blessings and realized promises. We need His protection and power. Set aside a few minutes 3 or 4 times a day to re-center your life through prayer. Or set aside a longer period during these days of quarantine. There is no reason to lose your center during this season.
Here is how Jesus taught His disciples to pray: (Matt. 6:9-13)
START WITH PRAISE- “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name..”
Read your Bible and make a list of God’s character qualities. (Examples: Patience, merciful, and forgiving (Num. 14:18); knows all (1 Sam 2:2); Loving (1 Jn 4:8)). Praise gives us boldness in prayer, and God answers prayers that are based on who He is. Praise Him for what He has done in the past (make a list of answered prayer and blessings you have received in the past). Thank Him. (Make a list of things you are thankful for.)
PRAY WITH PURPOSE- “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
Pray for God’s will (purpose) to be done in my family, in my church, my ministry, my job, my future, my city, the nation, and the world
PRAY FOR PROVISION- “Give us this day our daily bread…”
“God will supply all your needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.” Phil. 4:19 (LB)
“Since God did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us, won’t he also surely give us everything else?” Rom. 8:32
“You do not have… because you don’t ask God!” Js. 4:2
Make a list of needs, the promise you are claiming in the Bible, and ask God for them. Record on your list when He answers the need.
PRAY FOR PARDON- “Forgive us our debts…”
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in your life. Confess (agree with God) your sins to Him. Make peace with others if necessary. Ask God for forgiveness and allow Him to help you forgive yourself.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
PRAY FOR PEOPLE- “…As we have also forgiven our debtors.”
Make a list of people you are praying for. You might pray for different people on set days (Monday for leaders, Tuesday for hurting people…)
PRAY FOR PROTECTION- “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
We face spiritual battles every day, and presently we face a great physical enemy. Pray for deliverance from defeat, temptation, fear. Receive the power you need to face the future!
Now is a great time to discover the power of prayer! We each need it more than ever.
Linda and I sent our tithing check this week. I wish I could say it was easy. I thought of the uncertainty in our future and how we might need to save the money in case we needed it. I wrestled with the desire to take care of my family and the desire to obey and trust God. I argued that we could send it later, after all this uncertainty ended.
It dawned on me that my choice was deeper than a few dollars. It was really a choice between trusting myself and trusting God for the next season. In the end, we had no choice other than to obey God and trust Him. Not easy, but I feel secure in His hands.
This series is exploring spiritual disciplines and is drawn from Liberty 201 class. A section is on tithing, so I am not skipping it. Now, more than ever, we need to put our trust in God. Finances are where the “rubber meets the road.” Here are 8 reasons from God’s Word for tithing:
1. Because God commanded it.
“A tenth of all you produce is the Lord’s, and it is Holy.”Lev 27:30
2. Because Jesus commended it.
“Yes, you should tithe, and you shouldn’t leave the more important things undone either.” Matt 23:23
3. Tithing demonstrates that God is first in my life.
“The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God in first place in your life” Dt 14:23 (LB)
4. Tithing reminds me that all I have was given to me by God.
“Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”Dt 8:18
5. Tithing expresses my gratitude.
“How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” Ps 116:12
“Each of you should bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” Dt 16:17
6. God says that refusing to tithe is stealing from Him!
“God says “Will a man rob God?” Yet you are robbing me! But you ask “How do we rob you?” God says “In tithes and offerings…” Bring your whole tithe into My house.” Mal 3:8-10
7. Tithing gives God a chance to prove He exists and wants to bless you!
“Bring your whole tithe into my storehouse. Test me in this says the Lord and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you won’t have room enough for it! I will prevent the pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your fields will be protected from plagues.” Mal 3:10
8. Tithing proves that I love God.
(Jesus) “If you really love me, do what I command.” Jn 14:15
“…I want you to be leaders also in the spirit of cheerful giving…This is one way to prove that your love is real, that it goes beyond mere words.” 2 Cor 8:7b-8 (LB)
Tithing “buys” a sense of security and faith in God that is priceless. Now, more than ever, we all need trust in Him.
I also pray that LCC is strong enough financially to bless our community in the coming months. There will be smaller ministries and community needs that we can bless if we are obedient now.
Each of us must decide to give willingly (Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under pressure.” 2 Cor 9:7a), cheerfully (“…For God loves a cheerful giver!” 2 Cor 9:7), and sacrificially (“They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service…” 2 Cor 9:6).
How do we give in this time of online church? Most LCCers already give online, but for those of you who give through the offering boxes here are your options:
• Mail a check to PO Box 130 Bealeton, VA 22712
• Stop by the building and put your check in the offering box
• Use the tith.ly app. Search for it on your phone. If you need help, let me know.
• Give using PayPal. Click on the “donate” button at https://www.positivelifechange.org/contact
Giving teaches us to put God first in our lives (Dt. 14:23). Now, more than ever, each of us needs to put God first and trust Him for our future. Encourage one another by sharing stories in the comments about how God has demonstrated His faithfulness in finances as you obey Him in tithing.
Today (Monday) I am missing my LCC family. Sunday is more than content streamed across the internet. Yesterday was a victory! We had more “visitors” yesterday than we have had all year. The online “attendance” made yesterday our largest service of the year so far. I, however, keep going through each of your faces in my mind and feeling as if we missed the best part of church-each other.
We teach regularly at LCC that you belong in fellowship with other believers:
“Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10
“You are a member of God’s very own family… and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” Ephesians 2:19 (LB)
“So in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5
We teach that we need each other to grow spiritually:
“Let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds.” Hebrews10:24 (Ph)
“Every day…keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the glamour of sin.” Hebrews 3:13 (LB)
We teach that Christ is present when we gather:
“For wherever two or three have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!” Matthew 18:20 (GN)
We teach that there is power in prayer when we come together:
“Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19 (GN)
We teach that our fellowship is a witness to the world:
(Jesus) “My prayer for all of them is that they will be of one heart and mind so the world will believe you sent me.” John 17:21 (LB)
We teach that we are only complete when we are together, and gifts are operating:
“God has given you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other…” 1 Peter 4:10 (LB)
“There are different kinds of service to God…together you form the body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:5
Fellowship involves some “one anothers” that only happen when we are part of a faith community: serve one another (Gal 5:13), accept one another (Rom 15:7), forgive one another (Col 3:13), greet one another (Rom 16:16), bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10), honor one another (Rom 12:10), teach one another (Rom 15:14), submit to one another (Eph 5:21), and encourage one another (1 Thes 5:11).
During this quarantine, we are going to have to think out of the box to keep connected to each other. We also need to think of how we connect new people to our community. We have increased followers on our FB page at a record rate, and we need to include them.
Previous strategies all involved meeting together in person, and it is challenging to think past the older strategies. My son, though, has many close friends that he has only met through online gaming. Perhaps there is a way we can stay connected to each other. We need each other more than ever.
Some ideas (please post your ideas in the comments):
Facetime or Skype with at least two LCCers each day. We need to see people daily.
Start a text group with your class or small group and exchange thoughts throughout the day.
Post some photos of your surroundings to the LCC FB group page.
Share your activities to social media and comment on other’s posts.
Share some photos of past LCC gatherings so we can all remember and look forward meeting again in person.
Use Google Hangouts or Zoom to have a small group meeting or prayer session. You can post an invite to the group FB page and invite others. (The FB page: https://www.facebook.com/PositiveLifeChange/ is open to almost anyone, the group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/25666015098/ is a closed group with a smaller group of LCCers)
We need each other to maintain our spiritual center during this time. Take a few minutes and engage someone right now.