Psalm

Encouragement during COVID-19 lockdown

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Move from idleness to encouragement

Sunrise
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2

My hope today is that you will benefit deeply from this post, during these difficult and unprecedented times, as it points you toward hope, toward the Lord, and you experience the trials – and opportunities – of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis wherever you are in the world.

The first time Paul travelled to Thessalonica he was met with strong opposition. A mob of bad characters started to riot the city in search of Paul (Acts 17:5).  This mob was so set on destruction that they chased after Paul when he travelled to Berea. 

Life in Thessalonica was especially dangerous for a Christian. But still, in spite of the imminent danger, the church continued to grow, Paul still sent Timothy to watch over and care for the church in Thessalonica. Actually, a better way to phrase it is in light of the danger, Paul writes:14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18) 

It would have been easier for Christians to hide quietly, in secret and ride out the danger. It would have been easy for the church to succumb to the dangers Thessalonica faced.  It would have been easy for Christians to lay low quietly, secretly, ride out the danger. 

The dangers and fears facing Thessalonica are perhaps similar to the dangers and fears facing the world today, not just with COVID-19 9 (Coronavirus), but in general too.  When lock down restrictions in your country are lifted, whether gradually or instantaneously, many of us may fear going out, many of us may fear to gather with people at church, attend social events or even have a family get together.  We may fear going back to the workplace. We may fear contact with other people completely. Some of us may choose to draw our curtains closed and barricade ourselves in our homes in hopes of avoiding the virus altogether. Should this happen, there is certainly the danger of us becoming idle. Even during lock down, there is the danger of becoming idle. We could start eating unhealthily, binge-watching TV series and movies, obsessing over news articles and becoming disconnected from the larger body of Christ.

Yet, despite the testing of any hope by an outbreak of death (1 Thessalonians 4:13), the Thessalonians were called to open their curtains and let light in. They were called to walk ahead of outsiders (1 Thessalonians 4:12) so that the Gospel could manifest. They were called to not be moved by afflictions (1 Thessalonians 3:3), but instead to encourage one another, to help the weak, and above all to be patient and persistent in encouragement and prayer.  

We are also called to do this. People are afraid. Every day the numbers of those affected are growing higher. Countries are on lock down, which means movement restrictions and social distancing.  We aren’t allowed to visit family and friends or go to work. This creates fear! Remember, Christians are called to generate faith, not fear! So instead of fuelling the fear fire, fuel the faith fire –  who can you encourage today? Who can you strengthen today? Who can you seek to do good for today? As needs arise, so do opportunities.  You too, like the Thessalonians, can rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16), pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16) for it is God’s will that you are here, it is God’s will we find ourselves in this situation, it is God’s will for “the reason for this season”. “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” for you.” So, put down the news articles. Close your laptop. Get off the couch. Get off your phone. Change out of your pyjamas and find someone you can bless. Start creating new and good habits that you continue when this season is over.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25

Rejoicing in hope and praying with you all.

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath, 4 comments

A Heart Full of Thanks

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Living a life with a thankful heart, a life filled with gratitude is the way of life that Christ commands of his followers. Christ defeated sin and continues to preserve good through us.

Scriptures

Philippians 2:12-15 NIV
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

Psalm 28:7 NIV
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Being Thankful Defeats Sin

Our relationship with God before sin entered the world resembled a position of upright assurance. We stood without shame before God. All our affections were aimed directly at the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and we were perfectly fulfilled. When we chose to sin and gave into the belief that God and his commands “are not enough,” that desires of the flesh such as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and other such things (Galatians 5:19-21) are more important than God, we no longer aim in attitude toward God, but we bend toward the world to find confirmation and acceptance. Paul speaks of those who are without Christ; “they are crooked and twisted” (Philippians 2:12-15).

The right medicine

What is the remedy to this sinfulness? Philippians 2 tells us how to become blameless, pure and without blemish even amidst our sinful desires and fallen world. Paul tells us to “do everything without grumbling or arguing.” In other words, be thankful. Paul tells us that being thankful will cause us to “shine like stars in the sky.”

Our world is trapped up in entitlement, greed, pride, power struggles, envy and lust and therefore we are always unhappy and dissatisfied with our lives. We are just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We think we deserve more, to be gods ourselves. Therefore, we are on an endless pursuit to control our own lives, and the reason we are never satisfied, and view all those that stand in the way of our satisfaction as enemies, is because we will not allow ourselves to be happy until we have it all. As a result, we are bound in unhappiness. Wallowing in our own pride and self-pity, constantly chasing after shadows.

Be Thankful

Being thankful must be your lifestyle. If you’re struggling with sin in any way today, it’s a worship (thankfulness) problem, you’re worshiping yourself, someone, or something over and above God. The only way to defeat sin is to transfer your worship to God. It takes your focus off your deceiving need and places your gaze upon the King.

We need to remember the words of the Psalmist when he says that the Lord is your strength and your shield; put your trust in Him and He will help you. Your heart will leap for joy, and you will worship Him in song.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Devotional, 1 comment