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How We’re Doing Church + A Timely Word from Habakkuk

doing church over Zoom

How We’re “Doing Church” During This Health Crisis 

Yesterday was our third week worshiping with a small group of believers over Zoom. Our church is providing members with an order of service to follow in our own homes, and we’ve chosen to go through it with our small group each Sunday. While we can’t sing together (there’s a delay that doesn’t make that possible), I’ve loved discussing the passage together with personal application questions like,

What are some things in life you are tempted to believe God is entitled to give to you?” (Oh boy . . . where do I start?!) 

A Timely Word from Habakkuk 

Here was yesterday’s order of service if you want to use it yourself next Sunday. It was a timely word from Habakkuk 3:16-19. You’ve probably heard this part before:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Sounds glorious, as long as you’re reading the words and not testing them in real life. But Habakkuk understood exactly what it would mean if the fig tree did not blossom, if the olive trees and fields did not yield food. In an agricultural society, this meant death by starvation. 

There were no backup plans. No restaurants, no grocery stores, no pantries. Our small group tried imagining such a dire situation, and we just couldn’t. Unfortunately, though, it’s reality right now for those in India. 

Habakkuk’s Realities True in India Right Now

The entire nation is in the midst of a complete, three-week lockdown. They only had four hours notice before everything was shut down. Many of the 1.3 billion people there barely survive as it was. Now, with twenty-one days of complete lockdown, this spells starvation and death for many. Please pray. 

Maybe this paragraph from yesterday’s order of service can help inform your prayers: 

“In an uncertain world, we can find joy in the certainty of God’s faithfulness and sustaining care. Even if we are stripped of all else—our comforts, our security, our very life—we can never be separated from the saving love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD. The lack that we sometimes experience, the hardships we face, the chaos we go through—it all focuses our eyes on the Gospel, because the gospel is not simply about God giving his people many blessings, but about God’s power to grant us the right to be reconciled to relationship with our Creator. God, in his strength, has granted to us the right to see Him and to rejoice in Him, no matter what may come.”

Sidewalk Chalk Theology 

Later in the day, our family took a walk. I was intrigued by how many signs we saw around the neighborhood. 

  • One family had painted a sign that said, “We are all together,” decorated with colorful handprints. 
  • Another used sidewalk chalk to mark off the distance of six feet and to encourage people to continue practicing social distancing. 
  • One home featured a sign in their window saying, “Things will get better.”  

That last one stood out to me in light of our focus on Habakkuk that morning. Things won’t get better for many. Hundreds of thousands will die. While I appreciated their desire to offer hope, it fell flat. 

After the kids were in bed, I realized we could write messages of true hope on our sidewalks. So Trevor and I hunkered down under the light of the moon and covered our sidewalks with Scripture. 

We live on a corner in the city, so we get a lot of foot traffic. Will you pray that many would receive comfort, hope, conviction—even eternal life in Jesus—through God’s Words? 

I’d Love to Hear From You

  • How are you worshiping God each Lord’s Day during this strange time when we’re unable to gather together corporately to do so? 
  • What are some things in life you’re tempted to believe God is required to give to you?
  • While you’re probably not facing starvation, what are you struggling with right now? Even if it’s “little” compared to what those in India are facing, how can I be praying for and supporting you? 

Jesus’ Response to Tragic Headline News

Jesus’ Response to Tragic Headline News

Dear reader, 

A friend told me she can’t bear to look at social media right now, because so many are posting about all the free time they have now. Ha! She was already over-extended as it was. Now, thanks to the current health crisis and school shutdowns she’s “a shell”: schooling her children, caring for her parents, continuing her job, and more. 

When I asked how I could practically help her, she asked if I could text her some Scripture regularly.

I wonder, could you, too, use some refreshment from God’s Word during this crisis? If so, follow along on Instagram and Facebook.  Today, I’ll include some brief thoughts from Luke 13 right here on the blog.

Jesus’ Response to Tragic, Headline News

In Luke 13, some people tell Jesus the tragic news of the day: Pilate has killed some Galileans, mixing their blood with the blood of their animal sacrifices. Rather than responding with something like, “That’s awful!” Jesus asks, Do you think these were worse sinners than other Galileans because they suffered this way? “No,” he answers his own question,” “but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).  

Jesus than takes a turn sharing another tragic headline news story with them. A tower in Siloam fell on eighteen people. Everyone died. Again, he asked, were they worse sinners than others because this happened to them? “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 5). 

While you and I may (hopefully!) escape death by the current health crisis, we will all perish, unless we repent of our sin. Let Jesus’ response to tragedy serve as a wakeup call. Luke 13 goes on to share about the only two possible destinies for everyone on this planet:

1) For those who don’t repent, “…there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out” (v. 28). 

2) Those who do repent, though, will experience life beyond death: “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God” (v. 29). Imagine stretching out and talking and laughing and feasting with Jesus. If you are in Christ, THIS is your future. This is your hope. 

If this is not you, turn from your sin to Jesus, and He will welcome you to His table!

PS: I should explain this picture. Iren enjoys reading the paper with his grandma. While he’s reading the comics section in this photo rather than a tragic news story, may it serve as a reminder that you can still have joy because of the future Jesus has secured for you . . . with Him! 

 

Staring Death in the Face

Staring Death in the Face

My husband and I have been staring death in the face for the past couple of months.

Staring Death in the Face

We were first reminded of its presence the afternoon our next-door neighbor told us his wife was going downhill quickly after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Death called again the day we noticed the medical van in their driveway advertising hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen. Then came the newspaper obituary and the knock on our door: Our neighbor’s wife had died at home on Saturday, surrounded by her family.

A couple weeks after the visitation, death visited again. This time it was our neighbor’s dad who was taken.

Our Shared Destiny of Death

Suddenly I can’t escape the cold, hard truth that all of us share this destiny of death. Every time I look at my neighbor’s house, I am reminded of the reality of death. And while none of this is pleasant, I am glad for this sobering reminder. As the teacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

The wise will live with the reality of death ever before them.

Staring Death in the Face was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Click here to continue reading. Then consider, How would living with the reminder of death ever before you change the way you live each day?

 

Should You Try to Contact the Dead?

Should You Try to Contact the Dead?

Months ago, a girl asked me what God thinks of ghosts. I hemmed and hawed because . . . I had no earthly idea. But since Halloween is tomorrow, I thought it was as good a time as any to search God’s Word for an answer.

Do Ghosts Really Exist?

I’m sure you’ve heard talk of ghosts—maybe on a show like Ghost Whisperer, a movie like The Sixth Sense, a visit to a haunted house, or those chilling ghost stories your friends tell around the campfire.

But, do ghosts really exist? And what exactly does God think about ghosts?

First, a definition. According to Wikipedia,

“A ghost is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living.”

God’s Not a Fan

Ghosts don’t just roam around on the earth at their will. (Many believers point to verses like 2 Cor. 5:8 to indicate that spirits don’t “hang around” on earth after they die.) You don’t have to worry about bumping into one if you’re out walking through the cemetery on a damp, fall evening.

Ghosts (the spirits of the dead) have to be proactively contacted through a witch, medium, or spiritist. And God is super clear about what He thinks of that practice:

“Let no one be found among you who . . . is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD” (Deut. 18:10–12).

Even though King Saul knew this, he decided to consult the dead anyway. You can read all about it in 1 Samuel 28:3–19. He’s not the only one tempted to do this, though. Teens just like you try to contact the dead every day.

God doesn’t need to be contacted by a medium. Through Jesus you have direct access to Him anytime, any place.

Eight years ago, in 2006, the Barna Group surveyed 4,000 teens. The study found that three-quarters of U.S. teens had “engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity, beyond mere media exposure or horoscope usage.” Ten percent had participated in séances, where they tried to contact the dead.

How about you? Have you ever tried to contact the spirit world? If so, what motivated you to do so? I’d love to hear about it.

Better Than Contacting the Dead . . .

If you’ve ever been tempted to contact the dead, consider this.

God doesn’t need to be contacted by a medium. Through Jesus you have direct access to Him anytime, any place,

“Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near . . .” (Heb. 10:19–22).

The only way you and I can possibly have access to this holy, holy, holy God is by placing all our trust in His Son who died in our place in order to forgive and cleanse us from all our sin. After His death on the cross, Jesus was dead for a total of three days. But unlike all other dead people, He didn’t need a medium, spiritist, or witch to call Him up. He broke the chains of death and rose from the grave all by Himself—for good!

That said, here’s my question for you:

Why try to contact the dead when you can talk to the One who conquered death—the ever-living One who has the keys to death and the grave?

“I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (—Jesus, Rev. 1:18, NLT).

Should You Try to Contact the Dead?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.