Sunday I ministered from Psalm 34, honing in on the troubles and the afflictions of the righteous.
God promises us in that scripture that he sees the righteous, hears the righteous and he delivers them from all their troubles.
We are living in a time of monumental change, where so much going on around us in the world looks different moment by moment minute by minute hour by hour. And in such a time, we need to know where our help comes from.
Broad social changes are happening in every sphere and it is taking us all off guard. Take clergy for example; it used to be that clergy were considered vital and important, and a necessary part of the human experience; some would say essential even, but during Covid we were not. It used to be that people would seek out ministers for prayer before they went to the doctor, and nowadays, that’s not even a thought. It used to be that clergy were respected and valued as contributing members of the healing and wholeness process -now people in white lab coats hold more sway.
The gospel has always been counter cultural but it is even more so now -even to the point of hostility. Going to church is not a priority for people much anymore. And increasingly Christians in particular and religious people in general are viewed as inferior in every way: socially, culturally, morally and intellectually.
But we shouldn’t view this as strange or as anything new. This isn’t unheard of in history-it’s just our turn.
Welcome to our New World-people of God.
We will have to get more creative evangelistically and more shrewd apologetically than we’ve ever been before.
Depression rates are climbing everywhere. There are more cases of drug abuse and addictions and compulsive habits and behaviors on a new global scale. Even though there is more prosperity than ever before people feel more hopeless.
Jesus diagnosed that condition. “What good is it if a person gains the whole world, but loses their soul?”
Even the concept of nation-states is coming to an end. The world is getting smaller not larger. We live in a global community now. And we are more tribal than we have ever been in the past.
In Congress they’re fighting for greater wages but higher wages won’t bring more happiness or a higher life expectancy -for only the bread of life will satisfy a soul.
Did you know that France has banned all conspicuous religious signs as a new dress code for members of its parliament? No crosses or menorahs, no crescents, no symbols showing personal religious beliefs are allowed there. They expect a neutral dress code and enforce it.
We live in a world where anti-semitism is on the rise. We live in a world that has militarized our public schools and already in some neighborhoods police officers outnumber guidance counselors. People are scared and an apocalyptic spirit is everywhere. More than 60% of New Yorkers believe the end of the world is imminent.
In Indonesia, some Christian churches include in their weekly gathering a “martyrs moment” to remember those in their communities who died or had their houses burned for their faith.
This is only the beginning.
We can expect religiously motivated violence to increase and our freedom of religion to be more constrained.
Many recent estimates are that one in ten Christians worldwide are being persecuted or discriminated against.
We will all face our Pilates.
The face of Pilate may look like a religious authority, political authority, or popular culture itself. Living the Christian life is now viewed as unfriendly and hostile.
UNCOMMON NOW COMMON
It’s not uncommon now for weddings to be officiated by someone that carries a status no more than a notary public. And instead of Christianity being viewed as sacred- well forget that….everything is now sacred. You name it-it‘s called sacred.
We the church of Jesus Christ must toughen up in our world dealings. We have to find ourselves again and learn to be ourselves. We can make a difference in the future but only if we’re willing to face the future sure footed and resolved.
Those first century Christians were sent by Jesus into a world that killed them. He sends us out into a mocking world and one that speaks evil of us and maligns us -but we’re still alive.
We must learn how to thrive in such environments. The cross must be upheld. The armor must be put on every day. It’s no longer an option to put on the full armor of God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV
Scriptires like Proverbs 3:5-8 must be written on our hearts.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8 NIV
We desperately need wisdom, for the days we are living in are evil.
Repentance is now viewed as archaic and old fashion-as if it weren’t timeless. I have found that when I even mention the word repent -people get all weird like I said something out of date and irrelevant. Few recognize that true change must involve repentance in this popular culture.
People want to hear of God’s amazing Grace but they don’t want to hear of repentance- not understanding that they work hand-in-hand. Repentance is a call to come home, to Jesus Christ. Augustine said this: I found out too late in life that God promises forgiveness to those who repent but not repentance to those who sin.
The Apostle Paul unapologetically preached the cross and repentance, “Do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance,and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?“
Paul preached Christ crucified -people now preach how to live your best life now.
Even some of the popular Christian music says Jesus carried my cross for me-but that’s not scripture. Jesus himself said deny yourself pick up your cross and follow me.
We are all called to pick up our crosses and follow him in a world that does not love him or us. He said if the World hated me they’ll hate you too. We must remember that, but it must not deter us or lessen our resolve to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Repentance brings change to people’s lives -change in their hearts and minds, and change in their behaviors and their being.
In this rapidly changing world we can no longer afford to live as we did pre-covid. We have to adjust. We have to find ways to cope and live in hope. These are essential as we move forward into this newly changing world.
I want to leave you with some nuggets to help you thrive amidst such change.
1. Pray and pray often. Pray unceasingly as Paul reminds us.
2. Daily ask God for wisdom strategies coping strategies and his grace that is sufficient for that day
3. Be flexible as this is not a time for fixed mindsets.
4. Find ways to bring humor to tough situation‘s. Reframe it.
5. Take time to relax. I take 10 to 15 minutes at a time to just breathe and stretch and let go of anything stressing me.
6. Take time for yourself. Soul care is important.
7. Meditate on the scriptures
8. Take time for Physical exercise whether it’s walking or going to the gym -it relieves stress.
9. Lastly-make sure you have supportive people in your life that you can process things with. Sometimes you may need to vent out loud. Have wise people in your life to converse and bounce things off of them.
We are not a people without hope -but we are living in an ever-changing world and we need to make lifestyle changes, so we are thriving -not just surviving.
I took several excerpts from the book-Rings of Fire. I highly recommend it.
Love and blessings to you,