Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thankfulness During The Coronavirus

     As I write this on 3-20-20, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic called the Coronavirus. During this virus outbreak, I have seen both the best and worst in people. As Christians, this can be our time to rise up and shine, and I have seen some great examples of individual Christians, and churches doing this very thing.

     I am "thankful" for these Christians who are making a difference right now, and this is what I want to focus on here: "thankfulness." In particular, I want to focus on the "thankfulness" that we should have as Christians. It is not always easy to be "thankful" in the midst of our trials, but the Bible tells us that we should be. In fact, the Bible tells us to "rejoice" in them (James 1:2-4)(Rom 5:3-4)(Jn 16:33). 

     Obviously, finding things to be "thankful" for when the world we know is crashing down around us can be tough, but even when things are at their worst, there are ALWAYS things to be "thankful" for if we look for them. Somewhere on this planet there is "one" person who has the most difficult life of anyone. The odds are very good that you aren't that one person. Therefore, it is safe to say that someone, somewhere has it worse than you do. Frankly, I suspect that many people have it worse than you. (The fact that you have a PC/phone/tablet to read this puts you ahead of much of the world.)

     What do you have to be "thankful" for? While this may vary from person to person, let me give you some ideas:

That you have salvation in Jesus Christ.
That you can go to the Lord in prayer at any time.
That you have the ability to worship the Lord without restrictions.
That you aren't dying from a lack of food.
That you have clean water to drink.
That you have a roof over your head.
That you are able to walk.
That you have heating and air conditioning.
That you have family and friends in your life that love you.
That you have your health.
That you have decent clothes to wear, and shoes with no holes.

     If you really focus on this, I am sure you can think of MANY more things as well. 

     I often urge Christians to take some time once in a while to go to the Lord with "only" a prayer of "thankfulness." Don't ask for anything, but simply "thank" Him for everything that you can think of. When you focus on all of the things you have to be "thankful" to the Lord for, this can be a source of great peace.

     In the midst of this Coronavirus outbreak, I have found some new things to be "thankful" for. Here are a few: 

     I am "thankful" for pastors who have used the internet to reach out and offer messages of encouragement to me and others during this time. 

(***If you are looking for another thing to be thankful for, imagine what your life would be like right now without the internet.)

     I am "thankful" for people who have been picking up and delivering food and products to those who are unable to get out. 

     I am "thankful" that God continues to provide for my wife and I during this time, even with a loss of income.

     I have found renewed "thankfulness" to God for calling me, and giving me the ability to minister to others (especially during this time of "social distancing") through my website (JesusAlive.cc) and this blog. 

     I am thankful for being an "introvert!" When you work in ministry, as you might imagine, being an introvert can have some definite disadvantages. At times, this gets me down. Right now, I truly believe that God has equipped me for such a time as this. While nearly everyone is going "crazy" right now being shut in, this time of isolation has had little effect on me. Most of my days are spent studying the Bible, writing Bible studies, and answering Bible questions on the site to help people. Right now, I have an opportunity to do this even more, and I am trying to take advantage of it.

     To my "brothers and sisters" in Christ who gather with me on a weekly basis to study the Bible, I miss you. This separation reminds me of how thankful I need to be for the love, prayers, support, and faithfulness you have given to me.

     The other day, I began trying to picture what my life would be like right now in the midst of this chaos if I didn't have the "peace that passeth all understanding" (Phil 4:7) that I received when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. As I pondered this, I have found "thankfulness."

     Finding thankfulness is something that God has been working on in my life over the years. Over time, I am getting better at it. Perhaps, like me, God is trying to show you some new things to be "thankful" for right now during this trial. Look for Him and His blessings in your circumstances, and give Him thanks.

     Friend, in Christ, God has a "perfect" plan for your life. Nothing that is going on in your life, or in the world right now is a surprise to God. God is in total control. (1 Th 5:18) "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

My Thorn In The Flesh?

     For years, since I have become a Christian, I have prayed for God to "crush all pride" in me, to keep me humble. The Bible has a lot to say about "pride." God hates it (Prov 6:16-17). It is sin (Prov 21:4). Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). I list more verses on "pride" here.
Since God is so averse to pride, I do not want to be proud. 

     In relation to this, it is also interesting to look at what the Bible says about Paul's "thorn in the flesh" in (2 Cor 12:7-10). In short, in the preceding verses (2 Cor 12:1-6), we see that Paul had been taken up into Heaven, and "heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak." As a result of this experience, Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him from being proud of the "revelations" he had been given by God. While we do not know for sure what this "thorn" was (I believe it was an affliction of his eyes), we do know that it was debilitating to Paul.

     Are some people today being given a "thorn in the flesh" from God (or Satan depending on your point of view) to keep them from being proud? Have I been given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep ME from being proud? I don't know for sure, but I have been thinking about this for a while now. Let me explain.

     Most who read this probably already know that I run a Christian website: JesusAlive.cc. Many of you may have come to this blog from the site. I have answered hundreds of Bible questions, and written Bible studies for the site since August of 2002. If you spend any time on the website, you will probably leave with the impression, "Steve knows the Bible really well." I have spent thousands of hours in God's Word to write what I write. I "seem" to be a Bible scholar. However, there is a problem: I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT I WRITE! 

     Frankly, this isn't the only problem either. I have a "scrambled up brain," and honestly, I am beginning to think that God is behind it. That it is my "thorn in the flesh." Let me explain.

     I have a learning disability. This has been a problem for my whole life. I barely got through school because of it. In some areas of my brain, I might be considered brilliant. For example, I know more odd bits of trivia than almost anyone I know. Most people refuse to play me in Words With Friends (a game like Scrabble) after a few games because I don't lose much. I have a gift for remembering people's names and faces for years (I see people years later, and call them by name and they have no idea who I am.). Cool, right?

     But, then it comes to the other part of my brain. This part literally "embarrasses" me on a regular basis. For one, I have a HUGE problem talking. I stumble over words. I make no sense sometimes. I often cannot convey what I want to say. If I get too flustered, my brain basically just "shuts off" - literally! (In moments like these, I have forgotten things like the name of the street I live on, or the name of a person I see on a regular basis.) Honestly, if this was not a problem, I would almost certainly be a pastor today. However, with my brain the way it is, I could never stand in front of a church congregation and preach. It is a constant problem even trying to teach my Bible studies. People have left because of it. 

     In addition to this is the "not remembering" problem I mentioned above. It happened again this week at Bible study. We came to a section on "crowns." We had discussed "crowns" a few weeks earlier, so I asked the class what they remembered about our discussion. I had followed up that earlier discussion by writing a specific study on "crowns," and I mentioned that. A lady who had joined us for the first time asked me what I had learned in my study. I had almost completely forgotten what I had just written on. I fumbled and stumbled over a few bits I did remember, then I had to jump to my phone and go to the website to pull up what I had written. This happens constantly! WHY??? How can I have such an amazing ability to remember odd bits of trivia, and names and faces, but yet I can't remember something I just finished studying??

     I may be way off here, but could God be using this to "crush my pride?" To keep me humble? If I had the ability to remember everything I have written on, like I can remember trivia, names, and faces, or if I could talk as well as I seem able to write, perhaps I would be prideful, "puffed up" in my knowledge and ability to speak. Not being able to remember, and not being able to talk well "crushes" me. It also keeps me from thinking too highly of myself. I hate it at times (like this week). It can also be depressing. 

     Here is what Paul said about his "thorn" in (2 Cor 12:8-10)(NIV): 

"Three times I (Paul) pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. (9) But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (10) That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

     Paul did not want his "thorn." If this is my "thorn," I don't want it either. However, if Christ's grace will carry me through, if Christ's power will be made perfect in my weakness, then I must be "glad" and "delight" in my weaknesses. I am not quite there on this..., but I am working on it. For those of you who have persevered with me as I deal with this, thank you! For those of you who have separated from me because of it, I am sorry!


P.S. I also have another "brain thing" that I have never known ANYONE to have. I will forget a person's name, or the name of a place or thing, but I will remember how many "letters" the person, place, or thing has in it. This happens constantly. It happened last night. My wife asked me the last name of a person we used to go to church with years ago. I couldn't remember, but I said, "I think it has like 8 letters and it may start with an "M." My wife said, "McGinnis." Yup, that's it! If my wife hadn't gotten it, it eventually would have come to me. It almost always does. Crazy, right? I only mention this because if anyone reading this knows another person like this PLEASE let me know! There must be someone else like me out there!

Update: Oddly enough, before I had a chance to post this, I ended up going to a local restaurant with my wife and a group friends last night to play a trivia game. Everyone has a little computer box and it asks you a question, then you answer. The faster you answer with the right answer, the more points you get. So, the guy (me) who is supposed to know a lot of trivia, and usually wins, lost to almost everyone in the first game. I thought about this blog. Then we played a second game. I was leading everyone with 5 questions left, on my way to victory. Then, for some reason, I was given "0" points 4 times in a row on answers I had right, and I lost! How did that happen?? I have played trivia at this restaurant probably around 50 times and have never had that happen before. Honestly, I think I know how it happened. Lesson: I need even more "pride-crushing."
(Also, I mentioned in conversation that a car repair place we use is on "Mason Ave." when it is on "Ridgewood Ave." because there is a business called "Mason's" near our car repair shop. Mason Ave. is on the other side of town...)

Thankfulness During The Coronavirus

      As I write this on 3-20-20, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic called the Coronavirus. During this virus outbreak, I have see...