(Part One of Two)
“Don’t burn out! KEEP YOURSELVES FUELED and aflame…Don’t quit in hard times; instead pray all the harder.” Romans 12:11-12 (The Message)
We need help. We need to admit we need help. COVID-19 has taken over all of our thinking and behaving. It has affected our worship and continued learning of God who knows and was not surprised by the virus, by the way. When we replace God with whatever is going on around us, putting all our energies on the virus and how to avoid it or combat it, we lose focus. We drift into melancholy, dangerous thinking.
We move away from what we know about God who gives peace and restores our joy to what we think we know, based on media influences bombarding us daily. Now, we are beginning to see a rift among God’s people who are taking sides in a new argument based on current circumstances. Mask or no mask. Oh, how the real enemy, Satan, must love that! Is the virus a real threat, conspiracy or just a way for the government to control us? That seems to be the disagreement. Wow, this is mostly a case of losing focus on the One who loves us most.
We need to pray “ALL THE HARDER” as Paul reminds us as God’s believers. “Don’t quit in hard times”. How can we stay fueled and on fire with God as our trusted Voice above all other voices?
Daily Hope by Rick Warren pulled my attention this week to ten ways to build our faith that leads to better emotional health during this current COVID crisis. It has been very helpful to me so I pray it is helpful to you. I have given you only my notes and thoughts on this topic with practical ways I can apply this to my life. The reference to the full message will be included.
This is such good, practical advice that we will talk about the first five today and finish with the last five tomorrow.
1. SHOW GRACE to myself and others.
“God loves to give us more grace. He opposes the prideful, but he gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
It hurts all over to be quarantined. Admit it. What we used to be comfortable in doing we cannot do. This brings stress. THAT is normal. Stress makes us more tired than usual. THAT is normal. So if you feel tired after the smallest of tasks, then rest. Allow your family to rest. Online teaching is a humongous stress for the entire family. Take time to rest in between tasks of all kinds. Don’t add new challenges at this time. Don’t make major decisions, either. Do what you can, when you can, and rest. Just rest. Even God rested on the seventh day. Rest in Him, with Him. Be amazed at what He will say to us in the rest.
2. START AND END each day refueling my soul.
“…Humble accept God’s Word planted in your heart. It is able to SAVE your souls.” James 1:21
Develop a habit of placing your open Bible on your nightstand. We are more likely to read a word or passage if it is open. Read only a verse or two, wherever the Holy Spirit leads you, as your last act before your head hits the pillow at night. Then read that passage or another passage next to it the next morning from your open Bible. Leave it open to remind you.
“Every morning thank God for his love and every evening thank him for his faithfulness.” Psalm 92:2
3. STICK WITH A SIMPLE ROUTINE.
“Carefully consider how you live. Live wisely, not foolishly. Make the most of your time because these are difficult, evil days.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Continue to set the alarm for getting up for work, even it is working from home. If you had a commute to work before, then take a walk before and after that equals your commute time so you can distance yourself from work at home to time with your family. Do this even if you don’t have family so your mind can switch from work to rest. Living in limbo with no set schedule creates stress. We, as humans, like a good rhythm and flow to our lives.
For even greater focus, ask God, “What do YOU want me to accomplish today? “What do you think is best? “Lead me, Lord.”
4. STOP WATCHING SO MUCH NEWS
Jesus: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your vision is good, your whole being will be full of light. But if you’re focused on the bad, your life will be full of darkness!”
“Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless.”
Psalm 119:37 (TEV)
What is the best way to find peace and wisdom? Turn off the computer, TV and any other device that gives you advice on how to think and live. Aren’t you weary of every PSA or commercial that begins….”In these challenges times…” “In these difficult times…”? We all are! TURN IT OFF! Go take a walk or sit outside and just be still, let go and listen to God’s higher thoughts that He is lovingly ready to give to those who seek Him.
While I’m on this, if you want to really know what the weather is like right where you are…go outside! (Smiling) Don’t let a weather man be the god of your destiny!
5. SCHEDULE A DAILY CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE I LOVE
“Speak encouraging words to each other. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, with no one left out, and no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it!” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (The Message)
Whether you are working from home or at a place of business, set your phone alarm if you have to, for a scheduled break to talk to your loved ones who are in this with you.
We love each other at our church, so as leaders working from home, we are CALLING them often to see how they are doing. We have prayer with them as needed. With a couple of thousand people, this has been quite an undertaking as a staff but the blessings in this act of love have reminded us of the importance of real connection from a heart of love and care, not duty or obligation.
Here’s a very old idea…write a small note of encouragement to those you love. Put it where they will find it the next morning. To those who do not live with you, MAIL it. Get a book of stamps, note paper and envelopes (yes, they still sell these!) and send a note as God’s Spirit leads. If you are open to Him, He will place people on your heart.
I heard of a church of over 4000 people who are handwriting notes to their congregation! Wow! I don’t know how often, but wow.
I remember in my old days of youth ministry, I hand-wrote notes occasionally to my kids. Years later, I saw one of those kids all grown up. She carried that note in her Bible! Does it make a difference? You decide.
What do you think so far? Great stuff, right?! So applicable “in times like these”, (smiling as I make fun of the media).
Tomorrow…Part Two…six through ten more ways to build our faith.
Dear Lord and Savior,
You have saved us by your own blood of sacrifice. You defeated death by rising from the grave. The grave could not hold you and it will not hold us! Help us to leave our tombs of doubt, despair, depression, and fear and rise up in hope, peace, and joy as a result of knowing and realizing the depth of your love, mercy and grace.
In Jesus Name, Amen