First Things @ First

Ministry Perspectives,

Times are changing and life is challenging for everyone, especially for those who choose to follow Christ wholeheartedly in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity. In the face of the obstacles that are no doubt in front of us, how will you and I respond? Like we have when things were ‘normal’ or as He would have us respond now, in the present? The better question might be, will we respond any differently in the next 10 months than we have over the past 10 months or 10 years? I hear from some and have stated myself  that 2020 has been a most unusual year. In its own unique way, both different and difficult. We all get that because we’ve all lived that! However, in looking forward to 2021, will we long for the way it was back in 2020 when life may well present more changes that challenge our comfort? I would like for each of you to carefully consider what you read next.   The statement comes from a book I started a few days ago by Joseph Sangl. It may be applied to where we are as a nation today and where we potentially may be in a few days or a few months. Sangl said, “When fear reigns, we stand still. When faith reigns, we move forward.” (I urge you to read that again and let it sink into your soul) That statement says a lot! It says a lot about you and me personally. It says a lot about a nation. It says a lot about the Church of the Lord Jesus as a body of believers.  2020 has indeed presented many challenges for people of faith and the changes are not all good. Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, the fear of disease or death has in many ways paralyzed the body, at least from the neck down. Fear has revealed what God has known and seen for many years. The Church has largely become a spiritual quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down). Covid-19 didn’t cause that paralysis, it simply revealed the extent of the condition that came as a result of the Church ‘falling’ away from her first love (Revelation 2). Taking care of ourselves physically has long been prioritized over addressing our spiritual health or the spiritual well-being of others. This paralysis didn’t begin in March of 2020, March ‘madness’ just ripped the mask of hypocrisy off.   No doubt some will think that insensitive, even uncaring in this hyper-sensitive, feeling based culture but the fact remains that sickness happens in this life and death comes to believers and unbelievers alike. That has not changed, nor will it. Question is, why have we?  Initially, the fear of what was unknown revealed how much our focus had shifted away from God and how little our faith really was being exercised. Ask yourself, what makes the last eight months of life on this earth any different from the last eight years or the last eighty for that matter? Have we not in many ways exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25)? We have been led to believe that this latest threat to life is worse than anything mankind has ever faced. And yet, ten months into this we discover that the survival rate is exceptionally high for the overwhelming majority of all ages . As one wisely stated a few months ago now, when did giving my family or my friends a handshake or a hug become more dangerous than getting out on the interstate or getting out of bed to begin with?  Everything we do every day we live carries some measure of risk, yet the risk of being together is deemed too dangerous by those referred to as experts. Another fact that has been dismissed in the conversation on Covid-19 is that one-hundred souls out of one-hundred souls who die physically without being born again in Jesus spiritually experience something far worse that any virus or illness might cause. That fact has been grossly neglected in coverage even from within the ranks of the redeemed. If that doesn’t reset your thinking, I pray that what follows will. God reminded His people of something strategically important in life through Moses as they moved closer to the land God promised. It came during a period of weeks in their journey through the wilderness when the people arrived at Mount Seir and set up camp, literally 

(Dt. 2). God said to them and to all who will hear now—“you have skirted (circled around) this mountain long enough; turn northward.” In other words, you have been going around this mountain long enough. You have been 'going in circles' without any progress for long enough. Israel's commitment in what had become a ‘safe place’ of convenience had replaced the courage necessary to continue the journey that required faith. What was forgotten was that this place, no matter how ‘safe’ it seemed, was never intended to be the destination even if it was considered by some to be a ‘mountain moment’. God said, it’s time to get moving forward, toward what I promised you at the beginning of this journey. And with that reminder from God's Word, it’s time for His Church to move forward into 2021. We must not wait another week for 2021 to arrive. We must live with faith in the present. It’s time to come back together in worship, worship that requires first offering ourselves to God without any rival. It’s time to encourage others to do the same. That is one thing that must change if we are to face the challenge that is ahead. From that position of togetherness, we join with others in the work of serving others and encouraging all who are standing still in fear to exercise faith in Christ. It's time to practice what so many have heard preached for many years. It's time because it' later than it's ever been on God's time piece of spiritual preparedness. Take what precautions you must but it’s time to 'pack up' what has held you in place and move forward trusting God to provide for ALL our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). This is not to be misunderstood as an attempt to get back to normal because as I stated previously normal wasn’t all that good to begin with from God’s perspective on the Church fulfilling His Great Command of loving others to Christ. This move means embracing the present challenges with faith believing God has not forgotten us and will never forsake us!  As with Polaris (North Star), His position in 'our world' is always constant. Consequently, we can navigate any 'storm' that may rise, overcome any challenge that we face and arrive at the desired destination by following His command to move 'northward'. By the way, that was the direction of home for the Israelites then and I believe the phrase may lend support to pointing the way home for you and me today (Job 26:7; Psalm 48:2). Knowing what is ahead for those who follow Christ, it is simply not acceptable to settle for what some consider to be good enough and forfeit the best in the process of progressing through life. That reward, His reward will not be realized without faith that moves us forward. No one can experience this while 'standing still' in fear for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The requirements of Christ must be prioritized with wisdom from God over the requirements of those who want to ‘save the world’ for their own flawed financial or philosophical gain. Let there be no doubt where we’re going as we learn from where we’ve been. As with Israel, God has given us His promise. His promise is absolutely trustworthy! His promise is not realized by looking back or clinging to what is safe. His promise is future, and His promise has always required faith in action. Faith that is first willing to release one's all to Him. God's purpose is ahead of those who pursue it with faith and who hold the things of this life loosely. Yes, His promise includes today but it involves the future which is far better! And our Lord is ahead of those who follow Him! Standing on His promises consistently will help us discover that we’re much better off for having gone through all of this. However, we must move through this because the only other alternative is circling the same mountain where weeks can soon turn into months and months into years. I for one am ready to move on to what’s next in this life-long journey. I pray you are, as well! Don’t settle for a ‘mountain moment’ and forfeit His master plan. As the redeemed of God, we were never designed to live happily ever after, here! All of that and more than you and I can imagine comes hereafter for those who walk by faith and not by sight! I don’t know how this impacts you but it compels me to follow the Leader who walks with us through the wilderness on our way to something much better! Time to 'turn northward' and get going where we're going! Blessings for and along the journey,

Pstr K

Psalm 27:1