Shaking Ground

A digging claw of an excavator set on the concrete of a construction site
 

“Life is a mess.”
“Things are spiraling out of control.”
“We’re at our wit’s end.”
“Nothing we’ve tried seems to work.”

These are phrases we use when life becomes unmanageable. But we don’t usually express them as a nation, or worse, as a global population.

Things got bad.

We fight a pandemic. Its reach continues to haunt. We might hear the curve is flattening or trending toward healthy communities, but it doesn’t seem that way. We’re in this fight for a while.

Racial injustice violates our screens and holds captive the tears and fears of all colors. We say enough is enough, yet it’s still not enough. We’re still at odds. It’s still us and them. We still perpetrate our agendas within our circles, our communities, and our societal systems.

This is a letter to all of us who carry the banner of Jesus Christ. While we are eager for a new “normal,” have we spent enough time considering how God may be shaking us up for His greater purposes?


Let’s reflect before we charge forward to change whatever it is that we’re sure is God’s choice amid these nationwide and worldwide issues.

I’ve been a Christian for almost 40 years and I’ve served God in various capacities and ministries for all of those years. I have pushed for what I thought was right – for what I thought God wanted to be done. I have often been wrong.

 

I’ve been learning that, even when I’m sure I’m right, I need correction.

 

When a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus for the night, James and John wanted to “call down fire from heaven to destroy them.” They were convinced that the Samaritans needed to be punished. In fact, they were so sure of this that they asked Jesus to just say the word. “But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” (See Luke 9:51-56)

James and John were livid, but being passionate about something doesn’t make it right. Paul was extremely passionate, but he fought against God’s people (Acts 26:9-11).

Satan is passionate, too. His passion led to all-out war and the war is not over. We know he will eventually lose, but he will win many, many battles along the way.

Satan waged war against Jesus and those who follow Him. (See Revelations 12.) He is passionate about dismantling the gospel and he has lots of fire power. He has an arsenal of biological weapons, injustice, racial tension, politics, authorities and leaders who make mistakes, and so many other deep-seeded issues that we respond to with anger, fear, frustration, pride, and various other emotions. Satan’s cunning traps incite our survival instincts and we feel like we’re fighting a physical, human battle, but we really war against “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).


Our feelings can mislead us.

We’re in a spiritual battle.
We always have been.
And the gospel is at stake.

 

Satan fights against the gospel: the truth about Jesus and eternal life that everyone needs to hear. Everyone needs to hear about God’s simple, uncluttered gift of truth, life, and relationship.

 

Do we fight for the gospel or for something else? 

 

What we do next matters. It could make the difference between life and death for some people because we may be the closest image of the gospel they encounter. We need to be sure the gospel is clearly represented by our words and actions.

  

Simple silhouette of a cross


So, let’s look back. Did the last 4+ months just happen, or did God intentionally shake the ground on which we stand? Did He scramble the letters to renew our vision for the gospel? Here are a few things that happened and how some of us responded with maturity. But does God want more?

  • The walls we call home for our families grew thick and restrictive. We sheltered. We learned how to manage our physical and emotional well-being without stepping beyond the front door. We figured out how to live with and nurture our families.
  • Face mask hanging from the rear view mirror of a vehicle driving on the freeway
    We distanced ourselves from just about everyone except for our households. We focused on those who are most important. For some of us, our households are very small – maybe just one person. We had time to reflect on what’s really important for today and the future.
  • We recoiled at the invasion of a predator we can't see – a virus. But many of us learned how to respect others and be more kind to them. We learned how to share space, even when opportunities to do so were few. We learned how to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.
  • The pulpits of our local churches moved onto our screens. We were forced to consider how true our relationships are with our God, and our spiritual lives were strengthened. We took the initiative to read God’s Word and to assure our online fellowship for our families. We prayed more. We had the opportunity to consider what matters to us in a home church and to visit other pulpits, albeit virtual. We focused on heart matters.
  • Racism and racial injustice got exposed more vividly and remain unsettled in our hearts. But we understand more about racial tension and systemic issues that feed it. We grew in our care toward people, regardless of color. We lifted our voices to motivate change.

 

 Simple silhouette of a cross

 

What are our next steps? Does God want more? Why did He shake things up?* What has He been telling us for almost half a year? Let’s reflect as individuals and as organized bodies of people and believers. Let’s search our hearts and ask God to either direct our next steps or to confirm them.

   

Driving on the freeway towards a rainbow on a rainy day

 

Maybe some of these questions will help:

  • How have the issues you faced during these past months prompted you to make adjustments for God – in attitudes and actions?
  • Have the unique opportunities of the past months urged you to make some bold changes in your spiritual life?
  • Can you look a little deeper into the eyes and hearts of those who are different than you? And can you respond with the care and love God wants you to express?
  • Are there parts of your life that you struggle to give up for the sake of others and the gospel, and to become better at what God wants you to do?
  • What drives your agendas? Does it expand the reach of the gospel?
  • What is God calling you to do today that you haven’t yet started doing?
  • And to the local church: In what ways do you need to refocus on God’s purpose and adjust your activities and objectives accordingly? Is your message tainted by the prevailing issues of this world, or does it reflect the truth and priorities of God’s Word?

 

Picture of ground spinning with words: The Gospel: Our focus when life spins out of control (Luke 24:13-48)

 

It’s true: We are one human race; there are systemic problems in our cultures; we aren’t doing a good job in defeating the coronavirus; and we are in this together. But there is an even greater battle. A spiritual battle. We must uphold and defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to raise His banner high. This is what God wants.

 

 Simple silhouette of a cross

 

Further reading: Revelations 2:1-7 and Ephesians6:10-20

Related blog posts:
Jesus Died on the Cross. It Matters.
We Thrive with Jesus
Authenticity and the Identity Thieves (2 parts)
Goliath!
I’m Boiling. May I Erupt?
Do We Appreciate the Many Colors?

*God is in control and nothing happens, not even wickedness, that is not subject to His authority (Proverbs 16:4 and 1 Kings 12, especially verse 24).


 

If you want to understand the true, uncluttered gospel and how to have a relationship with Jesus, please email me at authordlv@att.net. He died so we can live.

Read more blog posts here.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Comments

  1. Excellent message. I pray we all will pause and remember to go to God first.

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    1. Thank you, Melissa. Let's pursue His purposes, and the gospel is at the center of them.

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  2. Stephen, such a concise way to summarize what 2020 has looked like so far. And great reflective questions to ponder what's next.

    Since March, I've been asking the Lord to draw me closer to Him, to teach me what's missing from my life that I desperately need and was unaware of, and help me to continue to point others to the hope in Christ.

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    1. God definitely has something in mind for each of us this year, and for our local churches. It's easy to get caught up in what is happening around us, but spending time with God, as you are doing, helps us sort through it all and discover our next steps. For sure, our hope in Christ is at the center of it!

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  3. Stephen, this is a powerful, truthful message. I pray that many get the opportunity to read this. God has definitely put the whole world on pause and stopped us in our tracks. For one thing, I think we have considered more seriously the brevity of life... for ourselves and those closest to us. We have prayed and fasted more. We have made an effort to speak truthfully, lovingly and Biblically about the racial tensions. One thing for sure, we must consider your points about passion. Satan will most definitely have us harness our passion for justice and use it in ways that bring about his purposes and not God's kingdom. In the end, may we keep the gospel front and center. This world is already slipping away. Thank you for this.

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    1. You said it so perfectly, Melissa. Satan is crafty and will trick us into fulfilling his purposes which are not God's purposes. Yes, we need to be careful to keep the gospel front and center. At the expense of what feels right to us and what is broken in this world, we need to fight to keep the gospel front and center. But even amidst brokenness, we can offer freedom, hope, and relationship through the gospel.

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  4. 2020 didn't take God by surprise. I agree: he's not the author of the struggles and death, but he's using it. Thanks; this needs to be shared!

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    1. No, nothing takes God by surprise. Everything plays out the way God allows - even wickedness. Let's remain focused on the gospel and keep it central to our objectives.

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  5. A simple but powerful statement: "Being passionate about something doesn't make it right."
    Ouch! A good reminder for me to check my own passionate beliefs against the plumb line of Scripture!

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    1. Yes, Ava. Scripture is our only absolute plumb line. The more we study and understand the truths of Scripture and character of God, the more our passions will align with it. But God's way are so beyond our ways that we are probably not as right as we feel we are. But if we can keep our aim on the gospel, a lot will fall in line.

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  6. This is such a powerful post. You are right—“ Did the last 4+ months just happen, or did God intentionally shake the ground on which we stand? Did He scramble the letters to renew our vision for the gospel? ” My perspective has changed for the better.

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    1. This is good to hear, Jessica. Mine did, too, as it should from such a ground-shaking several months. May we listen and respond to God's Word and His Holy Spirit as He leads. People depend on this.

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  7. Beautifully written as a call to action to stand up for the Gospel. I think some churches are lost on the battlefield of these issues. Social justice, while important, has replaced the words of Christ from the pulpit. Thanks Stephen.

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    1. Yes, it's easy to get caught up in the issues of today because they highlight things that aren't right and that tugs on our emotions. We (including churches) need to discipline ourselves to focus on the gospel and keep our message based on God's Word.

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  8. Stephen, you did an excellent job defining and describing everything we've gone through this year as well as the spiritual and theological truths behind each of these events and experiences. And then you defined the culprit, the one behind all of the mayhem, the one who, for now, has permission to wreak havoc on the earth, which all the while, God works for good in the lives of those who love him and keep his commandments through the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. You approached this subject with such a deep grasp of theological truth and a kind heart that knows that Christ is our only way through this and that sin is common to all of us, no matter our factions. Well done, brother! This is one of the best posts you've ever written, and it is powerful!

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    1. Yes, Melinda. We cannot ignore the true source of our issues: the fall of Satan and the war he has declared on the gospel of Christ. He commands a spiritual war that many of us are not even aware of or that we overlook, and we lose focus because of it. So many things are wrong in this world and we don't have the ability to fix them apart from the mercy, grace, and overwhelming authority of God. Yet God allows our woe and orchestrates a masterful plan in the midst of it. He is in control and we can allow Him to fulfill His purposes.

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  9. What a great message for this day!

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    1. Yes, such a needed message that I pray we take to heart.

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  10. Stephen, I appreciate you drawing us to the spiritual side of the virus. Because while we can focus on the losses associated with the virus, such as the loss of routines, contact with others, going into work spaces, etc., and become disgruntled, we can miss that we are being pulled into a spiritual battle. So drawing attention to the spiritual side of each event and the overall crisis is a great reminder for us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, find things to be grateful for, and to wear our spiritual armour for the battle.

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    1. Yes, Anne. Absolutely. There is a spiritual battle that's already been waged behind the scenes on earth, but in terms of spiritual eternity, it is front and center and at the root of the issues we face. So we focus on Jesus for ourselves and for others. Thank you for adding your insight.

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  11. Ultimately, intimacy with God is what matters. Our secular society has rejected that, or any concept of God as a loving Being and Creator, so I guess that is the root of our troubles.

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    1. Absolutely. The deeper our relationship with God, the more we understand Him, recognize our responsibility to Him , and serve Him. And this produces our focus on upholding the gospel - the open door to our relationship with God. Thank you for adding your insight.

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  12. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for a lost world. May God help His Church live up to her calling. Thanks for this reminder. Many blessings to you!

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    1. Amen, Boma. We pursue many things in the world, but stopping to align with the gospel is what matters most. This is true for those who do not know Jesus and for the Church.

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  13. This is one thing I like about the way you write. You pick no bones, you spare no truth, but you don't go out of your way to offend or shock as so many do. Keep up the good work, Stephen.

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    1. This is very encouraging, Monty. I'm intentional about those very things you mentioned and extending grace and understanding with humility is critical in representing our Savior and God's truth. Thank you for reading and commenting. God bless you in your service to Him.

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