Idol of Certainty

2 Corinthians 5:1- 7
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. 

I recently read a post that the Holy Spirit used to convict me in a major way—the phrase was directed at believers who have doubtless been struggling these last few months and it said, “we’ve made an idol out of certainty.” As I’ve mulled over this concept I had to ask myself, is my need to understand and be in control of all that is happening around me replacing my need for faith? Friends, I’m afraid it has. By nature I’m a very organized person. I like a plan; I pride myself on communicating as often and as clearly as possible so everyone under my leadership understands the plan and is “together.” Over the last few months I’ve realized that my security has been in working within constructs of certainty. I’ve made an idol out of certainty.

Am I alone in this? I doubt it. In my 20 years of full-time ministry, I’ve NEVER had my understanding of how to serve in local church ministry turned upside down like this.  I long to connect with our people in person, I miss rehearsing our choir and orchestra, I miss making plans for events such as our biggest event of the year—Christmas at Ivy Creek. I just can’t fathom why these things, which minister to countless souls, should not happen. I’ve literally prayed so many times, “God what are you doing? What am I missing here?” In my frustration, I’ve been reminded that my faith is not completely yielded to the leadership of the Holy Spirit if I’m constantly praying that God return us to the normal we once had if all I want to do is erase these last few months like they didn’t happen. I wouldn’t have learned what I’m learning now! There is no way back to the certainty of before March of 2020. The Holy Spirit is saying to me, “I’m in control–I’m not surprised by what is happening around you–walk by faith and not by sight–don’t miss what I am teaching you in this.”

As I’ve mulled over my lack of faith, I’ve realized that my attitude has reflected my building frustration that I am not in control—this has come out negative and harsh to many around me. Everyday our new normal is disrupted with a change…it’s exhausting and frustrating. But, the Spirit reminds me again and again—walk by faith—trust me–remember what IS certain–I never change! Stop using your human constructs to understand what I’m doing; stop making an idol of certainty and relinquish control to me.

If you’re struggling as I am, here are a few ways the Lord has reminded me I can do the work of walking by faith and not by sight:

  1. Pray for those under my care. Put the needs of others above my need to be on control of the ministry to which God has called me. I will continue to check on our folks regularly as well since I cannot see them in person yet.
  2. Limit news and social media. Seriously, it’s eating me alive to see how the enemy is using social media to drive even believers to attack each other.
  3. Spend more time in the Word. Today’s sermon today was on James 1: 21-27 and we were reminded to be doers of the Word, which means we have to be so saturated in the Word that we reflect the words therein. The Holy Spirit, Christ in me, will change me/us from the inside out.

 

 

Physical not Social Distancing

Life during this pandemic has changed the world as we know it rapidly. The other day I was talking with a friend about how much I dislike the ubiquitous phrase, “social distancing” to refer to the idea that we should keep six feet of space between ourselves and non-cohabitating people. In fact my son Tyler told me a joke today that social distancing is a fancy way of describing a restraining order!

All joking aside, I’ve had a gut repulsion to the term “social distancing.” It has never sat well with me until about six weeks ago I noticed that some businesses began using the term, “physical distancing” and I began to ponder how important the distinction is between social and physical distancing.

The term “social distancing” says to me that I am to do the following thing literally: Avoid ALL social interactions. What? At face value, one could argue that we are to avoid all social situations–no socialization period! WOW! I know, I know—that’s not what most understand it to mean, but I question anything with flagrant ambiguity.  I would argue that it’s not inclusive enough. Let’s float the idea that “social distancing” applies to only in-person social encounters, and not all social interactions as I suggested previously. Even then, I would understand social distancing would apply only to social interactions. What about medical interactions, or business interactions? Are those exempt from distancing because they are not in social situations? I think we all know that those types of interactions are NOT exempt from distancing rules. I wish I could understand why social distancing came to be the preferred term and not what I would argue is the better term, physical distancing.

The term “physical distancing” is a more inclusive and exact description of what should be taking place during the pandemic. This phrase lets me know the following things:

  1. While the term “social distancing” might be misunderstood to apply to only social interactions or ANY social interaction really, “physical distancing” is clearly promoting behaviors related to my body (corpus) and where it is in relation to other people.
  2. It’s my physical body that needs to be distanced from others in all situations-not just social interactions.

I’m concerned that the term “social distancing” might be misunderstood to imply that we are to avoid social interaction altogether. Surely we are not that literal, but some have avoided any in-person interaction during this time when I believe we need each other more than ever. In fact I wold argue that we need to be less social distant figuratively than we were before the pandemic began. We can, and should be, more socially connected while being physically distant. 

One of the most difficult parts of living through quarantine was the loss of ability to interact with others regularly. Ministry became increasingly difficult as we had to learn to interact with our church over video calls and livestream worship services. These technological tools became a lifeline for us to stay spiritually and socially interactive with others. Personally, my brothers, sister, and Dad have begun regular video calls each week to check in with each other, something we didn’t do well enough before. Our social interaction has increased even though we’ve been physically distant. We should be more socially interactive while being physically distant. 

It’s vital that we as the intergenerational church make sure that we not remain socially distant from our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially our eldest members who may need extra encouragement and help. We must continue to adhere to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV: therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  We must find ways of encouraging and spurring one another on while being physically distant. I encourage you to find at least one way to do that today. Be an encouragement and make a difference in someone’s life today.

This is My Father’s World

Sunday March 8th was the last time our church worshiped together since beginning livestream online services during quarantine. Today marked our 8th Sunday in this format. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two months. During that March 8th service, our choir and orchestra premiered a new anthem we’d been working on called Psalm 24. Taken straight out of the Psalm, the anthem takes the listener on a musical journey of the two main sections, which feature contrasting sections that really liven the text itself.

Psalm 24- NKJV

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah


Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah

It’s no surprise to God that the last anthem we’d present for awhile would declare the truth that God is Creator, Redeemer, and the Almighty King of Glory. I think the Lord knew that we as a church needed to remember that the Lord is a strong and mighty God, able to fight the strongest enemies (yes, even virus). I’m struck by my favorite part of the Psalm each time I read it. The psalmist asks-who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. That clean hands line seems to resonant more as of late, huh? But the promise is true: if we come in humility and repentance, the Lord offers salvation.

During the last few weeks, I bet you’ve likely been able to enjoy being outside more than normal; I know I have. I’ve been in awe of the the beauty of God’s creation in a more real way than ever. One night last week, Andrew had an art project due for school. He had to re-create a famous van Gogh painting and write about it. After it got dark, we went out on the deck and found the moon, stars, and even a great shot of Venus for his project. As I continued to look out at the heavens and the stars, I was amazed once again at the limitless power of our God. Truly, everything was made by Him and He rules over all the earth. Below is our “re-creation” of van Gogh’s “A Starry Night.”

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In closing as I was preparing this and praying through what to share related to Psalm 24, The Lord brought to mind one of the first hymns I learned to play when I first began taking piano lessons in third grade—-This is My Father’s World. As a young child I didn’t realize the significance of the text, I just thought it was a hymn we only sang on Fathers Day! But, the words ring true today even more. God is King–He’s the Ruler of everything. He is not surprised by what is happening in our world today. He is in control and we can rest in that assurance.

This is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.


This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.


This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

 

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