Essential workers, please rise!

As the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, the government called for “Essential Businesses” to stay open. As we all know those employed at these businesses were then called Essential Workers. They were required to show up day after day to keep life functioning.

In addition to this, the US recently had an election. Yet, what was most glaring to me wasn’t the two candidates, but the policies. Policies that shouldn’t have fallen into the government’s hands in the first place. Let me explain.

“Care for the widows and orphans.”

“Feed the hungry”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Speak the truth in love.”

Sound familiar? These are commands that Jesus gave us – His church. Essential workers should be the church. We should be the ones showing up for those who need help — not the government. We should show up NOT because we are better than anyone, but because Jesus was broken for us and we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6). How much pressure do we put on the government simply because we haven’t stepped up to care for those around us? Please know I include myself here. If we gave generously, would we need welfare? The list could go on and on.

A few weeks ago, I was watching Joe Vs. The Volcano with my friend Connie. In the movie, Joe says, “only a few of us are awake.” Are we, as the church, awake? Or are we laying on our spiritual couches? Or hiding out in fear? Again, preaching to myself.

My former pastor, Leroy Hill, said, “the coronavirus got us so scared to die; we forgot how to live.”

I know we live in a fallen world, and life is a lot more complicated, but my challenge is to myself, and you are how and what are we doing to impact our community? And, if we already are, can we do more? Can we put our agenda on hold and see what God’s agenda is for us?

I recently wanted to undertake a challenge— mind you, it was for a great cause, but the initial cost to join was way more than I thought. I was so discouraged. I was like, how am I going to do that?! I felt like the Lord gently corrected me by asking me, “Christi, is this about the people you’d be raising funds for? Or is it about you?”

Until that moment, I genuinely thought it was for the cause and the people, but I realized it was more about me. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have done things for me. I don’t want to be known as remarkable person but as a servant of Jesus Christ. Because apart from Him, I can do nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Are we hunkering down in fear? Or are we showing up day after day for those around us?

Proximity to pain can infuse courage; whereas, withdrawal can infuse more fear. I pray that we remember that this is NOT our home. We are just passing through. Friends, please do not forget that we come from a kingdom that has already overcame darkness and overcame death

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).  God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church (Ephesians 1:22). You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday (Psalm 91:5-6). The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). 

Through Christ, we have all we need, NO matter how hard difficult the days are. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3) 

So, my question for us is, will the essential workers please rise?

Looking for Your Story

Have you ever needed to hear a great story? When I found “I am second” videos on YouTube, I devoured them. I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing.

I was in a very intense job at the time, and it was my day off. I was cleaning the house where I was living. When I heard the first story, I listened and cleaned the entire afternoon and into the evening. As soon as one ended, I’d click to listen to the next one. Mind you, these videos are, on average, 7 minutes. I just needed encouragement, and they were just what I needed.

From time to time, when I feel discouraged, I will scour the internet to find a good story. There’s nothing like a good story to lift your spirits. A good movie can do the same.

Recently, however, I found myself looking for another good story. I started listening to one, and instead of finding encouragement, I found frustrated. I think because as the woman (in the video) was telling her story, it was the story I wished/prayed would have been mine. I turned it off and then felt like the Lord was saying, “Why are you looking for your story in someone else’s story?”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, how many times have I just blindly followed a narrative without considering where God might want to take me? Do I care what story He wants to write with my life? Or am I trying to write my own story and then try and fit God into it later?

Your Story

Do you know how incredibly creative God is? I don’t, but the bits and pieces I see blow my mind! He doesn’t have a one size fits all formula when it comes to our lives. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Ps 139:3). Your story might look different. Everyone might not understand it, but God knows the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).

I was reminded of this a few months ago as I was thinking about a book idea. I paused for a moment and thought how incredible it is to have the privilege of writing a book and have it published by a traditional publishing house. I mean, how many people would kill for that opportunity. The crazy thing is I can take zero credit for it. I thought back to when I graduated from college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I never thought I’d graduate from college. I always assumed I’d get married and start a family.

But that day, as I thought about my book coming out, I realized if I had gotten married, I probably never would have pursued writing. I wouldn’t have the time to write. Plus, only the Lord knew that I had always wanted to write a book. I remember thinking as young as 12 that I wanted to write a devotional someday. I might have forgotten that for a few years, but He didn’t.

To wrap this up, I want to pull from the story of Ruth. She’s someone who didn’t quite do things the way she was expected to. After she was widowed, she was supposed to remain in Moab (modern-day Jordan) with her people, with her family. Instead, she left with her mother-in-law (Naomi) to go to a foreign country with no real prospect or direction. She knew that Naomi’s God was real and worth following, even if it meant a different narrative than what people expected her to have. Am I willing to do the same? To set aside what I think should be. To stop looking for my story in someone else’s story. To embrace the story God wants to write in my life. I can guarantee it won’t always be easy or comfortable, and people won’t always understand, but you won’t be alone, and it will be worth it.

So if you’re like me and scouring the internet to find a good story, let it encourage you, but we must try not to look for our story in another person’s story. Because ultimately, our stories should not be about us but reflect the creative, kind, good, intimate, gracious, just, and true author of the story.

Growing Pains

Perseverance and discipline have been on my mind the past few months. It’s easy to do something a few times. It’s a lot harder to maintain consistency. My weakness is never starting something new. My trouble is finishing what I start. Discipline and perseverance are a huge part of that. My prayer has been, “Lord, please help me to love discipline.” Because the Bible even says, “He disciplines those He loves.” ( Heb. 12:6).

I heard a message by Elisabeth Elliot in which she said, “If I didn’t practice discipline, I wouldn’t get much praying done.”

While on my journey to be more disciplined I came across these verses:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.

2 Peter 1:5-6

I decided to delve into these verses a bit more. I looked up the characteristics in Greek. This is what I learned.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness [virtuous thought, modesty, purity, moral excellence];

and to goodness, knowledge [general knowledge, understanding];

and to knowledge, self-control [the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites];

and to self-control, perseverance [steadfastness, constancy, endurance, in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings ; patiently, and steadfastly

a patient, steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance];

and to perseverance, godliness [reverence, respect piety — FERVER, OBEDIENCE, DEVOTION— towards God, godliness];

Is it me or do these things get harder to do?

Goodness

Knowledge

Self-Control

Perseverance

Godliness

Each characteristic seems to be the foundation for the next characteristic. It reminds me of Romans 1:17:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Each characteristic is a step of faith. Seeking goodness in a world that feels so dark and evil takes faith.

Searching for the knowledge of God in a world that wants nothing to do with Him takes faith.

Self-Control in a world where everyone self indulges takes faith.

Perseverance regardless of the results takes faith.

Godliness in what often feels like a godless culture takes faith.

So, if you find yourself with growing pains, take heart. We might just be going from faith to faith. It reminds me of the song that says:

“We will go from faith to faith until we see you face to face”

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:23