“Shelter in Place” – Blessings and Curses

During these strange times in the midst of the current pandemic, we can learn a lot. Of course, every situation in which we find ourselves can be an opportunity to learn. A good question to ask ourselves is, “What is God trying to teach us?” How can we grow closer to Him and closer to one another, even when circumstances are not ideal?

COVID-19 has changed our lives, at least for now. Will the changes lead to blessings or curses, though? How can we experience the former and not the latter? While I certainly do not have all the answers and realize we are all are different, I do think there are some ways we can see (and experience) blessings in the midst of the chaos. “Shelter in place” offers at least four unique opportunities that God can use for our good.

1. TIME WITH FAMILY

For the vast majority of us who do not live alone but rather live at home with our families (or at least with our spouses), most of us are obviously seeing our families more than usual. For my wife, this includes a lot more reading and schooling (like in the picture above) than she is accustomed to, and I praise God for her efforts! She is doing a great job, and our kids are blessed to have a stay-at-home mom who is adjusting well to the recent changes.

Are you enjoying extra time with your family?

The blessing – If we have the right attitude, recognizing that family is a gift from God, then we will be blessed. Let us use this time to have fun together, to play together, to pray together, to read God’s Word together, to say nice things to one another, and to build up one another. Sure, there will be times we get sick of one another and lose our patience with one another. Will we pray for God’s help, though, that He will use our increased time together to bless our family?

The curse – If we do not receive God’s favor and seek God’s help in honoring him through our families, then this additional time together can certainly become a curse. Rather than doing the above, we might find ourselves saying things we regret and acting like idiots who do not deserve our families. Beware, be careful, be wise, and be loving.

Let us seek and pray for the blessing and not allow our bad attitudes and habits to promote the curse.

2. TIME WITH SELF

This is obvious if you live alone and are practicing self-distancing right now. Even if you live with others, though, you might have more time alone than you typically do. Again, this can be a blessing, or it can be a curse.

The blessing – If we use the extra time with self to develop healthy habits (consistent exercise, healthy eating, regular prayer and Bible study, reading more, etc.), then this increased time alone can be a huge blessing. Furthermore, perhaps you will have even more time than usual to keep up with others via your phone and the internet. This has certainly been the case for me. While I do not have my usual meetings, visits, church services, etc., I have found myself to be even more busy over the past two weeks just trying to keep up with phone calls, text messages, emails, etc. This can be a blessing if we seek to honor God in the time He gives us.

The curse – If we allow the time alone to discourage us, rather than lead us to seek God more and maintain regular contact with others, then this time with self will quickly become a curse. We need God, and we need one another. Be careful, therefore, not to develop habits of self-distancing that will continue when the shelter-in-place orders are lifted. That would be a curse for you and for those who know you.

Let us seek and pray for the blessing and not allow our bad attitudes and habits to promote the curse.

3. TIME APART

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, my family and others throughout our church family will be alone in our homes watching my sermon on our church’s YouTube channel. Physically, we are spending time apart as a church family because of the current directives given for the purpose of limiting the further spread of COVID-19.

Of course, this time apart not only affects churches; it affects nearly all of our relationships outside of our households.

The blessing – If we pray that God will use this time apart to give us a greater longing to be together, He can certainly use this time apart as a blessing. God is always in control, and COVID-19 has not surprised Him. Perhaps He will use this to strengthen and grow His church. Perhaps we will have a greater appreciation for corporate worship and fellowship. Perhaps we will not take our need for one another for granted, but instead will become more committed to our church family. With that perspective and a proper response, our time apart can be a blessing. This can be true with all relationships, and I pray that it will be especially true for our commitment to our church.

The curse – If we allow this time apart to discourage us, it can be a curse. If we take isolation too far and fail to keep in touch with one another via phone, email, social media, etc., it can be a curse. If we do not pray for a longing to be back with family, friends, church family, and other Christ-honoring communities, this time apart can be a curse. If you do not have a community you long to return to when the distancing orders are lifted, you truly are cursed.

Let us seek and pray for the blessing and not allow our bad attitudes and habits to promote the curse.

4. TIME WITH GOD

Possibly the greatest gift that this sheltering in place can offer is more time with God. With the right attitude and intentional actions, God can use this in mighty ways.

The blessing – Maybe you have struggled to be consistent in your commitment to seeking God through His Word and through prayer. If so, what a better time to develop good habits of daily Bible study and ongoing prayer! Even if you are faithful in doing these things each day, what a blessing it could be to have even more time in the Bible and prayer! None of us is where we need to be in our relationship with God, and we will not be on this side of eternity. Thus, this extra time with God can be a huge blessing to seek Him more faithfully and know Him more fully. What changes can you make in your daily schedule to better prioritize your relationship with God? What can you do with your family to better seek after God together? How can you encourage others in their relationship with God via online meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails, and prayer?

Do not use this additional time at home to sleep in later. Go to bed on time, get a good night’s sleep, and start your day off with the blessing of prayer and Bible engagement.

The curse – If you fail to take advantage of this opportunity to spend more time with God, what a travesty that would be! If you refuse to develop consistent, godly habits that afford you the opportunity to grow in your relationship with God, you will surely regret your actions. Of course, the greatest curse in all of this is not being able to spend more time with God because of not having a relationship with Him. Do not wait if you have yet to call on Jesus Christ for eternal life. He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead to defeat sin and death for everyone who surrenders to Him. You can experience the blessing (both now and eternally) of a relationship with God by placing your faith in Jesus.

Let us seek and pray for the blessing and not allow our bad attitudes and habits to promote the curse.

ARE YOU BLESSED OR CURSED?

Depending on our attitude and actions, our current situation can be used for good or used for evil. What are you experiencing? What changes can you make in your daily routine to better facilitate good? Pray for God’s help, and maintain healthy relationships with those who will hold you accountable. Let us experience the blessings in the midst of the pandemic!

Who do you resemble?

While I honestly never saw it clearly myself, people often said I looked like my dad. Those who knew him, in fact, still say that. Likewise, people often say my son Noah looks like me. You can be the judge of that from the same-age picture layout of the three of us (above) and another picture layout of Noah and me (below).

The reality, though, is that children do tend to resemble their parents. This is the natural result of DNA. As children grow, they take on the physical attributes (and oftentimes the emotional, psychological and intellectual attributes) of their parents. Kids become more and more like their parents. This has always been the case and always will be.

A child resembling his parents is evidence that he belongs to them. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

A Christian resembling His Christ is evidence that he belongs to Him. The connection and relationship are undeniable.

Obedience and Transformation

The one who says he remains in God should walk just as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). What does it mean, though, to walk just as Jesus walked? Quite simply, this means to act like Jesus acted. God the Son obeyed God the Father, and John made the case that if we claim to have a relationship with God, we too will obey God.

While DNA (and the resulting physical transformation) are the reason an earthly son resembles his earthly father, spiritual transformation is the reason a child of God resembles his Heavenly Father. And, obedience is the proof of that transformation.

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands” (1 John 2:3).

Personal Examination

Are you sure you have come to know Him? Is there evidence of transformation and obedience in your life?

If someone wants evidence of being related to someone else, a DNA test can be done to determine if a biological relationship exists. While there is no physical DNA test to determine if someone is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, 1 John does provide a test of sorts. His whole letter points to the evidence of a true relationship with God.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 1 John 2:3-11 on the “Proof of Salvation,” talking about two ways to be sure you have come to know the Lord.

Would you consider examining your own heart today? God does not need to do a test because He does know your heart. He knows if you have truly surrendered your life to His Only Son for salvation, but do you know?

Again, what do you think? I honestly do not see the resemblance myself, but it seems people often do not notice it when looking at pictures of themselves and/or their children.

Snapshots of Fun

Here are a few pictures from this past week. As usual, we’ve been happily busy with church activities, family gatherings, sports and school.

kids with the hornet
Although we were cheering for Noah and North Callaway, we were happy to pose for a picture with the Fulton Hornet.

Own, Tanner and Silas at Soccer Match
Three of the “Fearsome Foursome” (cousins who love hanging out together). Pictured here are Owen, Tanner and Silas. Hudson is the one missing.

Micah looking at pictures
When I was working from home one day, Micah sat right next to me and looked at photo albums for several minutes.

Cox cousins at Starkey's making pyramid
The Cox clan trying to make a pyramid in Starkey’s Lake.

swimming at Starkey's
Beautiful day with beautiful scenery and awesome people.

Tony Cox turned 74!
We celebrated Papa Tony’s 74th birthday on Monday!

Micah napping on the couch
Micah insisted he didn’t need a nap the other day. Minutes later, he was out cold.

Right Learning

Our church’s Vacation Bible School finished Thursday, and our big family celebration was today. Praise the Lord for those who have decided to follow Jesus for the first time and for the many volunteers who served our children and church family so well!

There are various reasons VBS is so valuable, not the least of which is what children learn about Jesus and following Him. As should be the case, Jesus is the focus of our teaching, and following Him is the focus of our plea.

Yes, there are a lot of valuable things we can learn in life, and there are a lot of good things we can do. But, should we not prioritize the best things over simply good things?

That was my challenge to those in attendance at our worship service this morning. Preaching through Mark 8:1-26, I talked about the “Teaching of Discipleship.” Will you prioritize learning the right things from the right One?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for “second-best” in many areas of our lives, including where we spend our time and energy.

When you think about your family, your commitments and your daily routine, are you prioritizing things of eternal value? Only through a right relationship with God and daily devotion to Him can anyone possibly be faithful in prioritizing the right things.

If this is a struggle for you, cry out to God for His help, seek Him with all your heart, and make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church that will walk alongside you in this lifelong journey.

Levi at crafts VBS 2018
Levi was one of many kids who had a blast in crafts during VBS, using creativity to learn important truths about following Jesus.

Family Vacation to Windermere

We had a blast with Marsha’s side of the family during our vacation to Windermere this week! All 27 of us (10 adults, 17 kids) stayed healthy and safe, despite our active, daring adventures on the ropes course, in the lake, during archery tag, etc.

Praise the Lord for family vacations!

If you’d like to see pictures from our week, you can click HERE.

windermere

The orphans blessed us!

During our mission trip to Guatemala June 1-8, we expected to be an encouragement and blessing to the children of Casa De Mi Padre, an orphanage and ministry of Child Rescue. Well, we might have been somewhat of a blessing, but it truly was the orphans who were a blessing to us. This was the common sentiment among our team of 17 who went on the trip. Praise the Lord for how he has delivered these children from some horrifying situations and placed them into a Christian home with people who love them, care for them and disciple them in Christ!

You can see photos from our trip HERE and even more HERE.

This past Sunday, Noah shared a brief testimony during our morning worship service, explaining some of the highlights from our trip. You can listen to the testimony HERE (best sound quality) or watch the video below.

Are you interested in going on a mission trip to Guatemala June 1-8, 2019? If so, you will have the amazing privilege of ministering to orphans, doing evangelistic outreach in public schools and the local community, worshiping and serving alongside a local church, and growing in your faith in Jesus Christ. Contact Richland Baptist Church for more information.