COVID-19. What if…?

Like so many others, I am praying for God’s grace and mercy in the midst of this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the current projections are anything but favorable, I am asking God to do the impossible and bring an end to COVID-19.

What if, in the meantime, though, we ask God to do an amazing work in our hearts? What if we ask Him to do an amazing work in His church? What if we ask Him to use COVID-19 for His glory and for our good? What if we can one day look back on this pandemic and say, “Wow! God changed so many lives for His kingdom during that difficult time.“?

In the same way September 11, 2001, seemed to drastically increase patriotism in our great nation, what if COVID-19 drastically increases faith in our great God?

Would you join me in praying for three specific results in the coming weeks?

1. PRAY FOR A GROWING HUNGER FOR GOD’S WORD.

If we follow our government’s directives – and I believe we should to the best of our abilities – then we are going to have a lot more time at home until COVID-19 is “under control.” A lot more time isolated from those outside of our household. A lot more time alone, perhaps.

Hey, what a great time to binge-watch television shows and movies! What a plethora of time to waste on social media and the internet!

What if, instead, we prayed for a growing hunger for God’s Word? What if we used the increased time at home to spend more time reading our Bibles, praying from our Bibles, and memorizing Scripture? What if we developed a consistent habit of daily interaction with God through His Word? What if we established a regular routine of family devotions?

How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:1-2).

If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word and sincerely prioritize our Bibles right now, our lives could be changed forever. Our families could be changed forever. Our churches could be changed forever. Our communities could be changed forever. Our world could be changed forever. What could and would God do in and through us if we truly grew in our hunger for His Word? Let’s find out!

2. PRAY FOR A GROWING COMMITMENT TO GOD’S CHURCH.

Most churches – including the church I have the privilege of serving – are wisely choosing to live out the great commandments (love of God and love of neighbor) by honoring our government’s leadership in the midst of this pandemic. Thus, we are canceling services, for now, to help limit the further spread of COVID-19.

People who are marginally committed to their churches might use this “break” as an opportunity to sleep in on Sundays. They might fall out of the habit of regular worship service attendance and church involvement. They might see this as an excuse to “drop out.” I pray that is not the case, but the possibility is real.

For those who sincerely love Jesus, though, a growing love for His church is evident. Thus, what if God were to use this time of separation from your church family to grow your commitment to your church family? What if, out of this pandemic, you realize what a privilege church involvement truly is, and your longing to be back with your church family is overflowing?

God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word, and God answers our prayers, then I believe a growing commitment to God’s church will naturally follow. Let’s find out!

3. PRAY FOR A GROWING PASSION FOR GOD’S MISSION.

Likewise, as God grows our hunger for His Word and our commitment to His church, I believe He will increase our passion for His mission. Perhaps we cannot do quite as much as before or quite as much as we would like because of social distancing right now. Then again, perhaps we can do more, or at least different acts of mission and service.

Is this an increased opportunity to serve the elderly who have needs but are unable to leave their homes? Is this an increased opportunity to serve lost family and friends who are fearful and overwhelmed by financial instability and future uncertainty? Is this a vivid reminder to pray for the lost and pray for opportunities to reach out to them, even if only via the phone and/or internet?

Jesus said, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

What if we pray for a growing passion for God’s mission – the gospel to the world? What if God answers that prayer, and as a result, He uses this pandemic to bring about a great spiritual awakening for His glory and for our good? Let’s find out!

If you are struggling to find hope and peace in the midst of this pandemic, would you seek the Lord for His hope and peace? If you have not yet experienced this through a personal relationship with Him, check out The Story.

Two Steps to Attitude Transformation

No one wants to be known as someone who has a bad attitude. Well, at least no one in his right mind wants to be known as someone with a bad attitude. And, part of having a good attitude is having a grateful attitude.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our Thanks & Giving sermon series and be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, talking about how “Gratitude Is Ongoing.”

1. GIVE PRAISE.

The Bible does not put conditions on God’s commands for us to be joyful and thankful. You will not read anything like, “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Again I say rejoice sometimes,” or, “Rejoice when you feel good and healthy, and rejoice when life is comfortable.”

Instead, you can read commands like, “Rejoice always!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

What does “always” mean? Well, it means always. In fact, we are to “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

That sounds impossible, does it not? Rejoice always? Give thanks in everything? How can we possibly do that? We cannot, not in our own strength and ability. We cannot possibly, by ourselves, rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Unfortunately, we tend to be too quick to complain, be discouraged, and be ungrateful. For that reason – because of our sinful nature – we need the next step, too.

2. GO IN PRAYER.

Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). By this simple and yet critical command, Paul is reminding us of our constant need for God. To “pray constantly” does not imply that we ought to have a 24/7 quiet time. What it does mean, though, is that we are never in a situation in which we do not need the Lord’s help, the Lord’s wisdom, the Lord’s grace, the Lord’s mercy, and the Lord’s favor. Thus, we need to always be looking to Him, depending on Him in prayer.

Prayer is not our last resort; prayer is our first priority. And, when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your heart, you realize that. As God transforms our hearts, he transforms our attitudes. He grows in us a desire for fellowship with Him and with His church, growing in us a recognition of our need for constant prayer and dependence.

Pray on your own. Pray with your family. Pray with your church. We need to go in prayer – all day, every day.

WHAT NEXT?

If you are headed into the Thanksgiving holiday without much desire to give thanks, turn to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word, and pray His Word back to Him – prayers like Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Psalm 5:11; 32:11; and 40:16.

Please realize, though, that none of the above is possible unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only His sacrifice on the cross can take away our sins and make a way for us to truly rejoice and rightfully go to the Lord in prayer. Only His resurrection from the dead secures our victory from sin and death, giving us the ultimate reason for praise. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, please click HERE for more information.

If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, give praise and go in prayer – always.

If you recognize your need for attitude transformation but have not yet received the new life that is required for such a transformation, check out the Story.

Why won’t God answer?

Have you prayed for God’s help in making a decision or experiencing a certain result, only to get no answer? This has surely happened to all of us, has it not?

What was or is your response, then? Anger? Frustration? Confusion? Disappointment?

What should be your response? Patience? Faith? Obedience?

Every situation, at least to some degree, is different, so I will not pretend to be able to relate to the ups and downs you face in your life. What if the necessary response to God’s silence, though, is repentance?

Could it be that God is calling you to repentance – a turning away from your sins and turning to Him – before He answers your prayers, makes you aware of His presence, and gives you the hope, peace and joy only He can give?

I must certainly admit, from my own experiences, that when I am failing to walk in faith and dependence on God, and then I seek His direction, I am much less likely to experience His wisdom.

Clearly, His Word tells me who I am to be and how I am to live. In Jeremiah 29:13, for example, God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” When? When you search for God with “all your heart.”

Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “You will search for the Lord your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.”

If we are living in sin, can we possibly seek God with all our heart and all our soul? If we are failing to trust and obey His Word, are we truly seeking Him at all?

No, for a partial act of obedience is absolutely an act of disobedience. Wholehearted seeking of God certainly cannot take place when wholehearted obedience to God’s Word is not taking place, and this is why repentance is so important.

Why will God not answer?

Well, how is your daily walk with God? Do you have a genuine relationship with Him? Are you daily seeking to turn away from your sins and walk in close communion with Him and with His church?

If not, then you cannot expect to be aware of His presence, experience His power, and trust His promises. Rather, you will likely experience His silence, just like King Saul did multiple times during his downfall.

Lord willing, I plan on finishing my sermon series – Becoming the Villain – Sunday morning. “Villains Follow Fear” (1 Samuel 28:3-19), and if we expect to hear from God without seeking Him through His Word and obeying Him according to His Word, then we prove to be fools and eventual villains (enemies of God).

Too often, people want to claim Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7:7 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”), but they want that promise apart from repentance and obedience. As a result, they are blind to the truth of God’s Word – the truth that Jesus’ promise there is in accordance with God’s will. And, we cannot know God’s will apart from God’s Word.

God’s Word tells us God’s will – that we be obedient followers of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. Maybe God’s silence in your life is due to His calling you to repentance.

If you only seek God in a crisis, then you will be blind to His Word in the midst of that crisis because you haven’t been walking with Him all along.

Does God sometimes choose to make His followers wait and/or to make His followers suffer? Of course He does, and His Word is full of examples and direction in how to respond. Even in the midst of suffering and difficulty, though, you can be assured of God’s presence and faithfulness, but only if you are living a life of repentance.

Why will God not answer?

Examine your heart to make sure you have sincerely repented of your sins and are sincerely seeking Him. Cry out to God in faith and repentance before expecting His response.

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós on Pexels.com

Coveting Prayer

Please pray for my mom as she learns to live without her best friend and husband of 38 years.
Please pray for my mom as she learns to live without her best friend and husband of 38 years.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”
-Psalm 116:15

You may have already heard, but my dad passed away Wednesday afternoon. His body lost its battle with cancer, but because he had put his faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he now has eternal victory.

Will you please pray for our family – that we will depend on the Lord, trust Him and grow closer to Him? I am leading both memorial services this weekend, so I would also covet your prayers that Christ will be honored, and the gospel will be central. My hope and prayer is that not only will we rejoice in remembering my dad’s life (both past and eternal), but also that those who do not know the Lord will be drawn to Christ.

Service times, so you know when to be praying, are:

Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
First Baptist Church, Marshalltown, Iowa

Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lanesboro, Minnesota
(with burial to follow)

Thank you for your prayers! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Overwhelmed

Breathing exercises with Grandpa Robbie.
Breathing exercises with Grandpa Robbie.

I confess that I am very overwhelmed right now. My dad, Rob, is home from the hospital but is now on hospice. Thus, we’ve been told he doesn’t have much time left. This past Friday and Saturday, we went up to spend time with my family and had more moments with my dad that we will always cherish. Although my dad is bed-bound and unable to even walk right now, the kids enjoyed hanging out with him and even joining him for some breathing exercises. Marsha and I also enjoyed the time, even though we are saddened and overwhelmed by his condition. Of course, we do believe God can do all things and can certainly heal my dad and take away the cancer. We pray for that, while trusting God’s perfect plan and perfect timing.

Thankfully, we rejoice and have hope because of my dad’s faith in Jesus Christ. While we obviously grieve because of his suffering and will grieve if the Lord chooses to take him home, we also rejoice in what’s to come. We know his grief will be no more and his suffering will come to an end. For this our “hearts rejoice in God” (Psalm 33:21). Will you please pray for my dad and mom, JoAnn? Pray for my dad’s healing. Pray for my mom’s strength and endurance. Most importantly, pray for their faith and hope in Christ.

Not only are we overwhelmed by what my mom and dad are enduring right now, we are also overwhelmed by the horrific suffering around the world. I hope you are aware of what is happening in Iraq and that you are praying for those who are greatly suffering, as well as for those who are doing the persecuting. Please pray for relief, for growing faith and unity of the believers, for endurance and perseverance, and for boldness in the gospel. May God use this devastation for the glory of His name! Here is a specific way in which you can pray.

Silas’ Birthday and Our Crazy Lives

Silas celebrating his birthday with his new lawn mower and gas pump from Grandpa and Grandma.
Silas celebrating his birthday with his new lawn mower and gas pump from Grandpa and Grandma.

Well, Silas DID turn three a few weeks ago, and we didn’t forget to celebrate his birthday. He has been sick off and on, though, for more than six weeks now, and our lives have been almost as chaotic as Silas’ stomach problems.

Someday, when – by God’s grace – we figure out some sort of a routine and have a healthy household, we’ll update DrakeCity with some news and pictures.

Thank you to those who have been praying for our little guy, as this has been a very trying time for him and for us. While we thought he was finally on the mend and on a clear road to recovery, he got sick again today. Please pray for miraculous healing and for our family to depend on the Lord and honor Him.

Grandpa Ralph Sorum

My Grandpa Ralph’s obituary, along with comments from friends, has been posted by the Star Tribune. The memorial service for grandpa in Lanesboro, Minnesota, at which I will speak and preach, will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, November 1.

Here is the obituary posted by the Star Tribune:

Sorum, Ralph D. of Burnsville passed away at University of Minnesota Hospital on October 16, 2013 at age 76. Born to Lloyd and Mabel Sorum of Lanesboro, MN on July 1, 1937. Survived by wife, Carol “Nikki”; daughters, LeAnn (Gary) Olson, JoAnn (Robin) Drake and Janel (Allen) Pecinovsky; step-daughter, Terri (Daryl) Wherley, step-son, Scott (Michelle) Enter, 15 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Preceded in death by son, Steven Sorum. Ralph was a longtime employee of Control Data and was a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He enjoyed time with friends and family and long weekends at the lake. Funeral Service 11 AM Wednesday, October 30 at St. James Lutheran Church, 3650 Williams Drive, Burnsville, MN. Visitation one hour prior to service.

Thank you for your prayers right now for my mom, Grandma Nikki and the rest of our family. To God be the glory!