A COVID-19 Spiritual Care Package

God’s Ordained Means to Satisfaction in Christ

Within the Christian life, God has ordained that certain disciplines, when done in faith, will further our sanctification and give us ever increasing joy and satisfaction in Christ. Here are some of those disciplines:

    • Bible Intake (Reading, Meditating, Memorizing, & Listening to the Bible)
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Prayer (Personal Prayer & Corporate Prayer)
    • Worship (Personal Worship & Corporate Worship)
    • Singing
    • Fellowship
    • Fasting (Personal Fasting & Corporate Fasting)
    • Evangelism & Missions
    • Giving (To the Ministries of the Church, the Needy, & Missions)
    • Service
    • Ordinances (Baptism & the Lord’s Supper)
    • Discipleship

As we discipline ourselves, in faith, to make use of these disciplines, we will progressively be conformed into the image of Jesus and find satisfaction in Jesus.

COVID-19 Presents Some Problems

With one cursory reading through the New Testament, you will realize that God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Christ is the local church. Most of the godly disciplines mentioned above take place in the local church:

    • Listening to the Word
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Fellowship
    • Corporate Prayer
    • Corporate Fasting
    • Corporate Worship
    • Ordinances

This is why, when you see a Christian that is not faithfully involved in the life of a local church, they are spiritually immature and find very little satisfaction in Jesus. They are neglecting God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Jesus!

With that said, here is the problem that COVID-19 presents: Most churches, out of love for God and love for neighbor, are canceling services. These cancelations could last a couple weeks or they could possibly last for months. Nobody is really sure in light of the volatility of the situation. This means that most Christians are not going to be able to faithfully participate in the life of the local church. Thus, Christians are not going to be able to participate in God’s Plan-A for christian maturity and satisfaction in Christ.

A Spiritual Care Package

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to create a spiritual care package that God might use to nourish our souls. So, rather than languishing spiritually during this time, this care package is meant to sustain your joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ. This care package will contain advise as well as specific recommendations.

First, consistently intake the Bible. At a time like this, it is tempting to have your face glued to your phone to catch the latest news article, tweet, or Facebook post about COVID-19. Resist that temptation and seek the Lord. Read through whole books of the Bible. Meditate on comforting truths from the Bible. Memorize sections of the Bible that you can share with others. Bible intake is, without a doubt, the chief means that God uses to both mature and satisfy His people.

Second, pray regularly. Make a weekly prayer guide to strategically pray for the following things:

    • those at high-risk in your local church body,
    • those that may feel lonely,
    • those entrusted to lead the church through this trying time,
    • those in your community,
    • those working in medical facilities,
    • those entrusted to lead our country,
    • those missionaries all over the world,
    • and unbelievers.

As you do this, you will bear the burdens of others. You will be petitioning a great King that has limitless resources to act on behalf of others!

Third, listen to good preaching. I do have one caveat here. Though there are a variety of godly pastors out there that are gifted preachers and teachers, be sure to listen to the specific pastor that God has entrusted to the care of your soul. He knows, loves, and cares for you a great deal. He is thinking about how to specifically shepherd you during this time. So listen to him. With that caveat out the way, here are some good sermons that have made a profound impact on Kahlie (my wife) and I personally:

Fourth, read good books written by good teachers. God has gifted the universal church with many godly men and women throughout the centuries that are gifted with writing. God has given them the ability to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to pump out helpful literature for the church. Here are some books, none of which are academic, that have been helpful or encouraging in Kahlie and I’s life:

Fifth, listen and sing some hymns that were penned in troubled times throughout history. Matt Merker actually published an article of 25 hymns to sing. Each hymn has a link that takes you to a website where you can read the lyrics as well as listen to the song. Click on this link and find some hymns to joyfully sing to the Lord.

Sixth, serve the local church and the surrounding community. A global pandemic does not just hinder us as individuals. It hinders those around us. It hinders fellow members in our local church as well as fellow individuals in our community. Health care workers get exhausted, small business owners get anxious, and the elderly get concerned. In light of this, we are presented with some opportunities to serve. Here are some opportunities that I have been thinking through:

    • Offer to go get groceries for the elderly in your church
    • Offer to go get prescription medicine for the elderly in your church
    • Adopt a widow in your church and check up on her every 2-3 days
    • Give generously toward the benevolence fund at your local church
    • Order carry-out food or gift cards from local businesses in your area
    • Send encouraging texts or emails to those in your Sunday school class
    • Thank those who work in health care, the police department, grocery stores, etc.

Joy in Christ in the Midst of COVID-19

I am confident that if you, in faith, make use of this spiritual care package, then you will find joy and satisfaction in Jesus. In the midst of all the turmoil and volatility, you will be a well of living water that benefits and nourishes other people in these dark days.

Becoming an Evangelist

I would define evangelism as teaching the gospel to unbelievers with the aim of persuading them to repent of their sins and to believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. We are to do this type of evangelism with our family members, friends, enemies, acquaintances, and strangers. As Christians, we have an obligation to bear witness to the glorious work of Christ to a lost and dying world.

Even though most Christians have a sense of this obligation, evangelism is something that most Christians find notoriously difficult. With this in mind, I wanted to point out six things that we can do in order to become faithful evangelists.

1) Know the Bible

Evangelism is largely a teaching moment. Whether you are seeking to evangelize your kids, co-workers, acquaintances, or strangers, you are going to have to teach them about God, Christ, sin, judgment, righteousness, faith, repentance, forgiveness, etc. These are weighty theological topics that fall within core doctrines of the Christian faith: creation, anthropology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. And if you are going to evangelize, you are going to have to be able to teach these topics to non-Christians.

Before you get overwhelmed by what you just read, it is important to add that you don’t have to know all aspects of every one of these doctrines! You don’t have to have the best definition, explanation, or argumentation of all the terms that I mentioned above. In all honesty, you don’t even have to have the best presentation of these doctrines. Nevertheless, you should strive to be the best teacher that you can possibly be as you articulate these biblical truths to unbelievers.

Therefore, seek to know the Bible. Become well acquainted with the teachings of Scripture. Listen to good sermons when you have time. Ask knowledgeable people weighty questions and allow them to teach you. Memorize simple definitions of certain biblical terms like repentance, faith, justification, and reconciliation. This will equip you to teach biblical truths in winsome ways. Simply put, the more you know the Bible the better you will be at evangelism.

2) Be in Prayer

As a child of God, you have access to God’s throne. He is the King of the universe. Make petitions to Him. Make big petitions to Him. Request great things from Him. Ask Him to give you opportunities to speak about Christ. Ask Him to give you wisdom, boldness, and clarity as you teach people about Christ during evangelistic encounters. Ask Him to save those whom you have the opportunity to teach about Jesus. You must be in prayer for these things.

The importance of this is seen in the life of the apostle Paul. Paul asked the churches to whom he was writing to pray these types of prayers on his behalf. And trust me, if the apostle Paul needed the church to pray on his behalf in regard to some of these things, then we most certainly need to be praying for them!

We also need others praying for us. Get a couple of friends that you attend church with and begin praying for one another’s evangelistic efforts. After one of you has the opportunity to evangelize, be sure to encourage your friends by telling them that God was gracious in answering their prayers. If somebody you evangelize ends up confessing that Jesus is Lord, be sure to tell your friends. This will create a culture of evangelism that fosters encouragement and endurance.

3) Be Holy

Personal holiness is, by far, what is left out of most conversations when it comes to evangelism. This shouldn’t be the case! Our personal holiness is instrumental in our evangelistic efforts. As Christians, we are to be a distinct people. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we take orders from a King that reigns over all. In light of this, we are to be a people that are other-worldly.

We are to speak in a manner that reflects the goodness, graciousness, and compassion of our King. We are to live in accordance with our King’s ethic; being careful to walk in our King’s statutes. We are to look carefully at how we use our time, and we are to live such godly lives that those outside of Christ take notice. This is why, when it comes to personal witnessing, the Bible often assumes that we are going to be responding to unbelievers as they ask us questions.

You see, when we live in such a way that is consistent with biblical teaching, people are convicted. People begin to ask questions. When we answer their questions, our answers have credibility because it is backed up by a holy life. This means that, if we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we need to be holy evangelists.

4) Be a Conversationalist

Far too often we strive to get through our days seeking to have the least amount of meaningful conversations as possible. We go to work, do our job, participate in small talk, and then go home. We go to retail businesses, keep our conversations brief, and then head home. We go to family events, look at our watches, stay away from substantive conversations, and then get back in our cars. This is not good!

If we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we must change our conversation habits. We must become conversationalists. We need to be intentional in carrying conversations longer than 1-2 minutes. We need to ask questions that allow for further conversation. We also need to ask questions that intentionally guide the conversation to something substantive and helpful. If we want to do this, we’ll have to learn how to steer conversations beyond the shallow waters of everyday small talk and into the sea of meaningful discussions! If we can do this, then we will have many more opportunities to speak to people about Christ.

5) Take a Genuine Interest in People

If you have ever purchased a used car, then you know what it is like for an individual to ask you questions, seem friendly, talk with you, and laugh with you, all the while not caring a lick about you. This happened to me recently. Kahlie and I thought we had a new best friend. We were having a good time with this used car salesmen. Then, once I told him we weren’t interested in buying the car he was showing us (I had already told him in the beginning that I was not looking to buy a car that day), he completely shut down. His whole demeanor changed . . . . talk about awkward!

We, as Christians, cannot afford to be this way. We don’t merely want to have substantive conversations with people just so we can sneak the gospel in. Rather, we want to genuinely take an interest in people! With this in mind, spend time with people. Buy them lunch. Go out for coffee with them. Ask them how their family is doing. See if there is any way that you can serve them when they are going through a difficult season. Just be a friend to them. Simply and sincerely treat them as image bearers of God! And as we do this, we will have more and more opportunities to speak to them about Christ. Also, they will be much more inclined to listen to us.

6) Persevere

During my Christian walk, I have noticed that people are more likely to serve Christ when: 1) The task is relatively short and simple, 2) The fruit born from the task is quickly seen, and 3) The service opportunity will end with encouragement and affirmation.

Because of what I just mentioned about, most Christians do not evangelize. Evangelism is not short and simple. Evangelism takes time, and to engage somebody in a conversation about spiritual things is pretty difficult. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in evangelism, you rarely see fruit. You speak to people, you love them, you serve them, but you rarely see them come to faith in Christ. This can be debilitating. And here is the real kicker, the people you are talking to usually aren’t going to encourage or affirm you for what you’re doing! In all honesty, they’ll more than likely discourage you and disagree with what you are doing. They may even personally attack you.

Consequently, if we want to be faithful evangelists then we must persevere. We must persevere through the difficulty of evangelizing. We must persevere through the seasons of evangelism where we don’t see fruit. And lastly, we must persevere through the endless amount of times people will dislike us because of our evangelism. If we can persevere through all of these, then we will be faithful evangelists.

Conclusion

Though more could be said, I believe the six things mentioned above could help you become a faithful evangelist. Whether you are in high school, on a college campus, in the work place, parenting children, or in a retirement home, doing these six things in faith could help you live a faithful and fruitful evangelistic life that brings glory to God!

We, Too, Shall Rise

Easter Sunday is quickly approaching. On Resurrection Sunday Christians all over the world are going to gather together to celebrate Christ’s glorious victory over death. In light of this, I just wanted to write a blog about how our resurrection is directly tied to the resurrection of Christ. In other words, because our Lord rose from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead.

This truth is seen throughout the Bible . . . especially in 1 Corinthians 15. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul even tells us what our resurrection bodies are going to be like Christ’s resurrection body – pretty awesome! Before we get to the description of the resurrection body, let’s look at the context of this great chapter.

The Problem

Some people within Corinth were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians. They were saying that Christ had been raised from the dead, but that Christians will not be raised from the dead. This is why Paul says, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:12)?

Those in Corinth could not wrap their minds around the fact that Christians are going to receive a physical resurrection body upon the return of Christ. This was probably due to the popular belief that a person’s spirit was good, but that a person’s body was evil. If they had this mindset then receiving a physical resurrection body upon the return of Christ would not make any sence to them. They were probably thinking, “Why have a pure spirit reunited with an evil body?”

The Argument

Throughout 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is destroying this unbiblical thinking. He begins by saying that the most important aspect of his teaching ministry was that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then resurrected bodily (1 Cor. 15:3). Then he shows the Corinthians that many people witnessed Christ’s resurrected body (1 Cor. 15:5-9). He goes on to explain to them that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised from the dead. And if Christ has not raised from the dead, then everything we do is in vain (1 Cor. 15:12-19). What a dreadful thought!

Praise God that this is not the case though. Christ most certainly rose from the dead. And because He rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead. He is the first-fruits of the resurrection. As the first-fruits of the resurrection, Christ received His resurrected body first. Those who are in Christ will receive a similar resurrection body later on (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Then Paul pretty much says, “Since my resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Christ, I risk my life every single day for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 15:30-34).

The Question

At this point in Paul’s argument, he is supposing that there is going to be some wise guy among the Corinthians that will ask a question saying, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? How in the world does a rotten and decaying corpse resurrect? That would be a bit ridiculous and horrifying!” (1 Cor. 15:35). Even though these seem to be pretty legit questions to us, Paul thought differently. He basically responds saying, “You foolish person! This is not far-fetched, so quit talking like it would be! This kind of thing happens all the time. What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36).

A Lesson from Agriculture

Paul then begins to give the Corinthians a lesson in agriculture. He tells them to go to the farmer and watch him sow seed. The seed he sows goes into the ground, dies, begins to decay, and then, from that decay, becomes a beautiful harvest. Thus, that stock of wheat that sprouts from the ground comes from the seed you sowed. Paul’s striving to emphasize the continuity and difference of the sown seed.

There is continuity between the seed and the stock of wheat. That specific stock of wheat actually came from that specific seed you sowed! However, there is difference as well. That specific stock of wheat sure looks a lot different than the seed you sowed.

And this is how the resurrection body works. My current body is the seed, and the resurrection body is the body that will be upon the return of Christ. There will be continuity. I will be Philip. It will be this body that I am in as I am typing this blog. However, there will be a difference. My resurrection body will be way better than my current body.

A Lesson from Creation

After this, Paul tells them to look at the many different bodies that we see on a day to day basis. Look at the body of a human, the body of a fish, and the body of a bird. They all have different bodies. God does this intentionally and easily. Then Paul tells them to look at the stars in the heavens. Star differs from star in glory (1 Cor. 15:41). Some are big and some are small. Some are brighter than others.

Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that God gives different bodies for different reasons. He wants us to understand that this is how it is with the resurrection of the dead. The body that we are currently in is made for this world. However, God will give us another body upon the return of Christ. Though it will have continuity with this current body, it will also be different. The resurrection body will be made for the world that is to come. It is at this point that Paul explains how our current bodies are different than our future resurrection bodies that God is going to graciously give us – this is one of my favorite biblical passages!

1 Corinthians 15:42 “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”

Our current body is a perishable body. The older you get the more this verse will resonate with you. Your hair-line begins to recede, your teeth begin to decay, and your bones begin to ache. Some of us will undoubtedly be diagnosed with a terminal disease that’ll makes our body wither like a fall leaf as it approaches winter. And even those of us who are healthy will inevitably breathe our last breath and be lowered six feet beneath the surface of the earth. Our bodies will continue to perish even after we die. Worms and maggots will treat our body like a five star buffet until nothing but our bones are left. This is how God has made these earthly bodies that we have. He has sown bodies that are perishable.

However, this perishable body will be resurrected as an imperishable body. It will be a body that will never notice the beginning of a receding hair line, and it will never feel the effects of a rotting tooth. This resurrection body will have ears that never lose their capacity to hear. You will never have to hear a doctor as he gives a diagnosis for a terminal disease. This imperishable body will never see a coffin again, nor will it ever have to frequent a cemetery. It will never have to mourn at the loss of a loved one. No, God is going to give us a body that will be imperishable. And after 10,000 years of enjoying perfect fellowship with Jesus and other believers on the New Earth in this imperishable body, we will look as we first did when we rose up out of the grave. As Spurgeon puts it, “In heaven every nerve of the new body shall cry, ‘Immortality.’”

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”

This body is dishonorable. Because of Adam’s sin, it has lost its state of honor and dignity. Just how dishonorable is this body? Think about this . . . God gave us this body to honor him, but we have used it to perpetually sin against him. In perpetually sinning against him, we waged war against Him with the very body he gave us. Then, while we were at enmity with him, God, in His great love for us, reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And even after He justified us, adopted us, and placed His Holy Spirit in us, we still sinned against him. Then, after years and years of walking with Christ and progressively being made holy by the Spirit, we will continue to commit sins against our heavenly Father. Sadly, even up to the moment of death, we are going to be dishonoring God with some type of sin. As you can see, this body is sown in dishonor.

However, this dishonorable body is going to be raised a glorious body. Our resurrection bodies will be so glorious that we will never even conceive of sinning against our Heavenly Father or our blessed Savior. Instead of sinning, we are going to radiate with the glory of God. We are going to shine like the brightness of the sky above, like the stars in the heavens (Dn. 12:3). And like Christ said, we are going to shine like the sun in the kingdom of our father (Mt. 13:43). This dishonorable body that is destined to return to dust will one day rise up out of the grave like the morning sun in all of it brilliance. As John Newton says in his hymn:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Then when we’ve first begun.

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

These bodies that God has sown are also weak. We get wearied and tired easily. We run a mile and are worn out. We put in a day’s worth of work and need to go to bed. We study for a test and we get mentally exhausted. Another aspect of this is that we seek to work hard, our bodies get tired, and we end up injuring something. We play baseball, get hit by a pitch, and end up bruising. And when we are near the end of this life, we are so weak that we cannot take care of ourselves. Other people have to tend to us. And the ultimate weakness of this body is most evident when we die, for we cannot even bury ourselves. Our family and friends must do it for us!

But these weak bodies that God has sown are going to be raised up as powerful bodies. We will be able to run miles upon miles without growing weary. We will be able to work for years upon years without growing faint. In all our endeavors, we will neither wear out nor rust out.

Our bodies will be able to do anything that our minds conceive of. If we look at the highest mountain and desire to climb it, our bodies will prove to be mighty enough to do it. If we look down into the deepest valley and desire to scale it, our bodies will prove powerful enough to do it. And after we do all that our minds conceive of, our body will be ready to go again. To a body that is raised up in power, exhaustion and fatigue will be a foreign concept.

1 Corinthians 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

The bodies that we have now are natural bodies. They are like Adam’s body in every way. This means our bodies are made for this current earth. We could put it like this: these natural bodies we have are made for this natural realm that we are in. Though these bodies work for us here, they will not work for us in the life that is to come when we are on the New Earth.

Since this is the case, our resurrection bodies will be spiritual bodies. God will graciously give us spiritual bodies for the spiritual realm that we will be living in. Essentially, it will be like the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection body was wonderful. He could eat and drink. He could touch and be touched. And he could also walk through walls and ascend into the heavens!

Now we do not know exactly how much our resurrection bodies will be like Christ’s resurrection body. Christ may be able to do more with his resurrection body than we will be able to do with ours. However, we do know with utmost certainty that our resurrection body will be like His to some extent.

This is the resurrection body that God has promised to his people. Therefore, if you are a child of God, this is the resurrection body that you are guaranteed by a loving God who cannot lie! With that in mind, think about this quote from Thomas Watson: “The body shall rise again; we are not so sure to rise out of our beds—as we are to rise out of our graves.”

Application

There are many ways to apply this. Paul applies this passage beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15:58 when he says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” In other words, if Christ is going to return, defeat death, and give us resurrection bodies then we should be overflowing in good works!

We can also get a good idea of how to apply this by looking at how this truth impacted Martin Luther during a significant trial he faced. Martin Luther, the German reformer, had a little 14-year-old daughter named Magdalena that he loved dearly. As a plague was making its way through Germany, Magdalena fell into its grasp. This was one of the lowest points in Luther’s life.

Watching his little 14-year-old daughter suffer from this deadly plague was hard. He was constantly petitioning God to take away her pain. And then, one day, the Lord ended her suffering by way of death. Luther’s Magdalena breathed her last breath, and she went home to be with her Heavenly Father. Her earthly father, however, was left to weep by her bedside.

Even though Luther was absolutely devastated, he still had an unshakable hope. And the unshakable hope that he had was grounded in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. When the carpenters were nailing down the lid of Magdalena’s coffin, he screamed, “Hammer away! On doomsday she’ll rise again.” Because of Christ’s resurrection, Luther knew that Magdalena’s cold, lifeless body would one day rise up an imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body. As you can see, the resurrection of the dead changes everything!