Monday, April 27, 2020

Winds and Whispers

I love wind, especially a cooling breeze when I'm doing yard work or taking a walk at the end of a warm day.  The way the wind sets water in motion, causing waves to splash along the shoreline or the pine trees to sway, is nothing short of wondrous to me.  But a strong breeze is not always welcome, especially if I am cleaning up leaves or walking up a steep hill.

The coronavirus is the storm we didn't see coming -- the BIG one that has blown us all off course and resulted in death, destruction, and a virtual shutdown of our lives, our economy, and our world.  It has forced many of us to change the way we work, worship, and interact with others.

There are several references to wind in the Bible but the one that sticks out to me in this season of upheaval is found in the story of Elijah's encounter with God in 1 Kings chapter 19.  In verses 1-8 we read that after learning from Ahab that Elijah had killed all the prophets, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah threatening to kill him.  In fear he ran for his life, traveling into the wilderness, where he sat under a broom tree and asked the Lord that he might die.  After being roused from sleep and fed by the angel of the LORD, he arose and ate and drank, and journeyed forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.  Picking up in verse 9:
There he came to a cave and lodged in it.  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts.  For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."  And he (the LORD) said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD."  And behold, the LORD passed by and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And behold, there came a voice to him..." (1 Kings 19:9-13, ESV).
The coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm which has forever changed our lives.  But I also believe it is providing fertile ground for God's Word to go forth and for many lives to be saved as we adopt to a new normal.  God has promised to be with us in times of trouble and his Holy Spirit still moves like a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2), filling us and empowering us to do his will, no matter how battered we may feel by the storm in which we find ourselves.

Whether you are sheltering in place at home or working the front lines of the battle, step into the stillness of God's presence and listen for the whisper of his voice.  "Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"  (Psalm 46:10, ESV)

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

New Normal -- Same God

I'm not one to cry easily, except at happy endings or when I am angry about something. However, I have had a couple of moments recently when tears just came out of nowhere -- no particular stress trigger or depression, just intense momentary sadness. As I prayed this morning for God to reveal why, I realized that like so many of you, I am GRIEVING. As blessed as I am -- as we all are -- we are each grieving, on some level, the loss of our lives and the reality that our "normal" is forever changed.

Some of us have lost jobs, loved ones, and the sense of identity that comes from being employed or in the company of those whose presence we can no longer enjoy due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. ALL of us have lost the freedom to come and go and do as we please without fear of becoming infected or infecting others.

We have seen the best and worst of humanity during this crisis and learned hard, hard lessons. Many of us have risen to serve, some making the ultimate sacrifice to care for those who have been sickened by the virus. Some of us have sunk into despair because of loss and loneliness. All of us have been changed in some way.

Despite all the changes we have seen and the reality that life will never again look like it did on January 1, 2020, we can still enjoy LIFE and walk in FREEDOM because of what happened on Easter -- not this Easter, but on that first Easter when Christ, who IS our FREEDOM and our LIFE, forever conquered death through His Resurrection.

For those who know Christ:
He is our Life. -- John 1:4
He gives us Freedom. -- Galatians 5:1
He himself is our peace. -- Ephesians 2:14
He is our hope. -- Colossians 1:27

If you don't know Christ -- if you have not asked Him to save you from your sins and entered into a personal relationship with Him -- I pray this will be the day you ask Him to be your Savior and Lord and begin walking in the freedom, hope, and peace that can be yours as a child of God. The Bible tells us:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17, ESV).

Life will never be the same again, but "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

This world -- this broken, sickened, saddened, decaying world -- is not our home. Jesus himself says, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:1-3, ESV).

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear away from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:3-5, ESV).

Praying for you,
Dee Dee

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Finding the Good in Life When the News Isn't

As I wrap up my fourth week of working remotely, knowing that there are possibly several more weeks of isolation ahead of us all, I pause today to give thanks for the unexpected blessings of the pandemic that has affected so many of us.  Not only has COVID-19 adversely affected most of the world, but it has also caused many of us to reassess the things we value and to focus on the simple joys that we overlooked before this plague descended upon us.

Among the simple joys for which I'm thankful:
  • The technology and ability to work remotely and continue my ministry to the church.
  • The joy of riding out this season of social distancing in our new home, where we have a little more room to distance ourselves from each other and a lovely, usable yard to work in and enjoy when the walls begin to close in.
  • The view outside my sliding glass door, which affords me the opportunity to enjoy bird watching and seeing the beauty of spring while in lockdown.
  • Additional time with family and my cat, who loves to bird watch too. 
  • The new ways I am learning to connect with others in our church and community....ZOOM!

Even bigger reasons to give thanks:
  • My salvation through Jesus Christ, and my relationship with God the Father through Him.
  • The guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
  • The promises of God's Word to encourage and strengthen us when our faith is weak.
  • God's provision of our daily needs, especially when the economy is in such turmoil.
  • The knowledge that God is still in control, ever-present, all-knowing, with grace sufficient for every circumstance.

But what if COVID-19 resulted in the illness or death of a family member, or the loss of my job, or the loss of things I count as blessings?  Would I still be thankful?  Would I still believe in the goodness of God?  Or would I succumb to despair and lose all hope?  

As Christ followers we are not exempt from trouble, heartache, sickness, and death. In John 16:33 (ESV), Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."  

In Philippians 4:11-13, the apostle Paul writes:  "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  Is there anyone out there who doesn't feel brought low by the coronavirus pandemic?  In our struggles, are we allowing God to teach us the secret of being content in any and every circumstance?

Despite all that is happening around us, those of us who follow Christ have hope because we know whose we are, that God sees us where we are, and that Christ through His death and resurrection has already won the victory!  

Friend, if everything you are facing right now seems too much to bear I encourage you to pray, seek God's face, turn to His Word for the answers to your questions, and trust in Jesus for salvation if you have never done so.  Rest in these assurances from 1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV):
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

What Next?

“Even when I am old and  gray , do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” ...