Here are a few reminders how to to keep our eyes on things above and remain on the solid ground of Christ even in the midst of trials, turmoil and uncertainty.
1. Don't be fooled, God is on His throne and Christ is at His right hand.
God is still in control and He has all authority. Read Psalm 47. The Israelites sang about their King and gave praise to God as the sovereign God. Verse 8 says, "God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne." People use the word "pandemic" to describe this virus, and though it is true that it is effecting the whole world, "pandemic" makes it seem like it is sweeping the nations and there is nothing that can stop it. Let us not forget that God reigns over the nations, and His throne is holy. His power is not affected by this virus and we can know, without a doubt, that He is in control.
Near the end of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you remember that Aslan lays slain after he takes the place of Edmond. The girls weep over his body all night, but as the day dawns and they turn to leave, Aslan stands before them, larger than life and in all the glory of a victorious lion! Lewis took the story of the Gospel and brought it to us with vivid imagery. Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, conquered death and stands victorious over it! Jesus would remind His disciples that "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]." Surely the disciples would remember how He calmed the sea, healed the sick and conquered death. Jesus made it clear that He had authority over the malities of this life even while He was here with us as a man. As the disciples would face famine, danger and sword, they could count on their Savior who said that He would be with them "always, even to the end of the age" and that nothing in all the world could separate them from His love.
2. Fill your mind with things above, not earthly things.
It's tempting to want to watch the news or check the latest COVID-19 stats all day long. It's tempting to check your bank account constantly, either waiting on the stimulus package to arrive or making sure your still financially afloat. It's tempting to look outside and long for a chance for things to go back to normal. It's tempting to scroll through social media fads and check out what's trending.
But if we are to keep our sanity and to not be brought down by the weight of the world, we must keep our minds set on things above! This is a time to set limits on ourselves; how many times a week do you actually need to watch the news? Or how much time do you really need to spend scrolling through your Facebook feed? I want to challenge each of us to look for good things to be putting into our minds. If you have some extra time at home, then I suggest that we use it to focus on Jesus and His Word. That is where true hope is!
Here are a few things our family is doing to "focus on things above":
Listen to the Bible
We found a neat app called Dwell that is great for Bible listening!
The Youversion Bible app is awesome and hopefully you already use it.
Watch the video series "The Chosen"
This is a very well done series about the life of Christ.
**Disclaimer** The series introduces stories from the Word by developing characters in ways that promote imagination and help you to identify more with the characters of the Bible, it does not follow the Bible verse-by-verse. Also, episode 1 was created as a dramatic attention grabber, episodes 2 - 8 are easier to watch.
Write articles about faith
We all have a voice, message and audience that can be reached though writing. We have tried to spend time writing things that will benefit ourselves and others through our ministry. This both challenges us to think through the effects of this pandemic in relationship to the Gospel and encourages us to practice what we preach!
You can even write on a more personal level to friends and family, writing from your heart to what they might need to hear, even sharing the message of salvation through a letter. Don't forget that some of Paul's most encouraging letters were written during His time in prison and on house arrest!
Spend time in Bible Study
As the majority of the world has had to turn to online video lessons, there are fantastic sermons and Bible lessons available (many are free) that we are working to take advantage of.
The theologian, N.T. Wright has discounted 2 of his New Testament courses for anyone interested in diving deep into scripture. (Find them here.)
Many churches are putting up their sermons as Podcasts or through their Facebook pages. It's a great time to soak in the study and knowledge that so many preachers all over are making such a effort to make available.
Pray for fellow believers and for the lost and hurting
Now is a great time to focus with even more fervor with specific and constant prayer for believers and the lost all over the world.
Prayer partners through a phone call or Zoom meeting are a good way to pull in other Christians who are also desiring to pray with more passion. We suggest setting up a time to pray with a friend or two from your congregation. You'd be surprised how much you will be encouraged and so will they as you both take your burdens to the Lord in this way!
3. Take time to build up your family and lean on Christ's teaching.
Christ spoke of building our house on the Rock. Obviously He was speaking of our own lives, but what about applying it to your home? What if we took Christ's teachings and focused on grounding our families on those teachings!?
What an amazing opportunity so many of us have been given with extra time in the home with the ones most precious to us! How are you using the time? What will your children remember from this time and your spouse as well? Hopefully, the time together can enrich your relationships with each other and Christ. With spouses, it's a time to develop our own characters, and with God's help, to love more deeply, understand one another better, care for each other's needs, learn to be more patient, serving and kind. For our children, we can take time, as we should every day, to intentionally lead them closer to God and strengthen their hearts in His Word. There are so many creative ways to do this. (Check this out for a couple of ideas)
Your children are also longing for your attention, yes, even if they are teenagers. Find new ways to connect with them, talk and listen to them and be there for them because, likely, they are struggling too.
4. Get around the table with your family and share meals.
This is so important, and sadly often overlooked, but thankfully many families finally are sitting down to meals together because they don't have a choice. One man said he has had three meals a day around the table with his family for the first time in years! Your heart and your family will be encouraged if you take the time to share meals together.
Turn off the TV. Turn off your devices. Clear off the dining room table. Make some food (tacos are super easy and delicious!). And enjoy the company of your family around the table. You can tell stories about your day, or about something that you've read, or watched. You can open up a devotional book and share a thought from God's Word with your family. You can sing around the table after the meal! If you have kids at home then involve them in the process, whether that is helping plan and cook meal, or having them pick out a song, or devotional thought, or getting the whole family to clean up together after dinner.
We have been reading a wonderful book about community around the table. It has challenged us to start being hospitable with those in our own home and seeing it as a gift to enjoy the food and conversation that God gives us! Check out Table Life
5. Take time to hide God's Word in your heart.
One of our mentors used to say that by repeating scripture 7 times daily you could memorize any passage in the Bible. In our fast paced and technology driven society we generally don't take time to memorize anything. Everything that we need is at the tips of our fingers on Google or the Bible App. So... why expend the brainpower to memorize scripture?
Psalm 119:11 says "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you." It's a principle that we have all heard from the pulpit. Jesus quoted scripture during His temptation, we need to have it ready on our lips as well. There is more though, memorizing scripture allows us the opportunity to meditate on it and to draw closer to God, by knowing Him more. Many people find a verse that they like and try to memorize it, but what if we shifted our focus to memorizing portions of scripture? Would your life be blessed if you could recite the book of 1 John? Or how about Matthew? I think it's time to dive into scripture in a way that will change our lives.
There are lots of videos on Youtube about memorizing scripture, but one way to start is in verse 1 and take the first phrase from it and repeat it 7 times on your first day. On day 2, repeat that phrase 6 times and move on to the next one, repeating it 7 times. Day 3 repeat phrase one 5 times, phrase two 6 times and the next phrase 7 times. It's good to start small with it until you get the hang of it. I recommend starting with one of the Psalms. You can choose Psalm 1, Psalm 15 or Psalm 100 and have any of them memorized in a week or less! Keep moving as you complete a section, either by grabbing the next chapter or choosing a new place to start.
We hope that you will be blessed and challenged by reading and internalizing God's Word!
These have been a few things that we hope will inspire you during this time! Obviously, this pandemic has thrown all of us for a loop, but as Christ's church we are to encourage each other daily. And even though we aren't together, we hope that you are encouraged to take advantage of the time that you have while you shelter-in-place. It's amazing what new possiblilities we can enjoy if we don't let discouragement drag us down. Remember where your anchor lies, it's not weighing you down, but instead it is binding you to God's presence!
Please note: The El Camino Ministries Team hopes that you will, in the wisdom of the Spirit, discern what is Biblical and beneficial to your own spiritual growth, from the above suggested material.