Showing items filed under “Jeremy Shirley”
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We’re a month and a half away from COVID impacting us for an entire year.  We’re just beginning a new chapter in our nation with a new president.  We see mounting deaths from COVID.  Continued rioting for various reasons, from our Capital building all the way to the west coast in places like Portland.  Close to half the nation is at the very least concerned about where we go next under a new administration.  We see our kids and grandkids struggling with online school or abnormal in-person schooling.  We ourselves struggle as our jobs has changed, if we’ve been able to keep them at all.  Our lives have changed at a dizzying pace.  It’s easy to get discouraged, depressed and even to the point of despair as we navigate the challenges of day to day live.  The good news is there is hope, hope for positive change, hope for the future, hope for eternity, hope found in the right perspective of life.

Ecclesiastes 3 is a great place to start to find hope, to be reminded of the perspective we can have on life as Christians. 

“For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” NLT

One of the things we get to enjoy in Missouri is all 4 seasons.  Even if it is all 4 seasons in the same week sometimes.  The way the different seasons change, the way they come and go each year, how you can rely on them to change is refreshing.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 provides us that refreshing reminder that “For everything there is a season”.  That means there is a season for Covid, there is a season for political turmoil, there is a season for rioting, there is a season for job loss, there is a season for schooling to change, for our marriages to change, there is a season for ministry to change, there is a season for EVERYTHING…”every activity under heaven”.  That means it’s ok, it’s just a season.  Even if it’s a long season, we know the seasons will change. 

When you begin to read in verses 2-8, you can see there truly is a time for everything…a time to be born or die, a time to tear down and build up, to search and to give up searching, to keep or to throw away, to love and to hate.  That’s just a few of them but if we’re honest there are things in that list we don’t want to experience.  So as we sit here, in a difficult season as a country, as a church, and in many cases as families…we can know that things will change, they always do.  In many ways this past year has felt like a season of tearing down of the church…but a season is coming of building up the church.  Almost all of us know someone who has died of Covid, but the good news is things will change and we’ll celebrate new life in the next season.  Whatever difficult season you’re experiencing…you can know for certain…it’s like a season and it will change.  The one thing we know that will not change is the one in control of the seasons…Jesus.  Hebrews 13:8 says he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When you get the right perspective on life, you can begin to enjoy life more.  If all we had to look forward to was this season, this difficult season…there would be nothing to hope for.   We don’t live that way, we trust a God who is in control, a God who “works all things together for good” like it says in Romans 8:28.  We serve a God, that when we trust Him, we can enjoy life…even in the difficult seasons.  As you read verses 9-13 in Ecclesiastes we can see that with proper perspective, we don’t have to be discouraged, depressed, and definitely not in despair.  The writer of Ecclesiastes acknowledges the hardship or the burdens places on us in this season of life.  He also points us to how God has planted eternity in our hearts.  We’re limited to seeing things through the scope of seasons.  Completely unable to see the whole picture the way that God sees it.  That brings us to the conclusion the writer draws for each of us in verses 12-13 “there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.  And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”  We can always find joy, or in this translation happiness, in the Lord.  When we have the eternal perspective of life, when we understand it’s made up of seasons that change and when we trust in the Lord who has given us so many good gifts…we can enjoy each season. 

Wherever you’re at today, whatever your outlook on life.  Take joy in what Christ has done for you.  Take joy in the fact that the difficulties of this season will pass.  Take joy in the fact God is in control and has the whole picture in mind.  Take joy in the fact you are blessed by God and He’s given you many good gifts.  I’m just like you, I’m looking forward to the next season of life.  It’s ok to look forward…but don’t forget to enjoy the present season God has you in!

 

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If anything, the last 7.5 months have been frustrating for everyone, no matter how you feel about COVID-19.  For most of us, the 7.5 months this has lasted has been 7 months too long as we started off with what seemed like an easy…let’s flatten the curve for 2 weeks.  We’re all worn out with it, we’re all worn out with how it’s altered our lives.  I’ve grown to jokingly refer to the time “Before Covid” as BC.  While it’s been a short time in the scheme of things, in other ways it seems like it’s been forever.  I’m not sure I’ve lived through a period in my lifetime where there has been more of a longing and conversations about going back to normal.  I’m right there with many of you often wishing to get back to normal.

Of course, as with many things in life, that’s where God steps in and for weeks He’s been moving me away from wanting to go back to normal.  I’m not saying I’ve arrived but I’m getting closer to being able to say “I don’t want to go back to normal.”  That’s tough to say because there is a lot I liked about life before all of this started.  Not to mention, normal is what’s comfortable to me.  Over the past 7.5 months, just like for many of you, everything has been harder, more inconvenient, required more thought, made us develop new habits, and learn new things.  It’s so easy to long for the good ol’ days pre-COVID. 

That’s where God has begun to lay on my heart how much of an idol I make in my desire to return to normal.  Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not getting to the point where I’m wanting to wear masks and socially distance the rest of my life, but I do want to look forward, step forward.  Think about Lot’s wife, when God had them leave their city as He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He told her not to look back…essentially saying don’t go back to sin, trust the Lord and look towards Him.  What did she do?  She looked back and paid the price.  She wanted what was normal to her.  Think about the Israelites who time after time after time complained about their current situation and longed to go back to Egypt.  It’s amazing how quickly we lose sight of the realities of our past.  Egypt was where they were enslaved.  In much the same way, there isn’t one of us that can look back on our pre-covid life and see perfection.  If you can’t look back and see the struggles and challenges of your past then you’re no different than the Egyptians who forgot that going back to Egypt would mean slavery. 

God doesn’t waste time.  God doesn’t accidently let a pandemic happen.  God doesn’t want us to go back to normal.  If at the end of COVID-19 we look back and all we accomplished was going back to normal, then we missed God’s work in our lives, in our church, in our nation in a big way.  If we’re going to take the next step in our walk with Christ, it means looking forward, away from the idol of normal and the past.  Scripture constantly reminds us of where our focus should be:

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” – Proverbs 4:25

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

Our mind should be on God, on eternal things.  Our eyes should be looking forward, undistracted by what’s around us.  We should seek the kingdom of God.  We do not look at the past but look for the new thing that God is doing.  Satan has a lot of good tricks up his sleeve.  One of them is getting us to focus on going back to normal.  I’m hopeful for what God will do, as He does something new.  I’m hopeful my focus will be on the things that matter, not the first world petty inconveniences I bemoan so often.  I’m hopeful that Christians as individuals will see through the selfishness of our desire to go back to normal.  I’m hopeful that Christians will begin to look forward and learn to be more like Christ, more focused on the Great Commandment to Love God first and then to Love People, more focused on the Great Commission than ever before…because those are the things that matter to the kingdom of God.  In many ways, COVID has exposed my own selfishness and likely if you’re honest with yourself, your own selfishness as well.  Let’s embrace the new thing that God is doing, let’s move forward, let’s work towards being able to say “I don’t want to go back to normal!”.

 

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