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Something to Avoid and Something to Pursue Today

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, are you focusing on the foreground or the background?

There was an old, Scottish professor and preacher by the name of James S. Stewart that made the distinction between the foreground and the background of life. He used a painting as a metaphor and talked about how the foreground in the picture are the elements of life that are right in front of us. They can easily overwhelm us as they cause us significant amounts of stress.

But there is also the background of life, those things in the painting that are beyond us and sometimes go unseen. Stewart called those the invisible spiritual realities that are all around us.

Now, we need to be clear that these two things are not divided. We should never have an unbiblical divide between the sacred and the secular, the physical and the spiritual. Remember, Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh, the divine and the human in one. Just like the foreground and background are two parts of the very same painting, so the seen and the unseen, the physical and the spiritual, make up the portrait of our lives and our world. But, our trouble too often in life is all we see, all we focus on is the foreground of our immediate problems, and we’ve lost sight of the unseen divine eternal background that’s meant to put everything into proper perspective.

Our foreground right now is that the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to be a pandemic. Our foreground right now is the frightening possibilities coming from the news reports that we’re hearing about every day. Our foreground right now is the virus and all the effects this still might have on our society, economy, and day-to-day living. This is the foreground. But we must remember—it’s only the foreground!

THERE IS A BACKGROUND!

There are divine spiritual realities and promises that are meant to put all of this into the right perspective. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus recognizes both the foreground and the background of life. He’s not dismissing the foreground of our immediate cares and needs, but he’s wanting us to see that’s not the whole picture. He wants us to see our needs in light of the colorful dynamic background of God’s Fatherly character and kingdom. And it’s in the light of that background, Jesus teaches us to do two things: The first is something to avoid; the second is something to pursue.

The first thing we’re told is, “Do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25). The second thing we're told is, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). So, he doesn’t just give us the negative, he gives us the positive. This is always the way true Christianity works. It doesn’t just tell us to put off, it tells us to put on. It doesn’t just tell us to say no, it always gives us a bigger and better yes.

When we only focus on the foreground, we get anxious, and we fail to seek first the kingdom of God. The background is the reality of God’s presence, peace and power . . . even, and especially, in the chaos of the foreground. So, don’t be anxious, because you are seeking first God’s kingdom. That background will anchor your soul when the foreground seems unbearable.

(Adapted from a sermon by Jeremy McKeen, Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church in West Palm Beach, FL.)

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Listen to the Coach!

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God’s Word Is Always Relevant—and Especially Right Now

 

Welcome to a new kind of March Madness.

Like many other Americans, I miss watching the basketball games this month, especially the NCAA tourney as college teams march toward the Final Four. In the end, the winning players are not only the most talented, but the ones who display perseverance, discipline, and teamwork—qualities we all need right now.

With all the distractions from thousands of screaming fans and intrusive TV cameras, the players who do best are those who listen carefully to their coach’s voice.

Noisy voices are clamoring for our attention this week:  TV news reports, social media comments, press conferences by government officials. Amid all the worrisome news, crowded stores, and jokes about toilet paper, above all else we need to hear the clear, confident voice of our Coach. Through all the chaos, Jesus calls, “Follow me.”

Skeptics charge that God, faith, and the Bible are irrelevant to real life. To me, that kind of cynicism never rings true, but how could anyone make such a claim right now? The Bible speaks directly to the challenges we face as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. In fact, certain portions of God’s Word practically jump off the page. Here are five biblical principles that can help us move through this challenging season.

Don’t be shocked—and don’t be dismayed. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus predicted that we will face hardships, but he also guaranteed ultimate victory. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Make plans—but be flexible when plans change. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13, 15).

Take good care of your vulnerable neighbors. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Do what you can, and trust God with the rest. When a woman honored Jesus by pouring expensive perfume onto his head, bystanders criticized her actions. But Jesus commended her by saying, “She did what she could” (Mark 14:8). In the midst of a global pandemic, you and I can’t know everything, do everything, and fix everything. Let’s do what we can, and trust God with the rest. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9, 10).

Replace worry with worship. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

Lots of voices are clamoring for our attention right now. Most of all, let’s pay attention to our Coach. According to him, faith “is the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4). Let’s listen to the Lord.  

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