Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eye of the Tornado ~ Part Three

Eye of the Tornado: Part One   Part Two   Part Three
Dear Friends,

Ever since we elected a new President, the L.A. Times has been running stories on the front page about immigration. It’s typically a human interest story about a person or family who was deported or who is fearful that they soon will be. The stories are written to create empathy and support for undocumented aliens with the goal of making California a “sanctuary state.” The media’s heart-breaking stories are achieving the desired result but they are also creating an enormous amount of fear. At Abbey Road Villa, the assisted living facility where we have our Wednesday church service, there are undocumented immigrants who are in their 80's and 90's and television “news” stories had panicked them into thinking that ICE agents were going to raid Abbey Road and deport them back to Mexico. Thank God, I’ve been able to convince them that federal agents won’t be packing them with their wheelchairs, medications and oxygen tanks onto southbound buses. These wonderful, Godly people have been living in a tornado of fear.  

At church and outside of church I meet very few people now who are not angry and/or fearful at this black cloud of cultural/political fighting and dysfunction that is enveloping our country. I talk with those who are consumed with hatred for everyone who does not ascribe to their progressive liberal or right wing brand of politics. But their doctor would tell them that continued rage raises their blood pressure and puts a strain on the heart that can lead to an early death. I know of those who are having trouble sleeping, becoming physically ill and asking their doctor for prescription medications to alleviate their tension and stress. But there’s a better way. You can choose life.

God says in Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life..” No matter which side of the political fence we live on, if we find ourselves participating in the cultural tornado of hate and destruction that’s swirling around our Country, we have chosen death. “I command you today to love the LORD your God to walk in His ways and to do what He tells you to do and in so doing, God will bless you and you will have life. But if you turn away to follow other gods and (the things of this world), you are choosing death.” Deut 30:16-18 If you are a Christian who hates those who don’t share your political beliefs, please know that to hate another is sin. There’s no “righteous” hatred for another person. Jesus tells us to love one another and said, “It’s because of your love for one another that people will know you are My disciples.” John 13:34-35 Following the world and choosing to hate brings God’s judgement and death. Following Jesus and choosing to love brings God’s blessings and life. 

We find ourselves choosing between “life and death” in all that we do. We must use discernment in order to disengage in any interaction with the world that brings death to our soul and then choose to engage in all of that which brings life. That means prioritizing and practicing the life-giving things that feed your soul. That’s what will bring us into the center of the storm. The eye of the tornado is our spiritually safe place. It’s not a different world but the same world now bathed in the light of Christ. The storms around us cannot be ignored. That would be a denial of reality. But we are not to dwell in them. Throughout our day, we need to step out of the tornado and into the eye of the storm. I like to think of it as taking a “timeout” with Jesus.

I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in living in the eye of the tornado, because it’s too often I find myself tumbling around in this swirling mess of the world, and I’ve discovered that the only antidote to the fear and frustration is my frequent timeouts with Jesus. The chaos of the world envelops me with its darkness and destruction but in the eye of the storm there is peace. There’s a stillness in the eye of the storm and that’s why God says quit your fussing and “be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 And when we give all our anxiety, anger and fear to God, we will come into His peace. “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Last week we saw that in the Kingdom of God this cultural and political hate is unsustainable and the dysfunction will end. In the meantime, let’s step out of the cultural tornado and practice the habits that bring us into the presence of God. Here’s what my timeouts with Jesus during the day look like. If I find myself getting worried and discouraged or when my soul simply needs a spiritual boost, I’ll pause what I’m doing, take a deep breath and say, “Lord, I lift my heart to You, take me into Your presence.” Sometimes I'll say the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Son of God, have mercy upon me.” Sometimes I'll say the Lord's Prayer. Sometimes I’ll say out loud, or to myself, a scripture that comes to mind. I’ll often I lift my voice in praise to Him throughout my day. I write and preach about living in the presence of God because it’s a joyful way to live and it will also get you through the worst of days. That’s because whenever you find yourself in the middle of the storm of life and you turn your thoughts toward God, He reaches down and lifts you up into His presence. And when He does, you’re out of the mess and the stress and resting in the eye of the storm! Amen?

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