Epistles during the pandemic

From mid-March, 2020 on, the world saw many problems. These devotionals encouraged kids to remember God was in control and how to live for Jesus, pray, and walk in the LIght of His love.

(and everything else we've faced this year.)

Kids have been learning and growing in Christ. Read selections from Doug's "pandemic epistles"

            Hi, it’s Doug from Youthquake, Sal sends his greetings, too. In this state of emergency, I wanted to give you tips on growing in your relationship with Jesus.

Like any relationship, communication is key. 1 Thess. 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.” We should always be in an attitude of prayer. This means talking with God, sharing your heart with Him. All your feelings and anything on your mind. A good way to remember this is ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thankfulness, and Supplication. That last means to humbly ask.

Adoration is just praising God and loving Him because He is God. Think of His many great qualities. I don’t know if you were here when I taught about Paul and Silas. They were in prison in Acts 16 for preaching the Gospel. They praised God continually. Then, God performed a miracle. He opened the doors and when the Philippian jailor saw them opened, he thought they had all escaped. But, all the prisoners were still there. He asked Paul and Silas what he needed to do to be saved. Acts 16:31 shows, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

So, keep praising God. We as a culture have forgotten to love one another. Pray we start doing this. Pray people will stop being selfish and put God first. Pray people start loving His creation and valuing life. Pray people will appreciate the good things God gives us.

And, of course, do this in your own life. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Confession isn’t needed in every prayer. But, we need to have our hearts right with God before He can hear our prayers. That doesn’t just mean big sins. It means making sure you aren’t praying with wrong motives, or asking for something against God’s will.

            Say you have a friend who needs saved, and they stopped being friends with you because you are a Christian. Wanting them to be saved is a good thing, but if you only want them saved so you can be friends again, that is a wrong motive. You should want them saved so they go to Heaven even if you are never friends on earth again.

            So, wanting this virus to end so you can have fun is a wrong motive. We should want it to end for God’s glory, for peoples’ health, and so on. It’s normal for people to want their own way; I struggle with that, too. But, that’s part of spiritual growth, wanting God’s way in our lives.

            Thankfulness is pretty self-explanatory. We should be thankful for what God gives us, and seek forgiveness for not being that way. But, not just for ourselves.

            Read Daniel 9. Daniel seeks revival for Israel. He repents for the actions of his ancestors. He prayed like God says in 2 Chr. 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

            I might do a lesson on this next time. For now, just remember to seek God’s forgiveness and thank Him for His love, grace, and mercy.

            Supplication is humbly asking. We should ask for others and ourselves.

            We need peace and comfort. God can provide. We need help and encouragement. God can provide. But, we also need to be ready to help others, too. And, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to guide us. Remember, the Holy Spirit lives in each believer. The Bible says to never quench the Holy Spirit, which is why we’re warned not to pray with unconfessed sin, wrong motives, lack of faith, etc.. But, God is always ready to help us. This is why the Bible records several places where people ask Jesus to help their unbelief become belief. It’s why Jesus says you just have to have faith the size of a mustard seed, and He will work with that faith and increase it. Just like He multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 men plus women and children. And, keep reading the Bible. Because you’ll always find something new.

            After all, that’s the first time I ever connected those verses I just mentioned in my mind. And I’ve read them for years.

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Praying for revival - 2 Chr. 7:14

            There are always things to find in a verse, so you’ll see more as you grow. Still, I’ll break one down to help you remember as you pray, to build your prayer life as you draw closer to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

My people/called by My name: Notice 2 things.

1. We are His people. We are not the chosen people – the Jews – of Genesis 12, but we have been grafted in; we are called by His name. Romans 8:15 says we have the spirit of adoption in us. We were once in bondage to fear. He has freed us like a tender, loving father who will never provoke to wrath, never discourage his children with putdowns, but will speak the truth in love and spea life to them. We are adopted into His family.

2. We can’t lose our salvation. How do we get that from this verse? The people are sinning terribly; so much so God has smitten their land. It can be a disease like the virus going around today, it can be a famine, it can be a spirit of destruction hat brings people against each other, but in the midst of all this, they are still His people, called by His name. They never lost that, even in the midst of horrible sin.

Humble themselves and pray:

To be humble is to realize we can’t do it ourselves. It’s admitting our faults and failures. It’s accepting we’re not perfect, but God is, and He has the right to rule in our lives. He says we shall have no other gods before Him – we put many things in our hearts that we idolize.

To pray to Him is to acknowledge He is Lord. Yes, we sometimes pray when other things are on our minds, but this is not the fleeting thought we quickly apologize for, like being too quick to criticize or not bothering to listen because we have things on our mind. People put many things ahead of God, and they need to be humble like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and return to God. This is made clear by the next part of this verse.

Seek My face:

We need to seek God’s face because we are not following Him.

“Wait,” you say, “I am.” Okay, but all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I’m just as guilty of not praying enough as anyone, I get distracted by things of this world. And just admitting that to God and turning from it is one way to seek His face.

And, if we are right with God, if we do walk with Him, then we should be interceding for others, for this nation. Do we pray for our leaders, or only the ones we like? If we put certain people on our “naughty list” and refuse to pray God help them or work in their lives, it is not Godly. He wants children to pray for and help their parents because they are in charge. And, in the same way, He says to pray for our leaders, not to keep complaining. He says to seek His will for our lives, not our own desires. To seek His face, then, is to seek Him; not just to go through the motions but to actively let His Holy Spirit work in us.

Turn from their wicket ways:

Again, why pray for past sins of others? We are interceding like Jesus does for us. He mediates on our behalf. So, we can intercede for others.

My ancestors fought to free the slaves – they left West Virginia, then part of Virginia, and joined Ohio regiments. They were Germans and Germans hated slavery. Yet I beg God’s forgiveness for the horrible cruelty of slavery. I don’t just say, “My ancestors were on your side in that one, Lord.” I intercede for our country.

Daniel did the same thing in Daniel 9, praying for Israel, and the sins of his forefathers. He didn’t just say, “I wasn’t there. Not my problem.” I don’t know if his forefathers were persecuted or not, but being handicapped, I could just say, “Yeah, we had it rough” and not seek God’s forgiveness for others. I acknowledge the sins of my country and pray we will turn away from them, and turn away myself.

But, this also involves action on our part now. So many have neglected family, but now they have a chance to reconnect and love them unconditionally. So many rely on imperfect people instead of a perfect God, but now they are learning they must rely on God. So many are selfish and worked toward self-gratification instead of thinking of others first. So many turn to things instead of God to give them peace and comfort. And so on.

So, when we turn from our wicked ways, we must do so ourselves, and then pray others will, too. This doesn’t mean we have to become Amish, we can enjoy pleasures, we must just stop putting these things ahead of God and acknowledge God gives them to us to enjoy and see His creation in nature, in our skills, etc..

Imagine, for instance, if all the money spent on better and the lottery were spent on helping the poor and supporting missionaries instead. Now that’s something to seek God’s face to it happens. There’s a reason Billy Sunday preached so much against sin – he knew it could be used to help those who really need that help.

Then will I hear from Heaven

The Psalmist writes “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer.” (PS. 66:18) But, He will listen when we ask Him to point out any wicked way in us so we can forsake it. (Psalm 39:24, other verses.) He knows we’re not perfect, He just wants a willing heart, because He wants to hear from Heaven. That’s why He tells us even with a nation filled with sin how we can see our nation healed.

And I will forgive their sin

God is always ready to forgive. He came into the world not to condemn it, but so that the world through Him might be saved. Each of us is only a single, sincere prayer of repentance away from eternal life. Then, once we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we can know for sure He will lovingly guide us and forgive when we mess up. So, we should be interceding for others and sharing His love with them so they, too, can be saved.

And I will heal their land.

America needs healed not just from the Coronavirus, but from centuries of evil, so much pain that we have caused Him through the mistreatment of others, but also so much pain we have caused Him through our own selfish desires.

We need healed from the bitterness and rage that exists in our land. We need His healing from the terrible way in which we’ve turned the gifts He has given us around for our own gratification. We need healed from that desire to fight for worldly rewards instead of giving toward Heavenly rewards. We need healed of the terrible attitude we’ve had toward life, from the legalist mindset that insisted people be in church without trying to hel them in their daily lives. We need healed from so many sins.

I’m not saying Coronavirus is a direct judgment from God. It’s not like He would judge Israel as His chosen people. We are in the age of grace.

But, I am saying America needs a repentance revival. God has tried so hard to get our attention. Now, this is one more thing where He is begging us to return to Him and be healed. He has removed so much of our lives, so we can have the time to know our Creator, the one who has given us all of this. He has given us one more chance to realize we are filled with sin and to intercede for our country.

And then, when we realize and share with Him we know we are deserving of His judgment, and plead for our nation, for His mercy on us, then we have His promise to get us through this.

He can heal us from this plague. He wants us to have faith that He will. But, not just so we can have fun, as I shared before. He wants it for His glory.

It just takes some dedicated prayer warriors. Will you be one? As Mordechai said to Esther, his cousin whom he raised, when she was afraid, because the wicked kind wanted to kill the Jewish people she she was needed to intercede, “Who knows whether you are come into the kingdom for such a time as this?” We need people to pray for repentance revival so God will heal this land. And then, He could restore the economy, maybe not in an instant, but He do great and mighty things.

We just need to have faith.

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Resurrection Sunday - "So Much is Empty - But So Is the Tomb"

So much is empty now – churches, schools, stadiums, etc. But, this Resurrection Sunday, we can always reply, “So is the tomb.” See our site, gcyouthquake.org, for several great things about that (right hand side, top of front page). But, let’s look deeper into it.

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus warns us “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth…” He reminds us things grow old, get stolen, break, etc.. He tells us instead to build treasures in Heaven where nothing goes wrong. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I alluded to that earlier. I said the gods of this world were disappearing. This isn’t just about putting God ahead of all the other things we put in our lives, though. This is about why we need to put God first. It’s for our protection. The tighter we hold onto the things of this world, the more we miss them when they are gone.

That’s why that empty tomb is so important. Jesus has conquered death. The Bible says “Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Cor. 15:55-57. Paul is saying, “You can’t threaten me with death. If I die, I’m going to Heaven to live forever.”

Of course, the Bible warns we should *never* tempt God. We also should *never* get involved with the devil. 1 Peter 5:8 says the devil walks around like a roaring lion, “seeking whom he may devour.” Getting involved in evil like witchcraft or drunkenness or hatred or anything like that can not only cause you to lose blessings and rewards, it can hurt all those around you and even lead to an early death.

However, you can be certain that if you are in the middle of God’s will, whatever happens, it won’t be evil. He will only put in your life what He knows you need to grow closer to Him. And, He’ll use you as a Godly example to those around you. Being a big help to family, doing chores, being kind to others, and so on are all things we can do now.

 And, when we look at the empty tomb, we can remember that those things we love most, when we give them over to God, will be used by Him for His purposes. And, we will have them forever someday. Think about it – right now the churches are empty, but we can fellowship with God’s people forever someday. We’ll run and laugh and play and do so many amazing things. Stuff we never had here on Earth but trusted God for, we can have up there. Jesus promised each of us a mansion, after all.(John 14:2) We trade or emptiness for trust in the empty tomb, so Jesus can make us full someday, and fill the holes in our heart here.

So, that empty tomb means not only do we not need to fear death and the grave, but all that we’ve given over to God, He promises to use for His glory and we can be sure something like it will be there for us in Heaven. For instance, Billy Sunday gave up a very good baseball career to be a preacher. Maybe he’ll play it in Heaven. Wouldn’t it be cool if Youthquake had lots of sports teams in Heaven, and we worked with Bully Sunday? For Sal and I it would.

When you give something to God, He might give it back to you to use for His glory. Someone who enjoys music, writing, etc. might use that passion to create things that honor God. Tim Tebow used his fame in college to honor God, and Reggie White, one of the best linemen of all time, was an ordained minister as well as a football player.

The empty tomb exists because we serve a risen Saviour. All other founders of religions and everything else have died and are still dead. No matter how long it takes, we have promise we can share with others. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive, and believers have the certainty of eternal life, where things are better than you can imagine. That is a message you should share with everyone, as you talk with family, etc., this season, and make sure they, too, have called on Jesus to save them from their sins. White died only a few years after retiring; we don’t know how long we have, but we know God says now is the time to be reaching others with the Gospel.

Sal and I both wish you a great Resurrection Sunday.

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