Key Verses For Unsettling Times

A good friend of mine shared a document with me yesterday with a list of verses that He has been sharing out with a regional collaboration of churches that he works with.  It’s a great idea and it inspired me to create a list for us.  Check these out.  Also, if you want a pdf of it to print out and post – email me at a.patton@newstory.church.

Covid – 19 Key Scriptures Guide

Psalm 46:1-3  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Psalm 56:3  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

2nd Timothy  1:7  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

John 14:27  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Romans 8:38-39  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1st Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7  “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.”

Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

1st Peter 4:12-13  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Romans 12:9-12  “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need…”

Romans 5:3-8  “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

James 1:2-5 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Philippians 1:27 – Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

Psalm 94:18-19  “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Key Psalms: 4, 8, 16, 18, 20, 23, 27, 30, 86, 131

Key Verses For Unsettling Times

We are still the Church

I’ve said it several times over the past week.  You’ve likely heard several others say it as well.  We have an entirely new situation in front of us.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  For centuries we’ve done a lot of things in very similar ways.  Not anymore!  But don’t forget:

We may not be gathering but we are still going as the church!

We may not be gathering but we are still the church!  Here at New Story we started using the #alonetogether hashtag in order to remind ourselves that though we are social distancing and a lot has changed, we are not alone.  So, I want to address what it actually means when we say: we are still the church.  Here are my top 4 truths behind the statement: we are still the church.  We need to remember these truths and practice them because we are still the church.

God still loves us.

Yes, this is crazy.  But remember, through every dangerous and dark situation our world has ever faced, God has loved His people.  I wonder how God has demonstrated His love for you already.  What are you seeing?

Throughout the centuries, God has demonstrated His love for His people by sustaining, not removing them from dark situations.  Think of the Holocaust, the great persecutions of Christians during the 1st through 4th Centuries and the persecutions that have occurred recently in countries around the world that are closed off to Christianity.  God tends to show His love by supporting and sustaining His people through great and terrible times.  Today is no different.  If your expectation is for God to show His love by removing this, I am afraid you will be disappointed.  We can pray for that, but I don’t have any insight into how He will answer.  Don’t let that trick you into thinking that God doesn’t love us.  He does.

We need to love the world like He does.

The rest of the world is hurting too, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.  So, if God does love us, then we have an opportunity to love the world in a dark and dangerous situation.

Now more than ever you have a reason to check on your neighbors.  You have a reason to reconcile with a boss you’ve been fighting with.  You have a reason to reach out to an estranged family member and demonstrate love.  God, your God – loves this world desperately.  We need to demonstrate that desperate love.

We are still called to live holy lives.

There is a lot of talk about cleanliness right now.  Wash your hands.  Use hand sanitizer.  These are all important things – by the way, you need to be doing those things.  Do everything you can to promote health including social distancing.  But we also need to keep working on doing the things that will help us live holy lives.

Check your heart and your attitudes as often as you check what is going on with the virus.  Check to see if there is sin that you need to turn away from.  Are there positive steps that you need to take and have been avoiding?  Prayer?  Studying Scripture?  Asking forgiveness?  Checking your media and entertainment intake?  If so, don’t come out of this quarantine spiritually fat.  Work now to be spiritually fit.

We still have a common mission.

Finally, there are people all around us who are innately more aware of their own mortality.  Because of that, I believe there is an opportunity to point people toward the hope that Jesus has provided through His death, burial and resurrection.  We have hope because of Him.  Not our own deeds.

When Covid 19 is all over – what will be told about us and how we lived?  I hope that the story will be told that we shared Jesus over and over and we supported the needy and loved on the lost and cared for the lonely.  That is our mission.  We still have work to do even though the world seems to be in quarantine.

We are still the Church

Problems, Fears and A Balanced Response

I’m not sure any of us have experienced anything like this before.  You would have to be living under a rock to avoid the enormous amounts of information and conversation about the Coronavirus in recent days.  Social media displays everything from fear, mockery and even legitimate suggestions.  Since we are all aware of it, I wanted to share a few thoughts:

Don’t stick your head in the sand.

There is a legitimate problem that is threatening many people.  Every individual matters and therefore when a person is sick, injured or dies, that is a terrible concern.  Yes there are many problems all around our world that place people in jeopardy, but this is another.  We shouldn’t ignore it and we shouldn’t ignore the concerns that others have.

Be a hope dealer.

If you are fearful, or if your neighbors/friends/family members are fearful – I hope that people won’t mock you.  Sadly, some of that is happening.  Christians – this should not be us.  Please don’t mock people who have fears.  Some fears are held by those who have preexisting conditions.  Some fears are there because of concern for loved ones.  Let’s acknowledge that there are fears and address that but not mock it.  In fact, when these fears come up, why not share the source of our hope – Jesus.  Encourage people.  Remind them that God sees them and cares.  Point them toward Jesus.

Handle your fears with wisdom and trust.

If you have fears – remember – we can take those fears to God and not be controlled by those fears (Philippians 4:6-7)  On the other hand – Christians, this isn’t just a trust thing.  It’s not like we can simply trust God and you won’t get sick.  You can pray about it.  You can ask God for protection but I don’t know how He will answer that prayer.  However, you can trust Him to work for your good and His glory.  You can trust that He will keep his promises to you no matter what.  I can trust that even if I grow sick and die, I have the hope of heaven.  We should use wisdom as well.  Take the normal precautionary measures.  Be wise about hygiene.  If you are sick – be wise.  Stay home.  If you are around people – don’t shake hands.  Use your elbow.  Wash your hands.  Use hand sanitizer.

Let’s help our city.

Christians, this is where we can excel.  Our world is afraid.  Please recognize this as an opportunity to point people toward Jesus.  He is why we have hope.  Our hope is found in something better than a life here where we never get sick.  Our hope is found in eternity.  Use these very real fears as a chance to talk about Jesus.

We can also excel by serving those around us.  Rather than hoarding – we should be ready to share with those in need.  The early church was not known for spreading fear and stockpiling for themselves.  The early church excelled because they were ready to help the needy and ready to share with others who were walking through difficulty.   If there are shortages – share.

How about you?  What opportunities do you see to help and encourage others with the abundance of fear around us?

Problems, Fears and A Balanced Response

God’s Will “For Me”?

As a pastor I often have conversations with people about what is best for their lives and how to make decisions that will lead them in a good direction.  Personally, I don’t always enjoy this part of what I do as a pastor because there is always a bit of fear in me when these discussions roll around.  The fear is related to one very big idea that I personally hold.

I believe that God won’t lead you contrary to what His revealed word says.

Yes, I actually believe that and it’s rooted in one idea – God Never Changes!  So, if God never changes and He has already spoken on the subject of finances or sexuality, church involvement or even swearing, then yes – He will not lead you contrary to what His word (The Bible) already says.

Here is my point.  Increasingly – Christians are saying – I need to figure out what is right for me – and they are applying this idea to areas that God has already spoken on.  So, guess what: you don’t have to figure out what is right for you.  It’s already right in front of you, on your phone, in your Bible app.

Here is why the fear – this idea is putting me in an increasingly small group.  I know that!  But it’s okay, because God doesn’t change.  So, please, look to God’s word concerning the issues of “His Will”.  Most of the things we have questions about, He has already spoken on.

God’s Will “For Me”?

4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

I confess, I’m writing this because I need to be reminded, and I would guess that if you are trying to follow Jesus…so do you.

I’m teaching through Romans right now.  It’s not a long teaching series, so I don’t get to spend a ton of time on each verse or chapter, however I’m trying to wrestle with as much as I can in the allotted time.

This past weekend I interacted with Romans 6.  It is needed in the life of the Church and in the life of this pastor.  Statements like this:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  – Romans 6:2

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; – Romans 6:11-13

So in thinking through fighting back against sin, I was reminded of how we need to identify the temptations we are struggling with and put a plan of escape together.

Have you done that?

Do you need to?

If so, here are four helpful steps that I’ve been using since my college days.

Identify the specific temptations.

The first step to putting a plan of escape together involves being honest about what you are struggling with.  You may be tempted to steal at work.  You may be tempted to lie.  You may even face temptation toward things in your mind  that no one else might see.  Whatever it is, be honest about it so you know what you are facing.

Identify where you are likely to face them.

Where do you tend to face these temptations?  Do you tend to face them at work?  At home?  Late at night?  On the way home?  Wherever and whenever it is, if you identify it, you can prepare yourself for those moments.

Write down someone you can call or a place you can go to take yourself away from the temptation.

I know what you are thinking – you’re not going to call someone else about this struggle.  Well, I hope I can convince you change your mind.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When we have someone else who can help us, the chances of our success dramatically increase.  Who can you call?  Where can you go to get away from the temptation?

Choose one verse you can memorize and fight with.

The last step that I have found incredibly helpful is memorizing Scripture.  When I get in the heat of the battle, I need to be reminded of what I want most, not just want I may want right now.  God’s Word reminds me of the truth.

Choose a verse.  It doesn’t have to be the perfect one.  God will use it to help you.  Write it down on a card and begin to read it each day.

Having a plan of escape when temptation comes is critical.  Sin will be killing you and your relationship with God and others if you aren’t fighting to kill it.  If you want to see more from Romans 6 about why we can’t keep walking in sin as Christians, you can check it out here!

4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

The truth is…it’s a struggle for every single one of us.  Some people look like they have it all together.  Some people act like they don’t struggle.  Some people even believe that they are immune, but the reality is that everyone of us fights an inward battle that we will never win until we are honest.

What is it?

It is the battle with temptation.

Now, I realize that not everyone who reads this will acknowledge the idea of “sin” or temptation, but I think we can all acknowledge that it is possible for us to do things that hurt other people and vice versa.  For me that is the very definition of sin and sin starts with temptation.  Here’s what I know about temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!  That’s a problem.

Temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!

And in case you were wondering, the problem is bigger than we think – here’s why:

Thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, habits lead to lifestyles, and lifestyle produces a legacy.

So what can we do?

In 1 Peter 4 – Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ in the battle against sin.  Christ went to the cross with eyes wide open – knowing that it was going to be a great battle.  He was honest and open about not wanting to do it, but having a willingness to obey the Father.  That gives us a real key to fighting back against sin: honesty and humility.

What if we were honest about our struggles and knew that sharing that struggle wasn’t a pathway to condemnation but a doorway to restoration?  What if we were honest with ourselves, honest with God and honest with trusted friends about our private struggles?  What then?  Maybe we would win a few more battles.

What if we were humble enough to acknowledge that we need help?  I think that honesty and humility would begin to produce habits and lifestyles that would produce a different legacy.

So, start with being honest with God daily.  Then be honest with a trusted friend, and maybe we can grow in a way that will help us fight back against sin.

A final question for you all – is the way you are currently living going to produce the legacy you want to leave behind?  If not, why not honestly and humbly ask for help.

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Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

Waiting On The World To Change

All of us are more than a little concerned with the major problems in our world today.

  • Sex Trafficking
  • Gun Violence
  • Poverty/Homelessness
  • Gender Inequality
  • Refugee Crises
  • Racial Divides
  • And much much more!

But…

“It’s hard to make a difference when we’re standing at a distance.”  The words from the John Mayer song make a lot of sense – so much so that I started looking at what Jesus had to say around the major problems in our world.  That searching led me to share a talk with New Story Church called “Waiting On The World To Change”.  You can check it out here and if nothing else you should listen to the opening story and Jesus’ solution to the major problems in our world – big problems require doing something small.

If you want to move something big, do something small.

At the end of the talk I shared 3 different steps that you and I can take to move closer

  1. Start a friendship
  2. Get some education
  3. Share what you have

But how do we do something about those steps…that is what I want to address and I hope that you will choose something that you can do this week.

First – START A FRIENDSHIP.  Ok, that may sound easier than it actually is, but the reality is that you can start praying for the people around you who are different than you.  You can start praying that God would introduce you to someone who is different than you or you can simply be more intentional with someone you are already an acquaintance with.  The only thing is that it will require you and me being consistent and intentional.

The truth is – true friendship requires consistent investment!  

So, who can you start spending time with?  Maybe it means that you sit with the same people at your kids sporting events and eventually ask them to hang out.  Maybe you go to the same restaurant each week and start to talk with the same person.  It is as simple as that, but it is also as consistent as that.

Second – GET SOME EDUCATION.  What?  You mean go back to school?  No that’s not what I mean but there are lots of great groups helping with awareness here in Kansas City.  Let me address a few things that you can do to simply educate yourself under two major problems: Sex Trafficking and Racial Division.

Sex Trafficking

You might not think that sex trafficking is a big deal here in Kansas City…but you would be wrong.  Since we are so centrally located and we are a crossroads of sorts, the very real problem of trafficking is real here.  I highly recommend checking out these groups below to learn more about the problem and what we can do to move the needle a little.

https://exoduscry.com/

https://restorationhousekc.com

http://www.stoptraffickingproject.com

Racial Division

There are so many resources that I could point you to and so many different people speaking on this particular issue that it would make anyone’s head spin.  However, there are two books that have recently impacted my thinking deeply.

One Blood by John M. Perkins and Divided By Faith by Michael D. Emerson and Christian Smith.

Get them and read them and then start building bridges by relationship.

Finally, SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE.  There is a real problem of poverty in our community – share when you can.  We don’t have to answer all the questions about why people are poor in order to care about them and help meet a need.  People matter!  Do something.  Open up your home to people who are different than you.  Share your time.  Each of these things are small steps towards a big problem – but remember IF YOU WANT TO MOVE SOMETHING BIG, DO SOMETHING SMALL.

Waiting On The World To Change