I have to admit, I very much missed the NBA playoffs, even if my team (Spurs) weren’t going to be in them. Even more than that, I really missed watching the Masters golf tournament, and many of the LPGA events that I watch throughout the ladies’ season. Many of us are missing the baseball season. I don’t generally watch baseball until the playoffs, but many of my friends are rabid Angels fans and loyally watch them even though they are usually out of the playoffs by the mid-season mark. Yesterday, I realized just how much I missed sports. I watched a good 30 minutes of the National Cornhole Championships! That was the first live sporting event that I have seem since the Waste Mgmt golf tournament. They were wearing masks and keeping their distances. There were no hugs or handshakes after the matches. The opponents nodded to one another and the teammates bumped elbows. But Cornhole! I love playing it, but it might actually be slower than baseball to watch! Whichever sport you like to watch (please don’t take away our NFL!), competition is built into our DNA. Maybe sociologists and psychologists are right to say that it is connected to our desire for warfare, but whatever reason, most of us miss it. When it comes back, it is going to look very different than it did before, just as coming back to church is going to look different. Are you going to be as excited to be back in church as you are to see baseball back on TV? I wonder…
I have to tell you that I am uncertain as to whether some of the reactions of pastors that I have been reading about are what we should actually be feeling or not.
During this time of fear and uncertainty, we are likely all somewhat conflicted. We don’t want to act out of fear. We don’t want to be seen as having a lack of faith in God during this pandemic. We know that Christians and non-Christians alike are susceptible to COVID-19. We should have no allusions that this virus is going to take only the evil-doers.
However, we do want to trust that God is inevitably on His throne and is able to turn any evil to good. He has promised that He will do so, for those that love Him and are called by Him.
So how do we respond to the restrictions that various government leaders have placed on the religious community? I think that one of the issues has to do with our western culture that tells us that we have rights and that we are owed things. But those in the biblical era didn’t have that luxury. They were almost continually under the rule and authority of foreign governments.
Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”
Of course, we aren’t to obey earthly laws that are counter to the laws of God. His laws come first. Shadrach, Meshach and Obednego refused to bow down to the statue because that was in direct conflict with “have no other gods before me.” However, it is obvious, because of their positions in authority, that they obeyed most of the laws that were imposed by the government.
Our church has had MANY issues with the City of Corona. They have told us that we can’t have a church sign, or if we have one, it has to be a sign that is so small that it couldn’t be seen from the road and won’t tell people what is going on with the church. We didn’t decide to put one up whether they liked it or not (even if that may have been how we felt). We worked with them for a long time before finally being resigned to the fact that they would not issue any exception for us. It’s in God’s hands now.
I believe the same should be true regarding the closure of churches. As long as it is not apparent that the cities, counties, our states aren’t specifically targeting only churches, I believe that we should be submitted to them. In fact, verse 2 of that same passage goes even further:
“Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
I understand that everything in our western, privileged minds tells us that passage can’t be applicable today. But I don’t think this is the same thing as whether or not we should wear a hat in church. It isn’t cultural. In fact, Peter, who wasn’t really known for being the “compliant child” makes a similar point (1 Peter 2:13-14)
“For the Lord’s sake, accept the authority of every human institution, whether the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.”
Keep in mind, Peter is talking about the very same emperor that would (very soon after the writing of this letter) later crucify him upside down (Nero). Peter didn’t obey the leaders that told him that he couldn’t preach the gospel, because that was in direct conflict with the directive that Christ Himself had given him. But as it related to other laws, Peter (inspired by God) tells us to be in obedience to them.
The church building will be open again. I am quite certain of that. The church isn’t closed. We call each other. We text each other. We Skype each other or zoom each other. The church isn’t closed because we are the Church, the Body of Christ. And no government has been or will ever be able to stop the Body of Christ nor to stop the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
When I began this blog, I said that I didn’t want to make this just a platform for preaching or for deep, wise, or incisive instruction (ha!). While there are times when these things are likely to pop up, sometimes I just want to comment on items that interest or amuse me. This is one of those days.
The price of oil dropped to below zero yesterday. They said it is due to the fact that people aren’t going anywhere and therefore aren’t using it. How does that even work? If I offer to take some oil off their hands, will they give me money? Even more quizzical is that we are being told that this drop in price won’t show up at the gas pump. If the gas stations are getting the base ingredient for the product that I need for free, don’t they need to lower the price for the final product? That makes perfect sense.
Shouldn’t the price of water be dropping just as quickly? I mean, let’s look at the facts. It’s been raining off and on all month, so we haven’t had to water our lawns. People are taking fewer showers (eww) because no one is going anywhere. There’s little need to do laundry since we are just wearing our pajamas and sweat pants (okay, those that have to do online video stuff put on a shirt to look like they aren’t wearing their jammies). I should be getting a rebate for how well I’ve conserved water!
The government has asked auto insurance providers to give refunds to their customers since we aren’t driving, so shouldn’t the water companies do the same?
And speaking of rebates and such, don’t believe the auto manufacturers when they tell you they are giving 0/84 rates because they know we are in need. If that were true, they would offer it on every vehicle, instead of just the ones that they have a glut on now. They might just find out they have an overage on all their vehicles because many companies might be figuring out that, even when we get to the new normal, they don’t need their workers to be in the office very much at all. Maybe, instead, the cost of ankle monitors will skyrocket when employers figure out that’s all they need to make sure their employees are at their homes working.
I was supposed to have a shot this week, but the doctor changed the appointment to a telephone appointment. How is he going to give me a shot over the phone? Am I going to get a virtual shot and will that still hurt? Maybe my dentist should have scheduled a virtual cleaning rather than canceling that appointment altogether.
I didn’t think it was possible, but my dog is more needy than ever. How is she going to adjust to me being away from home every day when this is over? I’m not allowed to even go into my house now without her following me. I think I’m her emotional support human now.
My sanity may be returning soon. They said that golf courses may reopen in the coming weeks with restrictions. Those restrictions should be fine for me. I’m usually nowhere near the fairway or anywhere near the flags.
Have a wonderful day! God Bless You!
I have always told you that it is a great privilege to be able to verify what a preacher (myself included) is telling you by looking in God’s word ourselves. It is also a tremendous responsibility. We should always remain vigilant to safe-guard the theology and faith that we are taught by His word.
To some extent, the same should be true regarding the news that we are being fed on a daily basis through our media. Honestly, almost all news today is told with a specific bias behind it. Whether it is media outlets attempting to pick their favorite politician, push an immoral agenda, scare us into behaving in a certain manner, or influence society in some way.
I am beginning to think that a lot of the statistics from experts that we were given in the beginning of this crisis were erroneous as well. While I wouldn’t label them ‘fake news,’ I would say that they were likely designed to influence us to make extreme changes in the way we live our lives. It seems it was done with good intentions, so I don’t think it is something that we should get all riled up about, but I do think that, while we are making changes to the way we live each day, we should also guard ourselves against feeling overly fearful or faithless.
The news published horrendous statistics about the amount of lives we could expect this virus to take before it is completed. We were told between 100,000 and 200,000 people in America would succumb to COVID-19. That statistic has now been downgraded to 60,000. So far, just under 18,000 people in the US have been lost to this terrible sickness. Every life that we have lost was someone’s sibling, spouse, child, or friend and that is very sad.
However, we should put it in perspective. 80,000 people in the US died from the flu last winter. During the same two months that we been facing this coronavirus crisis, 80,000 people have died from tobacco-related illnesses (it is speculated that some of those that perished from the virus would not have died if they didn’t have pre-existing conditions from tobacco products). And the government has NEVER considered outlawing cigarettes.
Why would that be? It’s quite simple. It’s economics. The US makes a lot of money from tobacco sales. Though smoking has decreased here, that is mostly not the case in other countries, where we export our tobacco products.
28% of all traffic deaths are caused by alcohol-impaired drivers and 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes. And rather than making alcohol more difficult to abuse, we continue to make $90 billion each year on their sales (alcohol consumption and sales have sky-rocketed during this crisis).
I am not attempting to lessen the horror of people dying from this current pandemic, but we need to understand that we should not allow ourselves to fall into depression about it, but should put it into statistical context.
Let’s continue to act safely (social distancing, masks, etc…) and obey all governmental restrictions. But let’s keep our faith in God. Let’s keep a positive attitude. Let’s continue to thank God for all that He has done, is doing, and is going to do. Bless His Holy Name and may His blessing abound on you and yours.
(Ezra 7:10) For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel.
I love the way that the writer puts this statement. Ezra set his heart to study the law. How many of us do that? We often hear (or talk) about the need to read the Bible in a year. There are all sorts of plans to accomplish this. Almost every Christian platform includes a way to get through the Bible in a year. But now that we are confined in our homes, are we taking advantage of the time that we have to read the Bible? Have we set our hearts to study the word of God?
During this time of uncertainty and fear, we are allowing ourselves to wallow in our depression. I’m saying we, because I am just as guilty as anyone else. We should be spending less time putting Band-Aids on our wounds and spend more time reading the word of God, which is the best balm for our soul. I’m not talking about just picking out those verses that speak to our pain and anxiety. I’m talking about reading the word of God and allowing each passage to speak to our hearts.
I know it’s not easy. My dad could sit for 8 hours and read. I don’t have that capacity. I tend to read for 15 minutes and write for 30 and then repeat that process several times throughout the day.
I still remember the Pledge to the Bible from my childhood VBS:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, and will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, that I might not sin against God.
Simple and sweet. Let’s get on that.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
As I listen to the rain continue to fall today, I am reminded that the Lord longs to renew. Just as this rain renews the ground and all that grows in it, God will renew us when this time of calamity is over.
Our St Bernard doesn’t care one iota about the rain. She goes in and out just as she does during the sunshine. The Chihuahua, however, stays in my lap or behind my legs at all times. She doesn’t want anything to do with that wet stuff.
Some of us have considered this virus more of an annoyance than a catastrophe because we don’t know many that actually have it. But to others, even if they aren’t sick from the virus, every moment that they aren’t working their jobs is money they don’t have for their families. Reaction to this virus runs the full gamut between irritation to desperation. From apathy to dread.
But, I want to remind you that God will renew. Continue to bless His name throughout this crisis—not because of it but in it and through it. Remember that this too shall bring perseverance and endurance.
He is faithful. He is just. His love is from everlasting to everlasting. Praise the Name above all names: Jesus
For many of us, these are the strangest times of our lives. Those older than 30 can remember 9/11. Our friends and families in New York fortunate enough lived through it, and we watched the horror of that time on TV. Coupled with the tragedy was the fear of the possibility of unknown terrorists attacking other places like malls and entertainment venues.
Most of us have experienced natural phenomenon as well – earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, volcanoes, and floods. All of these things have occurred during our lifetimes.
Yet, this particular COVID-19 crisis is different, isn’t it? For most, we have to venture out at some point. We take precautions. We social distance. We wash our hands. But, inevitably, many of us will contract this virus anyway. The way they are explaining it, it’s just a matter of time before that happens and the government wants to space that time out as long as possible so that our hospitals and first-responders can handle the load. We feel helpless and alone.
I think that it is important to realize just how little we have control of, at the best of times. We, especially in the west, have created an illusion that we have control over the time when God calls us home.
The government makes laws that are designed to keep us safe (helmet laws, seatbelt laws, playground laws, and all of the everyday laws that we are told keep us safer). While those things are certainly good, we should not mistake them for real shields. We can be going the speed limit, obeying all of the road laws that we want, and one drunk driver or trucker that has fallen asleep can change our lives forever, or end them quickly. As some popular movies have suggested, real control is an illusion.
I’m not telling you this to scare you. I want all of us to remember who our real shield is and what that really means (Psalm 20):
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion. May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah. May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans. May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, oh Lord; answer us when we call.
Those ‘some’ that David was talking about are those that do not put their trust in the right shield. They are the lost. And they are the lost because they refuse to put their trust in Someone greater than their government, Someone greater than their doctors, or more likely, Someone greater than themselves.
David always put his trust in God. Though he fell a long way when he allowed himself to lust after another man’s wife, David never wavered from his deep-centered belief that God was his true strength. And that strength wasn’t found in himself, in his army, or even in his priests.
Trusting in God doesn’t mean that we should have any illusion that our faith makes us impervious to COVID-19. There were a few pastors that saw fit to disobey the government, not because the government was asking them to do something against God’s laws, but because they confused practicing their faith with arrogance or ignorance. They put their own people in jeopardy by holding services after being instructed not to and were wrong to do so.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the greatest example of how to put your trust in God. They disobeyed the government because it had asked them to do something in direct conflict with the very Ten Commandments that their faith was based upon. They told the king that their God could deliver them from the fiery furnace, but even if He didn’t, they would never bow down to his golden statue.
We have been promised that there is something far better waiting for us than what we have here. Therefore, we trust in the One that secured that for us: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Though conservative Christians have battled hard for the rights of the unborn children, today has seen the worst news for all of us that cherish human life. A new law has passed in New York, allowing abortion (for any reason) up until the point of birth. Mr. Cuomo is praising this law that he was instrumental in getting through his liberal state. He says that is is the finest day for progressives. This is not progress. It is horrendous. It is unthinkable. But it is also where our country is heading. We now value our ‘rights’ more than we value our lives, our morals, or our consciences.
We need to continue to pray for our country, but unless a revival happens and hearts are changed, this new law gives evidence to the probability that our time as a leading country is coming to an end. When countries have lost their morality, to the point that God abandons them and ‘gives them over to a depraved mind,’ those same countries have been decimated by differing types of disasters. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. All of these countries were once centers of power, knowledge, and invention. But when God had had enough of their arrogance, they were laid waste. Is it our time? I don’t know. But I do know that this disgusting law moves us ever more closer to an end that Americans won’t like.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything other than some sermons, but I thought this might be worth writing down. I am sitting here in bed; a chihuahua shaking next to me and two St. Bernards snoring. My wife is at our Women’s Retreat, so I have the TV on in the background as I am picking out songs for Sunday and working on my sermon. The sidelights are open as the rain is coming down.
I was thinking about how beautiful the sound of the rain is. It will end all too soon for us Socal people. We sorely need it. Then I was thinking about the people on the other coast who desperately need the rain to stop. Lives have been lost due to the wind, rain, flooding, and power outages.
There are times when I find myself too comfortable with my life in this world. I have a wonderful family, a beautiful home, and a great job serving people that I have grown to love dearly. And other than some complaints about the aches and pains of growing old, God has supplied my every need and a whole lot of things that I didn’t need and don’t deserve. All of that said, when you get too comfortable with your life here, something can happen to remind you that this world is severely damaged and poisoned by sin. Romans 8:28 says that the “whole creation has been groaning in labor pains.”
We often hear non-believers use natural disasters or other catastrophic events to deny the existence of God because a ‘loving God’ wouldn’t allow those things to happen. God ‘allowed’ mankind the gift of free-will—to choose right from wrong. From the beginning of our time here on earth, like rebellious children, we have chosen to do what we want to do rather than what God wanted us to do. “Every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” Mankind is the cause of the earth’s groaning just as assuredly as the drunk driver that kills someone is the cause of the death.
One day, maybe soon, the earth will be restored to the perfection in which it was created. And the children of God will finally be in their eternal home with no separation from God.
The rain continues to come down. It is beautifully cleansing. But I will remember that this world is not my home. I’m just ‘apassin’ through. May God bless you with His cleansing rain.