A PERSPECTIVE ON THE CARONAVIRUS PANDEMIC (April, 2020)
As my wife and I sit quarantined in our home, our normal lives interrupted and brought to a virtual standstill, I am mindful of those who are more than merely inconvenienced as we are. I think of family members and others who daily risk their health and lives on the front lines helping others, I feel for those who have lost their jobs and income, and I grieve with those who have lost loved ones due to the virus. Fear, frustration, and finger-pointing seem to be the order of the day, fueled by much of what we see and hear in the media. And yet I see something positive, something hopeful emerging from all of this, just as the early crocus announces the passing of winter and the coming of spring. With the busy pace of life slowed to a crawl, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves.
There are several ways to look at this crisis. One, of course, is to view it simply as a random natural phenomenon or a cruel twist of fate that has unleashed itself on the world without warning or inherent meaning and purpose. But where does that leave us? Our immediate response is to scramble for solutions, to find a resolution and a cure, and once that has been achieved, to search for answers such as how did this happen, what can we do to prevent it from reoccurring, and when will the next big disaster hit. We are left with the mind-numbing conclusion that we must then prepare and wait for the next crisis, which history tells us will surely come, and hope that it doesn’t happen in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime. But this view does not answer the question of why, nor, to be perfectly honest with you, does it offer much encouragement.
However, there is another way to look at it. What if disasters such as this do have meaning and purpose? Could there even be an eternal reason for this and other world-wide calamities? If I can get you to, as one of my wife’s friends so aptly put it, “step out of the physical into the spiritual, then you will see the eternal, and that will make all the difference!” Please indulge me for a moment.
First, what if these events are God’s “warning shots,” fired across the bow of an off-course, out-of-control ship of humankind that is rushing headlong toward destruction? Is He trying to get our attention before it is too late? The Bible says that in the last days wars, pestilence, and natural disasters will increase in frequency and intensity. In fact, God shouts of His pending wrath and judgment more than He speaks of heaven. Think about that. Would He bother warning us if He were intent on punishing and destroying everyone, or if there were no alternative? The truth is, only a good and loving God would warn us and provide a way of escape. He does both. He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, so that by believing in Him we might have eternal life in heaven with Him instead of eternal death in hell without Him.
Second, what if these events are opportunities to serve God by demonstrating His amazing love and peace? The way we respond to such calamities says a lot about what we believe. During these times of difficulty, we can strengthen our horizontal and vertical relationships, refocus our lives on what really matters, and point others to a loving God Who has always been speaking to us. I heard recently how the persecuted church in China has been influenced by this pandemic, which one might think would further isolate and silence it. On the contrary, Chinese Christians are sharing the gospel more boldly and openly than ever before, because now the pervasive face-recognition technology of their totalitarian government cannot identify those behind the mandatory masks! God is using these times to advance His kingdom and his church, against which even the gates of hell cannot prevail.
But Satan is also using these times for his purposes. He is the father of lies, and like a thief he comes to steal, kill and destroy. Whereas Jesus offers forgiveness, hope, and eternal life for those who believe in His name, the evil one uses fear, confusion, despondency, and death to deceive and distract people from the truth, robbing them of the chance to find peace with God.
Whether we admit it or not, this pandemic will affect all of us in one way or another. But how will it affect us going forward? When it has passed and life returns to some form of normalcy, will we remember and act on what God was saying to us through it, or will we ignore Him and pick up our lives where we left off, unchanged to any real degree, until it is too late to do anything about it? There yet remains hope! The question is, in Whom does our hope lie?
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” ~Robert Critchley
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
THE PIECES OF OUR LIVES (June 10, 2019)
What do a 50’s diner, a graveyard, and a porch swing have in common? By themselves, absolutely nothing! But throw in a couple of teenagers, a mystery man, and and an elderly widow, and they begin to mesh together into a compelling story of God’s eternal love in the midst of trouble, turmoil and tragedy. That is what is at the core of A FUTURE AND A HOPE, dedicated to “everyone who, at one time or another, ever doubted the goodness of God.” Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle made up of many seemingly unrelated “pieces,” much like that diner, graveyard, and porch swing. Sometimes it’s easy to see where the pieces fit in. Often, it’s difficult or nearly impossible. And then there are the times when the pieces just don’t go together at all. It’s like we’re trying to assemble the pieces of our lives but we’ve lost the box with the picture on the cover to guide us in completing the puzzle.
King David recognized how difficult it is to navigate through life without the proper directions. But he knew where to turn for the answers. In Psalm 16:11 he wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” David’s life was anything but easy. It was not smooth-sailing or trouble free. As a youth tending his father’s flock, he faced a bear and a lion with nothing but his bare hands. He confronted Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and five stones. He experienced the wrath of King Saul who twice threw a spear at him and pursued him into the wilderness in order to kill him. His own son drove him into exile in an attempted coup. He lost his best friend, a wife, and several children. In spite of all the hardships in his life—some of which were self-inflicted via his own choices—David knew that God was the one who was in control. He was confident God would show him where all the pieces fit together, and which path to take. In spite of all his troubles, fulfilling joy and eternal pleasures were his as long as he remained in the presence of God.
And so it is with our lives. There may be times when life just doesn’t make sense. We find ourselves in situations and circumstances that are too difficult to navigate. We might even feel overwhelmed to the point where it seems as though the very “shadow of death” hovers over us. And we might be tempted to ask the question, “If God is good, why is all this bad stuff happening to me?” Perhaps He is trying to get our attention. Perhaps He is allowing us to go through the refiner’s fire. Whatever the reason, God has a plan and purpose for our lives. And it is for His glory, and our good! Jeremiah 29:11, which is at the heart of A FUTURE AND A HOPE, says that very thing. But it is a promise only to those who place their trust in Him and and acknowledge Him as Lord of their life. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I have been greatly encouraged by the lyrics of two songs in particular: Ron Hamilton’s “Rejoice in the Lord” and Andrew Peterson/Ben Shive’s “Is He Worthy?”
“God never moves without purpose or plan, When trying his servant or molding a man, Give thanks to the Lord, though your testing seems long, In darkness He giveth a song. Oh rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake, He knoweth the end of each path that I take, For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”
“Do you feel the world is broken? (We do) Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do) Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does) Is He worthy? Is He worthy? Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy? Is He worthy? Is He worthy of this? He is!”
Will you allow Him to put the pieces of your life together? Will you acknowledge Him as Lord of your life? Will you surrender to His perfect will for you, whatever that may be? He is sovereign. He is worthy. He is good. And He loves you!
THE BIRTH OF A WRITER (January 7, 2019)
My earliest memories of being interested in writing go back to the fourth grade. My father had a home office with an old manual typewriter acting as the centerpiece on a large, gray metal desk. It was a particular thrill to insert a clean sheet of 8-1/2 x 11 typing paper into that machine, attempt to align the top edge where my first keystroke would land, and manually set the tab and margin stops. The anticipation of what was going to roll off my fingertips in the next few minutes was almost too much for a nine year old to handle.
Several hours later, with the wastebasket half full of crumpled “do-overs” and ink-stained fingers from untangling repeated key jams, I might be lucky enough to have one lone page of my new masterpiece. Neither the smudge marks due to the unavailability of correction tape or White-Out, nor the fact that the A’s and S’s never seemed to align with the other family members, failed to dampen my spirits. The excitement of yanking the completed paper out of that magnificent machine was almost as great an emotion as the one at the beginning. Then it was off to force either parent (whichever had the misfortune of being closest to me at the time) to sit and listen with feigned interest and forced enthusiasm as I breathlessly read them the first page of my story.
Somewhere in that creative writing process I usually lost interest in the project, either adding a quick ending after one or two pages and calling it quits, or never completing my great novel at all. But given enough time, I was always drawn back to that magical machine which contained, within it’s maze of keys, bars, springs, and spools of black ribbon, the next incredible adventure just waiting for someone like me to come along and set it free.
And now, some fifty-two years later, it finally happened. With the aid of computers and keyboards, I have not only saved an entire forest from annihilation, I have finished my first book! A Future and a Hope is a 376-page young adult Christian fiction novel about a young man who discovers that when life takes sudden and unexpected turns, practicing what you preach is not always easy. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I don’t know if my dad’s old typewriter is still around. It was probably sent to the scrap yard years ago, to be melted down and resurrected as a steel tire rim or a metal floor lamp or some such thing. But if it were still here, I’m pretty sure it would be proud of me for finally finishing what I started.