Because of the current pandemic I have not needed to prepare my usual three classes for each week or be able to play golf. On the bright side, I have spent much more time with our two grandsons. In addition to that, I have also had a lot of time to read. In this post I want to highlight what I think are a few gold nuggets and gems from some of my reading that I hope will encourage you, challenge you, and stimulate your thinking.
One article I read was written by David French and entitled “Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ” and subtitled Discerning the difference between courage, cowardice, and recklessness. French reported a variety of pastors, churches, and Christians who have resisted federal, state, and local authorities’ instructions to slow the spread of the virus. I am embarrassed by some of the quotes from believers French cited who were defying the mandates. My take on this is that there is a difference between faith and prideful stupidity.
I also read a sermon entitled “Christians and the Coronavirus” that gave me a lot to think about. My favorite part was the preacher’s answers to his question, “Where is God?”
He’s at a wedding and at the funeral. God is there in our good and in our bad days.
He is the God of Good Friday and the God of Easter Sunday.
He is the God of the spectacular and God of the ordinary and mundane.
He is the God of the hills and the God of the valleys.
He is God in the midst of our laughter and in the midst of our tears.
He is God when the market is up and God when the market is down.
He is God in the light and God in the dark.
Where is God? God is with us. He’s in both places—He’s in all places.
Another pastor made some suggestions from Romans 8:28 and what the good is that God is causing. Here are a few from his list:
God is letting us realize just how vulnerable we humans are in a broken world.
God is letting us experience just how much we are not in control of our existence.
God is using the common crisis to minimize our divisions and divisiveness.
God is showing us that when we all begin to look out for others, life is richer.
God is in mercy bringing us to the place to cry out for healing.
Professor Gary S. Shelby, professor of ministerial formation at Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College and borrowing from a C.S. Lewis character, wrote a piece giving practical advice from Screwtape (the devil) for dealing with the present. A few suggestions:
What you should do is imagine all the bad things that could happen.
He would counsel us all to nurture interpersonal hostility at this time, something easily done when we are flooded with anxiety.
It’s especially important at this point to narrow your imagination, so as not to nurture compassion.
Screwtape would urge us to avoid the simple pleasures and beauties around us.
Think about how you are going to get ahead, as everything’s shifting and changing in this current situation, and strategize your future successes.
Finally, Screwtape would want us to ignore any painful awareness of our precarious state, as humans who exist in time. In moments like this there’s a real risk we’ll be confronted with our mortality, limitations, and lack of control.
From Tim Challies March 27 blog (condensed):
We are in a strange period right now when for a matter of weeks, or perhaps even months, many of us are not able to meet as local churches. Due to the prevalence and risk of a deadly disease, and due to our desire to submit to the directives of our governments, we cannot gather together in the same space. Many churches have taken to broadcasting services through the internet. There are some Christians who are concerned that this sudden swell in online services presages a coming decline in actual church attendance. There are some who are concerned that when our churches once again open their doors, many people will be content to remain at home, having now experienced a virtual equivalent. I am not concerned. I am not concerned that committed Christians will reject actual church for cyber-church. Christians need to be together to carry out the purpose and meaning of church membership.
Here are a few Gems from Sinclair Ferguson’s readings for Lent:
Speaking about those Jesus encountered as he traveled to Jerusalem the final time: There was something they all had in common: they were either drawn to him in their need or repelled from him by their pride.
About Martha in Luke 10 when she complained to Jesus about Mary: It is a double complaint. Martha is angry with her sister; and she is angry with Jesus too.
About the Pharisees in Luke 11: They made a pretense of devotion to God in order to be admired by men.
Observation about the greedy brother’s order to Jesus in Luke 13: It is always a danger sign when we start telling the Lord what he should be doing.
A Reflection: We should never be more interested in theological questions than we are in knowing Jesus himself.
From an article in Christianity Today by B.G. White entitled Fighting Anxiety with the Old Testament: As someone who has sought professional help for anxiety, I can say that my own recovery has always been rooted in the Bible, especially the Old Testament passage: “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” (Isaiah 41:10).
From David O. Taylor’s chapter on Prayer in his book Open and Afraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life:
My own prayer life comes and goes. At times I have prayed faithfully every morning before starting my day’s work. At other times I have managed only tired prayers at the end of the day, and they have often not been very good prayers. At still other times I have found myself without prayer, or more truthfully, without any desire to pray.
Prayer is a funny thing, of course. In its simplest terms, it is about talking to God and listening to God.
This is a God who cannot be manipulated.
The Psalms reassure us that a willingness to talk to God is all that matters.
Finally, from C.S. Lewis in How to Pray:
Simply to say prayers is not to pray.
Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God.
All prayers are heard, though not all prayers are granted.
Those who do not think of their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others. It is healthier to think of one’s own.
We all go through periods of dryness in our prayers, don’t we?
I hope you find these samplings from a variety of writers and sources both comforting and assuring as well as provocative. Feel free to let me know with a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.
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Bob, Thank you, this is just so timely. Even though I am sure I know this, it is so great to be reaffirmed by by someone I respect and admire. The verse from Isaiah is so calming and encouraging! I continue to pray for our leaders that they have wisdom to lead and for us locally and our nation. I pray for family and friends and for you that you continue to be blessed and share Gods word. You hit this ball down the middle of the fairway! Gil
Thanks Bob for sharing your insight from your reading! At our church in Springfield Illinois we are in a series “OMG-reclaiming the name above every name”. Your thoughts today are very appropriate as I think about what I just heard last week and today.
Thanks Bob for the timely post. I try to remember that we have a God who is with us on top of the mountain and down in the valley. And in the end, all things will work out for us, because we love Him. Stay safe. God bless you. .
Truly, I miss you—one of the great men in my life and I thank God for you Bob. Thank you for blessing my life with yours.
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