WHERE IS GOD IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
Where is God in the Covid-19 Pandemic?
Perhaps you’ve been asked this question by someone, or you yourself are asking the question, “Where is God in the midst of this pandemic?” In John chapter 11 we read about Lazarus. Lazarus had fallen seriously ill and so Mary and Martha wisely send word to Jesus to come and heal him.
Jesus does come, but he comes everyone thinks, too late. Lazarus had died 4 days earlier. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21) In other words, “Where were you? Why did you allow Lazarus to die?” Jesus does not answer, but instead we read the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” (Jn. 11:35) Jesus wept even though he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the grave! Looking at this true story with hindsight 2,000 years later we understand why Jesus chose to allow Lazarus to die – so that he might point people to who he is, “the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25). But at that moment Jesus’ response was to weep with people. Later Jesus would suffer on a cruel cross in part because of this miracle. The miraculous raising of Lazarus would galvanize the Jewish leaders’ determination to have Jesus killed (Jn. 11:45-53).
We do not now know why God has allowed this pandemic, but we do know that God has not abandoned us and that He understands what it means to feel pain, to suffer and to die. God understands how you and I feel. And he knows and feels our suffering today. Saul on his way to Damascus to persecute early Christians was met by Jesus who said to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”(Acts 9:4). By persecuting Christians Saul was persecuting Jesus. God is present in the midst of His people. What is done to His people is done to him. Jesus still experiences pain, our pain, suffering, our suffering, even today.
Where is God? God is right here. He has not left us. He is here in the midst of our pain, our suffering, our loss. He weeps; He mourns with, for and over us. We don’t know why God has allowed this pandemic, but we do know that He deeply loves people and has not abandoned us. And we, like Jesus, are called to weep with the Mary and Martha’s in our lives and to pray and be present with them through the suffering they and we face.
Join us this Friday to pray for those who are sick, for God’s comfort for those who have lost loved ones, for wisdom for our leaders as we go through this pandemic together. And pray asking God to not leave you unchanged as a result of what we are going through. We will get through this, but we don’t want to be the same people we were before all of this happened. God is always calling us to draw closer to Him, to prioritize Him to love Him more deeply than we have before.
May 15, 2020
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:5-6 are probably the best known verses about trust in the Bible, but rarely do we read further down to the verses beyond. Trusting in the Lord and submitting to Him is a nice sentiment, it’s easy to say—but it’s much more difficult to do.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes…” “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits…” “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline…”
This is hard instruction to take, but it is all part of trusting in the Lord. I can’t help but think of Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his only son Isaac. According to his eyes, this couldn’t have been wisdom. Isaac was definitely the “first fruits” of his wealth, but I can’t imagine that Abraham would have included him in this. And yet Abraham trusted in the Lord, beyond all common sense and worldly wisdom.
So where is God calling you to trust him today? Is it to honor him with your first fruits? To accept discipline that comes from love? Trusting in the Lord comes in all different shapes and sizes, keep an open eye for where he is leading you.
A MOTHER'S DAY UNLIKE ANY OTHER
May 7th, 2020
This Sunday will be a Mother’s Day unlike any other most of us have ever experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to rethink how we do things. Physical distancing means that many children and grandchildren will be separated from mothers and grandmothers. This is not the way any of us imagined Mother’s Day 2020 would be like just a few months ago. I want to hug my own 88 year old mother whom I have not seen for weeks. I want my children to be able to hug my wife. How do we physically distance on Mother’s Day? Perhaps instead we can focus on the gift that our mothers are and have been.
In Genesis 21 we are introduced to two very different mothers, Sarah and Hagar. As we look at biblical history, we discover that women are integral to the biblical story, integral to the plan and purposes of God. Hagar and Sarah are examples of this and yet they are very different mothers. One was a servant, the other a rich women. Both experience God’s gracious care and protection but represent two very different human conditions. The apostle Paul, 2,000 years later, inspired by the Holy Spirit tells us that the true story of Sarah, Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael are allegoroumena (Gal. 4:24 ). Their story can be allegorized; can serve as a picture to reveal a very important biblical truth. Ishmael serves as a picture of what it means to live by works, our own efforts, while Isaac illustrates what it means to live by God’s grace (Galatians 4:22-29). Paul in effect asks people, “Who is your mother?” Both boys have the same father, but very different mothers.
Ismael is the result of Sarah and Abraham’s impatience with God; taking things into their own hands. God had already promised them a child, but after waiting 25 years they decided to “help” God along. If God wasn’t going to act according to their timing then they would do something. Many of us, if not all of us, can be guilty of making the same mistake. We doubt God’s promises. We run ahead of God, failing to pray first, asking Him for His guidance, His will, hoping instead that He will bless our decisions. Ismael is the result of this kind of thinking.
Isaac was different. Isaac was a miracle! There was no other way to explain him. At 100 and 91 years old Abraham and Sarah were unquestionably unable to have a child. That was preciously what God wanted everyone, including us today, to take away from this true story. God is a miracle worker. He will do what He has promised. While the world and our own personal desires push us to accomplish things in our own strength, by our own efforts, God graciously offers us His gifts. And ultimately His gift of salvation. There is no other way to God!
Even though this Mother’s Day will be like no other, we can still thank God for the gift of our mothers and for the ultimate gift of life through the Son.
MARK 13 – THE END IS NEAR
We know that from the time that Jesus arrived that we have been living in the last days until His return. With that in mind we know that there will be many false teachers who will come and try to deceive us with false teachings and false doctrine. As we read in verse 5-8,
“5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”
Today there are so many people who try to pull scams. We have fake cures, fake contests, and fake money. Can you think of an example of a scam that you have seen (and hopefully didn’t fall for)? How did you determine that it was fake? What were some clues that gave it away? With all the crazy things that are happening in the world today we need to stand firm in the Word of God. We need to be able to discern between what is true and what is false.
We know that Jesus is returning soon and so we are reminded that we need to remain vigilant and we need to stay focused on the tasks that He has given us. It can be so easy for us to get distracted or get off track, but we all have been entrusted with the mission of sharing the gospel. As we read in verse 32-34,
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
What are some things that distract you or tempt you? Money, entertainment, fame, success, status, material things, or relationships? Reflect on what those things are and why they can be a stumbling block to your relationship with God. Spend some time in prayer confessing those things to Him and ask God for a renewed sense of focus and purpose in Him.
WILL LIFE EVER GO BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS?
April 16, 2020
Will things go back to the way they were before COVID-19? When will this Pandemic be over? Our politicians, our chief public health officers, our financial experts can’t tell us. They just don’t know. Have you noticed that life seems to be one problem after another? There always seems to be something wrong. We live in a fallen world. How then are we supposed to live?
In Genesis God tells us about the heroes of our faith. Men and women whose lives were not that much different from our own. Men and women who struggled through times of difficulty and who celebrated times of blessing. People like Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. In Hebrews chapter 11 we’re reminded that these men and women lived by faith. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13)
Like these men and women we too are on a life long journey of faith with God. We too are called to welcome the good things God has promised us even if at times they seem so far off. Faith means that we believe that God not only exists, but that He is with us every step of the way; that He will do all that He has promised He to do.
Like Abraham God calls us to step out into the unknown and to go to a place we do not know, leaving the familiar, leaving what we do know, what we are comfortable with, and follow Him to places only He knows (Genesis 12:1). Living by faith involves trusting God and what He has said. In Christ we are forgiven saints, though we often feel more like unrighteous sinners. In Christ we are adopted sons and daughters of God though we often feel like prodigal sons prodigal daughters. Jesus came proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come (Sin no longer has power in our lives. Justice rules over injustice. Satan and death have been defeated.) And yet we still see Sin and death and injustice every day. This paradox is often called the Already and Not Yet.
Like D-Day and V-Day in World War II, the Allies and the Nazi's knew that once the Allies established a beachhead in Europe the War was won. On D-Day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, but the War continued for 11 months more until V-Day.
On Easter Sunday Satan knew he had lost the war. God had overcome evil, sin, death. But there are still many battles to be fought and sometimes it appears that evil, sin and death are more powerful than God. But these "appearances" are not the truth. Jesus has won the War. Satan and all the terrible consequences of Sin, including COVID-19, have been defeated. But, we must now wait in faith, just as the Allies had to wait in World War II. We have battles to fight. As Christians we can't just sit around. We are called to join the fight. Some battles we win. Others we lose. BUT we know how this War ends. The Cross and the Resurrection have determined the eventual outcome for this world. In the meantime we must live by faith. No one knows if life will go back to normal or when this pandemic will end. But, we can walk in faith with the One who does.
April 10, 2020 - Sorrow and Trust
Today is the most joyous of the whole Christian calendar—today, we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ. But I’m guessing that most of us don’t feel particularly joyful this morning. In fact I know that many are frustrated and even angry at the state of the world. We are cooped up in our homes, afraid to go out, worried about our loved ones who might be ill, concerned about losing our jobs. This Easter it seems like there isn’t much to be joyful about. Perhaps the words of Psalm 31:9-10 echo with you.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
In this Psalm the writer expresses his turmoil. Enemies oppress him and conspire against him. He is at the end of his rope, weary to the bone. And yet somehow, despite his difficult suffering, the psalmist still manages to cling to hope. In verse 14 comes an unexpected turn.
“But I trust in you, Lord…”
Notice, at this point, that the psalmist’s circumstances haven’t yet changed—he still finds himself oppressed and weary. And yet in the midst of his sorrow he trusts in the Lord. Sorrow and trust. Here lays the paradox and tension of Christian suffering, of Christian lament. We do not deny the pain we feel, for it abounds all around us—but we continue to trust in a good God.
Sorrow and trust find their common ground at the cross of Christ and the resurrection of Easter day. As we reflect on the pain and torment Christ suffered, we cannot help but to cry out in sorrow—that an innocent person would suffer the punishment of us all. And yet in this pain, in this despair and loss, when all of Heaven and Hell thought that Christ had been defeated, an abiding trust in God remains. It turns out that this deep sorrow was actually a most joyous victory over the grave.
This Easter I encourage you, not to ignore the pain or pretend everything is fine when it’s not, but rather to live into the tension of sorrow and trust. Weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn, but hold tightly to trust in a God who gave his own son that we might live.
April 4, 2020 - Pride and humility
In Genesis 11:1-9 we read about the Tower of Babel. After the Great Flood was unleashed to judge mankind for its sin, it didn’t take long for humanity to be up to no good. The descendants of Noah were commanded in Genesis 9 to be fruitful and multiply and to scatter across the earth, but instead they decided to settle together in Babylon, and there in the plains of Shinar they began to erect a tower. This tower was a symbol of idolatry, rebellion, and pride. The people desired to make a name for themselves and to leave this tower as a legacy for generations to come. The people wanted to give all the glory to themselves and no glory to God. God saw the sinfulness of mankind and their great potential for evil. So in response, God chose to confuse their language and scatter them all over the earth.
In contrast to this, the Son of God, Jesus Christ set a different type of example. Jesus chose to humble Himself before God and instead of taking His rightful throne as the King of kings, He took on the lowly role of a slave. In Matthew 20:26-28 it says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And because of His humility and obedience to dying on the cross for humanity, God would exalt Jesus to the highest place.
What are some idols in your life? This might be difficult to self-diagnose, so ask someone you trust to give you their analysis. What are things that you have built up in your life that might take the place of God? Does your life give glory to God or give glory to yourself? Are you willing to humble yourself before God and tear down the idols in your life?
March 28, 2020 - Rethinking how we live our lives
We all have the button on our computers. Laptops and desktop computers all have a RESTART button. Normally we use it when things go wrong or we need to allow a new program to run. God also restarts things, starting anew. But, do we recognize the opportunity for new beginnings?
In Genesis we are told how good things were in the beginning. God created and filled the earth. Six times we read in Genesis 1, “And God saw that it was good”. (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21,25) and in the last verse of the chapter it was very good. But, sadly we make a mess of things. We know the story. It’s a story that is repeated again and again in our world today, in our own lives! Sin. Rebellion against God. Adam and Eve, and we, want to be independent from God and like Adam and Eve we tend to hide from God. “Where are you?” God called in the Garden and He continues to call to us today.
From Adam and Eve we fast forward to Noah. “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5). God “restarts” anew through Noah and the Flood.
But the world can no longer be perfect. Noah and his family continue to sin and as humanity grows so too does the problem of Sin. We come to the Tower of Babel and humankind’s rejection of God carries on, “let us make a name for ourselves.” No mention of God. And so God “restarts” again.
In Genesis 12 we’re introduced to Abram (later named Abraham) and to an incredible promise and new beginning. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3-4) Abraham is the father of our faith, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6).
The COVID-19 virus is forcing all of us to slow down, to stop, to stay at home. The world’s activity, its busyness is slowing and in many cases stopping all together – all over the world! As the world wakes up to a new normal and we are forced into physical self-isolation, you may be asking, Where is God and what is He saying in all of this?
The question is not really, “Where is God?” God never went anywhere. Instead, we need to ask, “Where am I?” COVID-19 is a wakeup call for all of us. A call to stop and reflect on how we have been living our lives up to this point. Things we chase after; stuff that seemed so important. As COVID-19 forces you and I to slow down, be sure to draw near to God before you restart again. This can be an opportunity to begin afresh with the Lord after personally responding to the Lord’s question, “Where are you?”