Hearing the Music

in trials

Time to Buy?

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This Sunday will mark our third Sunday since humanitarian measures have been put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect our fellow humans, particularly the most vulnerable. We have seen many, unprecedented changes in the world since then. Some of you have experienced temporary (permanent?) job loss. Thankfully, no one that I know has experienced the loss of someone close due to COVID-19. On the other hand many of us have experienced loss in our stock portfolios and our retirement accounts. Mindful of this fact, I was a bit surprised talking to a financial advisor friend about how work was going. I was expecting tales of woe, despair and anxiety; however, what he said was that most of his clients were asking if this was a good time to buy!

Without minimizing the real loss that is occurring in our world, there is an important principle at work simultaneously, namely, that with loss also comes opportunity. While I am no expert on financial matters, I do see this principle at work as a principle of the Kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate. We are familiar with such statements as “the least will be the greatest” (cf. Mt. 23:11, Lk. 9:48). Even more pointedly Jesus says plainly that to gain insight into the heart of God we must lose everything. It's the path to gain the kingdom (cf. Mk. 8:35). So an appropriate question during this time of loss is what are we gaining?

While I cannot answer that for each individual, I can say that I am so encouraged by the way that I have seen the body of Christ exercise its muscle during these COVID-19 days. Around the world Christians are finding creative ways to love neighbors well and to offer hope and encouragement like here and here. Closer to home, the body of Christ at Christ Church has leapt into motion with calls, cards and other forms of creative connecting. In a time when the market on public meetings has crashed, we have been buying stock in alternate ways to declare the love that our Father has for us!

As many of you know tomorrow has been declared a day of fasting and prayer by the Great Lakes Presbytery. Sticking with our analogy, in addition to praying for the health and well being of the world, this is also a time to analyze the market of our own hearts and in an era of loss make some strategic buys! It is time to buy into such truths as simpler lives can lead to different joys or our hope really is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; not our stocks, our entertainment experiences or even our freedom to move about freely. I strongly encourage you to receive the gift of this day of prayer and fasting. Let us not waste our COVID lay off! There is treasure to be gained.

 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

in Rest

COVID-19

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In 1854 London was facing a cholera plague. People were dying everywhere. Folks were afraid to go home and afraid to go out. In their fear they cried out for help and took measures for safety. In the middle of this, a minister named Charles Spurgeon continued to go about faithfully ministering despite his own fear and weariness. One day Spurgeon was feeling physically fatigued and spiritually discouraged, in his words: "I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.” Coming home from a funeral he happened upon a paper in a tradesmen’s window which his curiosity led him to read.  There he saw in good, bold handwriting these words: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”  (Psalm 91:9,10). In his words,"The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality.”

While not to the level of cholera, COVID-19 or coronavirus, has certainly come to America and is changing lives. As Christians, we believe in the God that Spurgeon experienced through Psalm 91. We have absolute trust that He is in control, that He is good, and that we can trust Him with our lives, our retirement accounts, our education - everything! I know that believing this is not always easy, God knows that too. His invitation is to lean on Him, to recall the presence of the Spirit and to practice our faith., In some ways it is like we have all gone to faith's gym and we have the opportunity to lift our “faith” weights as we actively put our trust in Him.  

Though social distancing may keep us from gathering as a body, let me remind you that there is no distance between our God and us as His people. He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. He watches over us so that not a hair falls from our heads without His knowing. Let us both individually and collectively remember to draw close to Him in these days; to draw our strength and our hope from Him, even when all else may seem grim. 

One final note, again from Spurgeon during the cholera epidemic. Times like these try the faith of the believer, but for the unbeliever they are terrifying. If this life is all that one has and it is threatened, that is frightening. Spurgeon recounts an encounter with a man who had often opposed him as a minister of the Gospel. Spurgeon’s words, "That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips.”  We may be jars of clay, but we have a treasure. May God give us opportunities to share it.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Dealing with Symptoms

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I am writing this week from a lovely hospital room at Blodgett Medical Center overlooking Fisk Lake in EGR. Though the room is lovely, I would much rather be out enjoying the day, as would our daughter Lydia who has had to endure another flare up of a genetic condition which causes rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdo is no fun. It is characterized by a very painful break down of muscle tissue and the release of a protein into the blood stream, that if untreated will overwhelm her kidneys and could lead to death. Thankfully, we are learning to recognize the symptoms and got going on treating the rhabdo early, mitigating its effects.

The frustrating part of this whole pattern that Lydia has to endure is that, though we have learned to treat the rhabdo, in reality we are only treating symptoms. What we don’t fully understand is why this relatively rare condition is triggered in her. And, at an even deeper level, we don’t know how to treat the core issue that is the cause of all her distress.

This “treating of symptoms" is a picture of the way sin work in our lives. Over the course of our days and weeks, we deal with anger, greed, lust, sloth, needless worry, etc… Like rhabdo, these are serious, threatening to overwhelm us and need to be dealt with; but they are not our core issue. At core for all of us is the question of surrender and trust. Have we truly surrendered our need for control and our desire to justify ourselves, and have we begged Jesus to be our King? Or are we holding back, unable or unwilling to trust fully? 

Unlike Lydia’s battle with rhabdo, we do know the way to core health with the Savior. This week in Luke 9 we see that Jesus welcomes the crowds, speaks to them of the kingdom, and cures those who are in need of healing (v. 11). This is a Savior who does not despise the crowds. This is Lord who welcomes us in our infirmity. This is a King who is worthy of our surrender. In our battle with symptoms, Jesus invites us to get to the core and find our rest as we surrender to Him. What a joy it is to not merely have to deal with symptoms.

 

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

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