Hearing the Music

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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

in Rest

Held Fast

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One of the gifts during the Thanksgiving holiday was a focused time to reflect on how thankful I am for those that are persevering in the face of particular difficulties of life.  I know that in one sense this describes all of us on our “pilgrim” journey, but many in the body of Christ, both at Christ Church and more broadly, are either bearing particular difficulties right now, or are walking with those in the throes of the fight.  

I am grateful for sustained faith.  I realize that sometimes it may seem weak to those in the midst of the trial and all faith is always hard fought. But it is a true testimony to the power of the Gospel and an encouragement to those observing from the outside. 

St. Augustine said many years ago commenting on the faith of the martyrs in a sermon entitled, On Reprimand and Grace

In fact, greater freedom is necessary against so many great temptations that did not exist in Paradise --  a freedom defended and fortified by the gift of perseverance, so that this world, with all its loves and terrors and errors, may be overcome. The martyrdom of the saints has taught us this. In the end, using free choice with no terrors and moreover against the command of the terrifying God, Adam did not stand fast in his great happiness, in his ready ability not to sin. The martyred saints, though, have stood fast in their faith, even though the world ... savagely attacked them -- in order that they not stand fast … where does this come from, if not by God's gift? 

We are no longer in paradise, and we know the “savage attacks” of this world … but praise God, His grace is sufficient. What a gift! And it truly is a gift. All of us walking through the fire, being acutely aware of our frailty, will readily attest to the giftedness of faith. But what a testimony to see God’s children held fast, even if by a thread, proving the Gospel is real.  So let me say thank you to all walking through the deep waters while keeping their eyes on Jesus.

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