It will go down in history as perhaps mankind’s most bizarre year. Never has the entire globe in unison shut down because of a virus. Restrictions in travel, work, recreation, size of gatherings etc., have ruined businesses, increased the number of suicides and deaths for those with other ailments who cannot be hospitalized, amped fear to unprecedented levels, and created a huge divide in opinion over what should or should not be done. Meanwhile political unrest, rolling waves of violence, storms and disasters add to the cacophony of 2020.
The numbers worldwide continue to rise: 181,377 cases, 7119 deaths, 78,085 recoveries. Worldwide reactions are dramatic: airline flights cancelled, large numbers of quarantined populations, countries with closed borders, bans on gatherings over 250 people, schools closed, colleges reverting to online classes, sports leagues cancelled, plummeting stock markets etc. Behold a pandemic! The cause of this chaos is a virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a significant book entitled Necessary Endings. Cloud wrote, “When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on.” He shares observations why pruning may be essential for an organization to move forward; why many leaders struggle to understand that endings are a natural season in life; the difference between pain with a purpose and pain for no good reason; hoping versus wishing; three kinds of people; creating urgency and motivation for change; how to handle resistance; and, many other excellent insights that best position leaders to succeed in the future.
Sadie is amazing. Her body is constantly wracked in arthritic pain yet her countenance reveals mostly joy. She has more broken bones than most football players. Her abusive husband died leaving her penniless and with no insurance to handle her ever-mounting medical bills. Still, she does not complain. Her ’96 faded blue Ford Taurus won’t start so she must rely on the help of others to get around until she can find the money to pay a mechanic to fix it. Her son is addicted to meth and her daughter is in her fourth relationship with a man who is a total controller. If anyone was a candidate for bitterness it would be Sadie. Yet she is serene and confident in her faith. She consistently encourages others—an empathy distributing angel in a world of mean, selfish people. What is her secret?
My ranger friend Chaplain Bruce took me out prospecting not far from Pikes Peak. In our backpacks we had multiple water bottles and coconut water and we were pretty sure we would not get thirsty. What we did not count on was deviating from our plotted course or how steep some of the climb would be. By early evening, as we descended through forest, we ran out of fluids and Bruce’s legs severely cramped up. Had we gone much further the same thing would have happened to me. It is easy to get dehydrated in the dry air of Colorado. Water is life.
Scripture—Used in favor of Universalism
2 Thessalonians 2:3,4—This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Meliorism is the belief that the world is getting better as a result of human effort. In 1913 this doctrine was extremely popular. Technology and improved living conditions led many influential people to the conclusion that utopia was attainable through the hard work of good people. What a shock they encountered when scores of nations went to war in 1914.
John 4:7-9—A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
German immigrant John Roebling began building the Brooklyn Bridge in New York in 1870. In 1883 it was completed along with an amazing story of three people’s determination.
Mr. Roebling was told by bridge building experts to give up trying his impossible design. Undeterred, he talked his son Washington, also an engineer into helping him. Together they hired a crew and began work. While conducting surveys for the project, a ferry pinned John’s foot against a piling so severely injuring his toes that his foot required amputation. Then the crippled man developed a tetanus infection which led to his death!
Wolfgang Simson was scheduled to speak to church leaders in Cairo, Egypt at 5:45 P.M. His contact arranged for a taxi 45 minutes ahead of schedule and gave the cabbie the address. Thirty minutes later they arrived but it was not the right place. The only Arabic Simson could speak were the words for left, right, straight ahead and counting from one to ten. The German knew he was in trouble and quickly prayed for help. God answered immediately telling him to prophesy to the taxi driver. Simson protested, “Lord, I-I’m Lutheran and I don’t even know which direction it is.”
Several years ago I walked with Dad along the Hudson River where as a cadet I used to run the two mile run. While walking I prayed for the salvation of my A3 company mates. As we were praying the Lord prompted me with the thought, “Why don’t you recruit a Christian from each of the other 35 companies to do the same thing you are doing.” Unfortunately, instead of going home and recruiting others to pray, I procrastinated. But the Lord is faithful and about a year later I had occasion to visit with Craig, a classmate in Virginia. He invited several of our classmates over for a mini-reunion. While we were together, I shared with them the concept of weekly prayer for our company mates. Craig got excited and said he would join me and pray for B4. That was the encouragement I needed to get moving in sharing this prayer opportunity with others.
Sergeant Major Cedric Moore shared with me his story as we sat in his car at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Raised in a black community in Huntsville, Alabama, he often attended church and had uncles who were pastors. But what these men preached was not what they lived. Watching “spiritual” men engage in adultery, robbery, lying and other sinful behavior caused Cedric to conclude that God must not be real.
The Honorable Sid Jones, former Assistant Secretary of Treasury gave his “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” lecture to over 55 senior leaders from industry, the military and the government. His address punctuated the bleakness of the current U.S. economy, future dangers and possible remedies. He foresees an economic collapse for America given the great number of aging adults and the demands they place on social security. In describing U.S. assets and priorities one of his statements grabbed my attention. “We spend as much on security as the rest of the world combined.” Those words reminded me of Psalm 61:5.
Kathleen and I drove from Houston to College Station. We were on our way to College Station to visit Texas A&M. We met COL Howe the Professor of Military Science and director of one of the largest ROTC programs in the country. Texas Aggies are known throughout the U.S. for their enthusiasm, patriotism and high performance. So I was more than a little surprised to learn that it is normal each year for 50% of the graduating ROTC cadets not to contract with the military. They spend four years engaged in military training and study, dress in their distinctive military uniforms, live in barracks steeped in military tradition and yet forego receiving a commission in the military. Incredible!