Jonah 1:8,9--Then they said to him, “Tell us who is to blame for this trouble we’re in. What is your business and where are you from? What is your country and what people are you from?” He answered them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship Yahweh, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.”
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”).
Luke 13:8,9—He answered him, “Sir, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you shall cut it down.”
Jesus shared the parable of the barren fig tree to His listeners about a man who, frustrated with the fact that his fig three after three years was still not producing figs, told his vinedresser to cut it down. The vinedresser was more patient and felt like corrective steps were necessary before just killing the tree.
Christian Auto Brothers worked on our car recently giving it an overdue oil change and inspecting it to make sure it was okay before we went on a long road trip. While I waited they asked if wanted anything to drink or snacks to eat. The manager came out and talked to me while I stood at the counter—showing true interest in me as a person. The waiting room was clean and, besides having an assortment of great reading material, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxing. When the service was complete the mechanic gave me a free roadside service agreement in case we should suffer any kind of breakdown and need assistance. As I always do when I left their building, I shook my head in amazement.
When I’m not home and I don’t have a lot of time, I enjoy a hot Egg McMuffin, potato cake and large glass of orange juice. This morning I placed my order at McDonalds and asked the young man at the window if he would mind filling my mug with hot water. He said, “No I can’t it is against company policy,” and he looked away and mumbled something about hygiene concerns. So I thanked him and pulled up to the next window to pick up my order. I asked the young woman if she would mind filling my mug with hot water. She said, “Yes! Why of course.” Before I pulled away with food and a full mug she said, “Anytime you come by you are welcome to get hot water.”
Zechariah 7:9—“The LORD of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another.”
It is cold outside—twelve degrees above zero. Snow is on the ground and from inside my office window it looks beautiful. It’s a matter of perspective. December can be a wonderful time of warmth for many people; a chance to be with family, to take a break from work and to enjoy each other’s company. But I could equally write that this month is a frozen, depressing period for many people; the reminder that loved ones are gone, unemployment a reality, and a feeling that few care or understand.
I want to share with you a moment burned into my mind as a poignant testimony to generosity. My daughter, Sarah and I, experienced this moment in the city of Cerro de Pasco, Peru, in 2002. In the course of ministering to a small church in this town located at the top of the Andean mountains, we met street children who were collecting trash or anything of value they could find on the streets, in order to garner a handful of coins.
Although home to one of the deepest silver mines in the world, Cerro de Pasco’s 70,000 inhabitants are mostly poor. One would think that any money a child could scrape would be zealously guarded and used for food or clothing. But these joyful children tithed from what they had in order to give to missionaries. It was a demonstration of the poorest giving to the poor to honor and expand God’s work. Someday I hope to learn how God blessed them!
Colossians 3:23,24—Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
What Christian is not frustrated in trying to live a godly life? Why is it so hard? For starters, we are flawed. We enter the world dripping wet with a sin nature and from the very outset need God’s grace. A baby’s temper tantrum was not learned behavior it was already ingrained. We grow up enamored with the world’s offerings—what man is not drawn to lust after a sensual woman or woman drawn to the need for security? We are stubborn, preferring to do what we want. It is completely counter-culture to pursue holiness. There is nothing easy about achieving purity and we are quickly frustrated by adversity, failure, and the clever attacks of Satan who will do all he can to disrupt us from fellowship with God.
Our garage is full of boxes and items that we will transport to Champoeg State Park. The weather forecast for Sunday is 72 degrees and cloudy—almost perfect! The kitchen is stacked with boxes of food, prepared and unprepared. Brenda, Kathleen’s sister, spent countless hours ironing tablecloths, dresses, shirts, etc. Orange and purple flower arrangements dance in their splendid array. Bridesmaids are making signs. Kathleen’s friends of countless weddings, veterans familiar in how these things go, are cooking, planning and helping us with all the logistical challenges (and I thought military exercises were complicated).
I read a fascinating article in The Oregonian. The following sentences captured my attention.
Having a sense of purpose in life seems to provide a shield against illness—particularly in old age . . . Those with the highest sense of purpose were half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with the lowest sense of purpose during seven years of follow-up . . . In an earlier study, the same group [Rush University Medical Center in Chicago] found that the risk of dying from any cause was nearly cut in half among women and men with a greater sense of purpose.*
Isaiah 42:13—The LORD advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier. He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies.
For those who believe the military is an evil profession or who decry the wearing of a uniform and the responsibility that comes with it, please consider these thoughts.
If ever there was a need for prayer, it will be for a man named Obama. He inherits a nation at war with a stressed out economy. He will pilot a land divided in opinion in the midst of a world looking for a messiah. He will render senior leadership in a most complicated government with junior experience and little room for failure. He will face a press that is woeful in gathering all the facts and enemies that would love to see this nation destroyed. He will need wisdom from above in a culture that increasingly follows an ethical theory and practice “that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.”*
I was driving behind a Metro bus on my way north on Interstate 5. On the back of it a neon sign flashed, Not in Service. The thought crossed my mind, “I wonder how many times I have communicated Not in Service to God or to people.”
Supervisor’s 1st Week Work Evaluation of Prospective Employees:
He walked into work and people were crying—not a good sign. The warehouse manger, not his boss, called him into his office and read him a form letter announcing that he would be let go. “Dan, your job has been eliminated.” Dan put his hand on the manager’s hand and said, “Dave, don’t make this any harder on yourself than you need to. You’re my friend.” Dave started crying. “Somebody’s going to have to escort you out of the building.”
Part of me is lost and I don’t like it. If I could skip this day in time or have never lived it I know I would be the worse for it but at least I would not sense this absence that came too fast and . . . heartrending and heartbreaking are too strong in meaning for what I’m feeling. Perhaps in this poignant period a more apt description is heartmissing. The good news is she is only three and a half hours away. The bad news is there are 206 miles between us.
Kathy’s birthday was last Sunday. I’m sure she resigned herself to a lonely day, after all, her husband was in Minnesota and none of her children live close. Cissy, Charlie, Brian, Chad, Roger, Sharil and Paula bought a cake, wrote her a poem, gave her a plaque and took time to come to her apartment and spring a wonderful surprise. She cried so hard they cried!
John and Denise had to leave their home and find a place to store their stuff until they could get into another rental. Charlie and Cis, Will, John, Kevin and Kendy sacrificed their time to help make the move happen.