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”).
Frank Musisi grew up on the island of Ssese on Lake Victoria. Kibile School’s coach would not let him run for the school’s team when he was in fourth grade so he received permission to run for Beta, a smaller rival school. It was a decision the coach would regret because Frank was so fast he ended up winning district competition and defeating the runners from his own school!
My sinuses filled and it became ridiculous trying to breathe at night. Slowly I found my energy ebbing while my frustration grew at constantly being stuffed. Most of the summer was like this. I went to the doctor and she prescribed medication. It did not help. I went back and she gave me a stronger prescription which worked wonderfully until it ran out. Again my head felt like a piñata. I’ve never had allergies and I didn’t think I was allergic to Wisconsin but something clearly was wrong.
I flew from Louisville, Kentucky to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. My neck hurt but I suspected it was just from reading too long. The next flight was from Chicago to Portland. As I got off the plane, both my shoulders ached and I could hardly turn my head or lift my luggage. By the time I reached home, the joints in my wrists hurt. Pacing the living room at three in the morning, I wondered if perhaps this was not just some medical condition but a spiritual attack. I asked the Lord for His help and to bring healing. By that evening, the pain moved into my knees to the point that I could hardly walk. My parents urged me to go to the emergency room. I called a retired Navy Seal who served as a corpsman and he offered advice and then joined my family in praying for me.
Occasionally I meet Christians who profess that believers should never get sick. In their view, illness stems from either sin, or natural causes unarrested by weak faith. You may have experienced sickness or prolonged disease and had someone imply your inability to get well was due to your lack of faith or unconfessed sin. Well let’s see what the New Testament has to say about this subject.
On the plane from Atlanta to Portland, I sat next to a salesman and a lawyer. We had a great time sharing stories, food and funny video clips during our five hour flight. Matt shared with us that he was headed to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho to compete in the Ironman competition. On Sunday, his goal is to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in 12 hours! We pumped him with questions and he shared his training regimen, thrills and spills in past competitions. And then he told us the secret to his perseverance.
Evu* lost his wife twelve years ago to breast cancer. He is still angry with God because He did not answer his prayer to take his life and spare Lori’s. Yet, Evu also readily shared that God had in many cases answered his prayers. And he clearly saw the hand of His Maker at work keeping him from death. Several years ago when a construction project at Portland airport collapsed killing three men, Evu’s life was spared because of a cell phone call from a friend that lasted so long he was not where he could have been when it rained cement. When Evu later asked his friend why he called him, the friend responded that he felt led to do so! Clearly, God has a plan for this gentleman with a special heritage. That’s not so surprising. His dad worked with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.
Fran* came in the ministry center for food. She is a tall woman with a firm handshake and eyes that tell me she is weathering brutal storms. She sat across from me and shared her story. Her husband is 6’ 3” and once weighed 240 lbs. Now he weighs 140 lbs and is barely clinging to life. For years he sprayed Crossbow, a chemical treatment that kills weeds, on poison oak and blackberries. Often when the summer heat bore down he took off his protective gloves. Eventually, the amount of chemicals that penetrated his skin produced a condition I cannot even pronounce that is now killing him.
Acts 4 is a phenomenal chapter in the Bible. Basically it contains the account of Peter and John appearing before the Jewish council of religious leaders to explain by whose power they acted to heal a man lame for over 40 years! Most of the people in Jerusalem had heard about the miracle and the members of the council were amazed at the boldness and eloquence of two fishermen who had been with Jesus. After a day of deliberations the council commanded the apostles never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Of course Peter and John refused to abide by their terms so the rulers threatened them but because of their fear of starting a riot, let the two men go. Peter and John reported to the church what happened and they went into a time of prayer that was so dynamic the Holy Spirit shook the place!
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
One man was a Pharisee, a religious leader zealous to maintain a sinless posture. The other woman was in all likelihood a prostitute. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home and whether by oversight or by intent failed to offer the common amenity of providing water for his guest to wash his feet. The woman, taking advantage of a custom that allowed the poor into a home for scraps, bathed Jesus’ feet with grief-stricken tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them in profound reverence and perfumed them—perhaps with the very oil she once used to lure men.
She is beautiful. Her serene, unblemished face is a remarkable sight. Her tiny feet wiggle to the tickling touch of her mother’s loving fingers. Her black hair is thick and astonishingly full for a newborn. But inside this lovely baby rages some unknown storm that throws her into seizures and more than once has arrested her ability to breathe. The doctors have no answers. Meanwhile, two hearts burst in agony. Henry and Melody helplessly watch their first child not knowing . . .
Russ and Marianne Lambert are the kind of couple I imagine almost everyone would want living in their neighborhood. Russ was my High School principal at Faith Academy in the Philippines. Not only did he take a personal interest in us as students, he worked to relate to us at our level—not an easy task with teenagers. Marianne, like her husband, was immensely popular and very gracious—like a den mother to a pack of—well we weren’t wolves, but you get the idea!
Bad doctrine is like poisoned food. It may taste good. It may leave the stomach feeling full. But in the end, it will cause indescribable agony. Have you ever turned on your radio or television and heard a preacher promise you that if you will just put your trust in Jesus your troubles will leave you? Perhaps, you’ve been reprimanded as lacking faith because you continue to struggle with issues. Has anyone suggested to you that all you need to do is claim in Jesus’ name the solution you want and trouble will not visit you? Okay, so why did Jesus say,“ I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33)? Who was James writing when he penned, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises” (James 5:13a)?
She was the most powerful person in our church yet by far the frailest. She relied on me to replace her empty oxygen tank with a new container. She was too weak to turn the metal knob that released precious air. Her decaying lungs made the very act of breathing an ordeal. Yet despite her anxiety in dying she could flash a smile that packed the power of a heavyweight boxer.
2 Timothy 1:3-- I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.
My mother died of cancer when I was nine. She composed a special prayer for me that she would often take to God on my behalf. I didn’t know about this prayer until a special friend, Georgia Drake, gave it to me after I was married and had my own children. Today, I still get tears in my eyes as I read the words my mom wrote. They are a reminder to me of how precious it is to love your children and to pray for them. They are a testimony to the power of prayer. They are words that have helped keep me safe and centered on the narrow path that leads home.