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.
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”).
Colossians 3:16--Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Sometimes to understand the present we have to examine the past. Purposeless people wander the earth and wonder what is the meaning of life? Fortunately for us, the Bible clearly defines why God created us. If we look to the past, King David prayed, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all”(1 Chronicles 29:11). David recognized that everything belonged to God and that He was therefore exalted. The prophet Isaiah wrote “Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him” (Isa. 43:6b,7). Isaiah tells us that we were created for God’s glory—this is our purpose.
Phil Downer in his book, Eternal Impact, differentiates between the value of success and significance. For success, he likes the definition Chip MacGregor and Bobb Biehl devised, “the feeling you get when you reach your goals.” Phil defines significance as “making a difference in the lives of people over time.” For Downer, the distinction between success and significance is that the former ends with the attainment of goals whereas the latter has a lasting dimension. I’m conflicted with his distinction because the ability to attain significance is a mark of success. But let’s take it deeper to the point Phil is really making—reproduction of what is important is what we ought to seek. To do this requires training.
Psalm 145:1—I exalt You my God the King, and praise Your name forever and ever.
Psalm 145 is one of my favorite psalms in the Bible. Aside from the eleven different verbs or participles used to praise or recognize God, the entire twenty-one verses are a tribute to God’s greatness. The predominant verb is the word praise (used six times). In addition, the words exalt, honor, declare, proclaim, speak, give a testimony, sing, thank, and informing, are used in the Holman translation. Five times God’s greatness is specifically highlighted.
Walking into my office downstairs I was immediately aware of a great aroma. That observation was quickly followed by one of relief. I had left my fragrance lamp on all night and that could have been a fire hazard. Fortunately, the melted eucalyptus/mint-laced wax cubes created a wonderful scent and nothing had overheated.
Psalm 141:2—May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
Neuroscientists discovered that when people listened to music it was like watching fireworks go off with multiple parts of the brain involved. But when these researchers studied musicians engaged in writing or performing music those fireworks turned into a jubilee—with every part of the brain engaged. What amazed these neuroscientists is that no other activity (sports, art, etc.) came close to matching what happens when we write or perform music. To see and listen to this fascinating study go to: http://omeleto.com/201067/.
We sang in worship this morning a song that included a desire to present to God an inside that was both clean and committed. It reminded me of the words of another song, “Cleanse my heart O God.” I’ve probably sung that song a hundred times without dwelling on the fact that unless my focus is heart-centric cleansing is superficial at best. In any area that I have not surrendered to God from the core of my being, I continue to struggle. For example, I know that when my wife is talking to me I should listen. Yet, because I am intent on getting my work done or enjoying my activity, I do not give her my full attention. Mentally I ought to be able to fix inattentiveness and focus on what Kathleen is saying but without a surrendered heart it is just not so. The problem at the core is I am more concerned with my things than with her things.
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.
Have you ever sat on a plane and gone in circles? San Francisco airport is fogged in and so we fly around the city in a holding pattern waiting for permission to land. The airplane is sufficiently equipped for the pilot to take us to the runway we can’t see but he does not have permission. Despite the security of a Captain’s confident promise that he can fly us down when needed, fear etches the faces of folks who probably have not flown here before. Eventually we land in fog so thick even the wing is obscured!
He pulled out a large, black Bible, a beautifully gold tabbed one, and grabbed a pen. I watched from a row behind and to the left of him. Twice on our flight from Philadelphia to Atlanta, he pulled out his Bible and read—not just a cursory reading, I could tell he was intent on what he was studying. He wore neatly pressed tan slacks and a polo shirt—I would guess by his age he is in his fifties.
I met Russ in the Joint Reserves Officer Course we are both taking. We went to church on Sunday and had lunch together—both missing our families on Father’s Day. Russ is a Captain in the Navy and a Delta pilot. He and I found we shared many things in common. Our time fellowshipping was quite enjoyable.
I’m sure you have noticed that the news seems to be getting worse by the week. Tonight I ate dinner with Ken and Brenda and their sons in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were telling me about all the people who have lost jobs in the Richmond area and how thankful they are Ken still has his job. Ken said it hasn’t been this bad in this area since the early 70’s.