“When the Counselor comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me.”
Jesus, in John 15:26
A little more than a year ago I inherited the teaching duties in our church’s Thursday morning seniors “Mustard Seed” Bible study fellowship. At age 65 I am the “kid” in the group, and I can barely describe how enriching it is to share Scripture with this weekly group of seasoned, Bible-savvy saints.
Currently we have not met since Thursday, March 12, which was pretty much the last open day in Indiana before everything, including our East 91st Street Christian Church, area schools, and public meetings started shutting down Friday, March 13.
Mustard Seed–no argument there–is the kind of group that especially needs not to meet when a pandemic like COVID-19 is an evident danger to older folks.
But what I wanted to talk about this week is not the dire, dour, and depressing isolation of our nation’s and indeed the world’s present situation. Nor can I think of anything new to say about our individual and largely home-bound circumstances. To all those folks still out there working every day in hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, and other life-saving and society-sustaining endeavors, I say “Thank You!”
What I do want to discuss is the plain-as-the-nose-on-my-face fact that perhaps the greatest joy-robbing, hope-jangling feature of this unprecedented time is the utter absence of what I would call reliable truth about virtually anything having to do with the reporting, media narrative, and politics surrounding the pandemic. Who can we trust?
From China to Washington state to New York City to Washington D.C. to Italy to my home here in Fishers, Indiana, I wonder who is pushing which social, political, or economic agenda. What is the real danger: the disease or our reaction to it? Since “tomorrow is guaranteed to no one,” let’s not panic about the presently more intense vagaries of “tomorrow.” What we all need are facts and truth, not fear and spin.
I started by talking about “Mustard Seed” because our past several months have been a study of “The Words of Jesus.” Especially illuminating to me personally, in the Last Supper and Gethsemane sections of John 14-17, is Jesus talking through these four entire chapters about God’s unwavering righteousness, eternal truth, boundless love, infinite glory, their relationship… and His disciples’ responsibilities going forward.
This truth–His truth–marches on. In His last hours it is virtually all Jesus talks about.
When we can’t see truth–in anything, whether particular or whole–our human misery most likely is in our inability to see God, relate with Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit. The world, for unrighteous reasons in times like these, prefers our focus to be on fear and anxiety. These are man’s evil shackles that choke our free breath in Christ.
I listen carefully for God’s truth. I know that’s what Jesus brought into the world–freedom not just from our own sin and the wiles of wicked men and women, but toward faith, hope, love, peace, creativity, and joy that our trust in God’s eternal truth assures.
What a better world we make, and what joy we reap, when we believe in and testify to God’s truth. The fallen world controls us in fear, but Jesus by His life, death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit let God’s righteous, saving truth out of the bag.
Sometimes we have to fight for that truth, but our joy always is in knowing it.
Your wedding date’s set, but an enemy virus begins sweeping through your country, forcing you into lockdown. What can you do?
Well, you could do what one bride and groom did and tie the knot online!
From the ceremony’s YouTube description: “Due to the coronavirus, the wedding of USAF Captains Zach Turek and Liliana Ramirez scheduled for March 21 had to be postponed. Not to be denied by a virus, they were married on Zoom on March 24 by Zach’s dad Frank Turek and witnessed by Zach’s mom Stephanie Turek. Zach is serving in Texas and Lili in Georgia. They do not know when they will see one another in person. But nothing could separate their love from one another just as nothing can separate Christ’s love from us (Romans 8:35-39)”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Be in Health is a unique ministry that focuses on spiritual roots to health and disease. They recently hosted a five-night event called “Disease: Happenstance or Planned Event?” Each session is available on YouTube!
“…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Jesus very famously wept quietly at the tomb of Lazarus–“Jesus wept”–but He absolutely howled as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Jesus weeps twice in the Bible–tenderly (Greek edakrysen, John 11:35) for Lazarus’s sisters’ sadness, and a second time loudly (Greek eklausen, Luke 19:41): “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it.”
While we could spend this entire column discussing how deeply Jesus was moved–and somewhat miffed–at the reactions of Lazarus’ family and friends before Jesus brought Lazarus out of the tomb, that’s a common story we’ve all studied before. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25). And He meant it.
Bible scholars mostly agree that “Palm Sunday” was a few days later on the first day of the following week when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem to the palm-waving Hosannas of all the believers who knew of Lazarus and had heard of Jesus’s many miracles. They welcomed Him to Jerusalem as their holy and promised Messiah.
The Pharisees were not so thrilled. As Jesus approached (Luke 37-44) the crowd joyously praised but the Pharisees viciously harangued: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (v. 39). Jesus noted that if His disciples were quiet, then the “stones would cry out.” (v. 40). Seeing the unbelief of the Pharisees and their blindness toward God, Jesus knew it meant Jerusalem’s eventual destruction. He wept bitterly because of it.
Clearly nobody except Jesus had any idea what the rest of that week held, or how history after that would be forever changed. The reality was, Jesus on that donkey was God returning to Jerusalem–as God told Abraham, Moses, and the prophets He would–to initiate His Kingdom on Earth. It’s what Jesus had been saying all along.
What the Pharisees saw–in their blindness and anger–was a troublemaking blasphemer who would pull down their temple, negate their authority, threaten their social positions, and not least of all threaten Jerusalem’s tenuous peace with the Romans. The Pharisees “did not recognize the time of God’s coming.” (v. 41)
Something else they didn’t perceive, and I’d never thought of either, was looking at what we call Holy Week as a perfect, poetic replay of the Creation story in Genesis.
It was just a brief note in N.T. Wright’s The New Testament in Its World I’m reading, but, Lord of lords, how poignant. In Genesis 1, God labored for six days, rested a day, and His perfect Creation was in motion. Jesus here spent six days in Jerusalem (Sunday to Friday), finishing His work of salvation, service, obedience, and love on the cross on Friday–the sixth day–and in His death rested on the seventh day–Saturday.
Right here, let’s not worry too much whether on that “Holy Saturday” Jesus descended into Hades, battled Satan, freed the saints, or whatever else He might have done; there is only thin and much debated scriptural evidence for that. What we know is that on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” On the seventh day, why not let Him rest?
Jesus’s resurrection on the first day of a new week was breathtaking and glorious for those who believed. It signaled the new beginning of humanity’s eternal life in God’s Kingdom through the humility of the cross of Christ. Creation, humbly, was renewed.
It was late in the evening. Steve had already collapsed into bed. I tried to join him, but my mind and heart kept racing. I didn’t feel like I was struggling with anxiety or necessarily worried about anything. So, I asked, “God, what is going on?”
I grabbed a glass of milk and made my way to the living room. The fireplace filled the living room with a warm glow and an invitation to sit in the stillness. So, I grabbed a blanket and cocooned myself on the couch. As the flames danced I asked again, “God, what is going on?”
Then God reminded me of a story called The Trouble Tree.
The carpenter who was hired to help a man restore an old farmhouse had just finished his first day on the job and everything that could go wrong went wrong. First of all, on his way to work he had a flat tire that cost him an hour’s worth of pay, then his electric saw broke, and after work, his old pickup truck refused to start.
His new boss volunteered to give him a lift home and the whole way to his house the carpenter sat in stone silence as he stared out his window. Yet on arriving, he invited his boss in for a few minutes to meet his family. As they walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When he opened the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was one big smile as he hugged his two small children and kissed his wife.
Afterward, the man walked his boss to his car to say thank you. Now on their way out of the house, the boss’s curiosity got the best of him so he had to ask the man about the tree on the front porch. He said, I noticed when you came upon the porch before going into your house you stopped and touched the tree, why?
“Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t stop from having troubles out on the job, but one thing’s for sure–my troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So, I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.”
“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ‘em up, they aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”
As my mind replayed the story, I felt like God was sifting my heart. And in the sifting, He unearthed that I had not been casting my burdens on Him. Instead, I was burying them. This act of burying my concerns was causing feelings of anxiety to force their way up through the surface of my soul.
Ever been there? You think you are handling life fairly well, but in reality, you are shoving down the doubts and fears.
I am grateful that God accepts us where we are but loves us too much to leave us there. He knows the damage worry and anxiety can have on our body, soul, and spirit. That is why He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares.
I love the visual of a trouble tree. But what I love even more is when I cast my burdens on Christ, He has the power to miraculous transform my anxious heart into a heart at rest. And that is precisely what happened. “God, show me what the burdens are that I have buried?”
One by one He revealed hidden worries. And one by one I cast my burdens, not on a tree, but on the One who hung on a tree for me.
In these days of uncertainty, I applaud you for being brave and faithful to hold tight to the Father and His faithfulness. But just in case you are feeling a little restless in your soul, maybe it is God inviting you to do some burden casting. You can trust Him, for He cares for you.
Until next time let’s find hope in the journey.
Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of my blogs, visit my website Hope for the Journey.
Entrepreneur and pro-life advocate David Benham was recently arrested outside a Charlotte, NC abortion clinic—even though he and the organization he co-founded and was serving with (Cities4Life) were providing essential social services to abortion-vulnerable women while following CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Mr. Benham’s arrest was recorded; even while being handcuffed, he remained calm and reminded officers of his Constitutional rights:
“This is wrong and you know it. You cannot tell us to leave… You know I am well within my Constitutional authority to be here.”
“We see on the one hand a true threat to our Constitutional liberties as Americans. It’s real. This thing is happening. As well as, on the other side, it’s an awakening for Christians to really consider the unborn and what we see right now is that Christ tells us to love our neighbors, born and unborn, right?
“…We have, with this COVID-19 crisis, drastically altered our behavior to preserve ourselves. But as Christians, we should drastically alter our behavior to be a voice for the unborn as well. Now what does that look like in the middle of the COVID laws? We’re not asking people to all go and protest at a clinic… We weren’t doing that and that’s not what we’re encouraging people to do.”
This is what Mr. Benham is encouraging people to do:
We acknowledge and celebrate another Easter weekend in America and around the world. This year is an unusual one under the threat and confusion from a novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Being confined at home and from work has provided safety and health, but it has also provided much time with individuals and families to ponder and wonder.
This writer is gratefully living his sixth human decade as well as the fourth decade of marriage and Christian conversion in that order. Many questions about religion and Biblical history continue to intrigue me. My best answers still come from those sixty-six books called the Bible.
We remember Good Friday and Easter Sunday which are celebrated as holidays and holydays. Even The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2020 continues to publish national and religious holidays and observances. What makes Good Friday and Easter Sunday unique is explained in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The last three chapters of each Gospel record what has been heralded as holy week (Note: see John Chapters 13–21). What started in the Old Testament book of Exodus is fulfilled according to those New Testament Gospels. Our calendars mark this ONCE-in-history-event when the Nazarene was crucified for claiming to be God! (Religious freedom should have been practiced then).
The Old Testament Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread were established according to Exodus Chapters 11–13. The New Testament book of Hebrews explains this very thoroughly. Passover is always celebrated in the spring months on the fourteenth day of the Moon. We know that fourteenth lunar day as Full Moon and our modern calendars show the separation between the Passover date and Good Friday. In this leap year, the Full Pink Moon occurred on Tuesday night, April 7, 2020. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are fixed days nearest the Passover Full Moon.
This Saturday before sunrise, while some of you were sleeping and others working, this writer awakened wondering, “What about Saturday?” Then D-B-R hit me: the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ Jesus!
“And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.'”
Jesus said that in the garden of Gethsemane under the Full Moon! He never slept from sunrise Thursday through the following sunrise Friday, the day of His crucifixion. That was a horrific Friday for Him, but the Good Friday for humanity’s second chance! So what about Saturday? Christ Jesus was dead in a borrowed tomb on the Day of Rest, which was established in Genesis 2! Four thousand years of history and humanity and He gets another day off? He said He would do this since Genesis Chapter 3. His prophets said so many times in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 18, Psalm 22, Isaiah 7 and 53, and Jonah 2 are a few examples of His way to eternal life. All four Gospels record a risen Christ Jesus. Sunday before sunrise He arose and demonstrated His control and power over life and death. Maybe Saturday is our time to rest and ponder this special weekend!
Ernie & Ruth Poani
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