Life In Abundance, Even In Death

2021-07-24 Fall in Kentucky

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 (CSB))

It always intrigues me when discussing death with some ‘Christians’ that they demur and say, “Let’s talk about something nicer.”  And I wonder, what is ‘nicer’ than death?  True, I do not look forward to debilitating disease or pains and problems of aging, but the end of this life on earth is not something awful for us to fear.  Even in death, there is abundance of LIFE!

The Christ-follower daily faces paradoxes.  Jesus announced very clearly, For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  The “sermon on the mount,” Matthew 5-7, has many of these oxymorons, starting with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12).  The most pointed of these are the last two: “Blessed are those who are persecuted (?)” “Blessed are you when others revile you (?) and persecute you (?) and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely (?)  What kind of invitation is this to follow this guy!?

Far too many Christ-followers have been sold only half of the bill of goods.  Prosperity preachers abound with promises that if you just buy their books and listen to their sermons, you will have unending health, wealth and comfort.  If things do not work out to make your life its very best, it must be your lack of faith, or something wrong with you, because God only wants to do good for you.

But just thinking of how the love of parents requires them to sometimes do something painful to their children should eliminate any confusion here.  No child ever said, “Oh, goody, I get to have a vaccine shot today!”  But a loving parent will vaccinate their children against DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) to protect them from these much more harmful diseases, no matter how much the child may scream.  Love constrains parents to make their children eat their vegetables even though the dessert cake is sweeter.

So, yes, our Father only wants what is good for us.  C.S. Lewis began to understand this as he matured in his trust in God, writing “We are not doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  And “there’s the rub,” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said.  The maturity to which Jesus calls His followers is not the nursery school comfort of warm milk and cookies.  It is the challenge to come to Him and DIE so that you can truly live.

The Christ-follower, like Jesus, lives in a culture of life-affirmation.  Thus abortion, the unwilling taking of an unborn child’s life is anathema to His people.  Euthanasia, the execution of those who no longer are “contributing” to society (whatever that means), is also viewed as something more demonic than beneficial.  Suicide, in societies that have honored God’s word, has always been viewed as counter-productive.  Even suffering, when viewed as a means to draw us closer to the One who suffered more agonizingly than we can imagine, becomes life-affirming and a channel for God to bring glory to Himself.  Our rewards will wait, but they will come.

Thus, we are instructed that when we are persecuted, we can move to another place (Matthew 10:23), but not to retaliate against our persecutors, but to pray FOR them (Note: NOT against them).  We are not to fear death or its agencies that try to murder us (Matthew 10:28).  Francis Chan, just as he headed to Hong Kong to set up ministries in Southeast Asia, noted, “It is crazy to me that it is perfectly normal to be a Christian in America and to be obsessed with staying alive.” (February 7. 2020)  Jim Elliot penned in a letter to his bride, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Someone observed once, that unless one is willing to die for something they can not really live for it.  We who follow Jesus view death not so much as an enemy of life, but as a ferryman who will one day transport us out of his reach.  Following Jesus may involve pain, suffering, or apparent loss in the world’s eyes.  We may lack in comfort or have greater difficulties than those who just go with whatever cultural stream is flowing.  But there will come a day when it will all be worthwhile.

We must not serve God just for His rewards (another blog coming soon), but He does promise great rewards for those who give up their lives to or for Him.  Our confidence in Him assures us that there is nothing for the Christ-follower to fear.  He came to give us LIFE, and that promise is as certain as His resurrection!  There is no historical event more certain than that Jesus arose from the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

 

 

An Open Letter To A Friend

2021-06-12 Religions of the World“Religious beliefs are very controversial and there are tons of religious groups. The more I care about is to live peacefully and consciously. The truth can be found within your heart and your divine formless aspects…”

Dear Friend,

I, too, hope you have a peaceful life.  As I noted in reply to your blog, 2+2=4 but the one who answers 5 is closer to the truth than the one who answers 37.  There is much that is true in the sayings of Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Plato and other philosophers.  There is much one can learn by reading the four Vedas of Hinduism, the Gathas of Zoroaster, the Agam literature of Jainism and the Muslim’s Quran.  Even the Book of Mormon and the Satanic Bible have rules, many of which can help someone live a good life (though I do not recommend any of these until one has a clearer understanding of the Bible).

Buddha and the other philosophers never claimed to be religious.  They simply described how to improve one’s life by various means of self-discipline and learning.  The religious literature all show ways that one can reach Nirvana, mystical absorption into the Infinite or find acceptance by God.  The answers to 2+2 vary in accuracy from 5 or 6, or in the case of Mormonism 37, and in the Satanic Bible 5,489! 😨

The apostle Paul said to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  So there is nothing wrong with reading or studying teachings of philosophy and religion, but there is much “testing” that needs to be done when one reads these texts.  They are not all good and at best will only give one a better life here and now, if that is all for which one is looking.

However, I genuinely fear for people looking for answers in religion.  They will find at the end of this life that they have been deceived.  The Bible has very little to say about religion (check an online resource for how rarely it is mentioned), and Jesus had his biggest problems with the religious leaders of his day.  In fact, it was the chief priest and the religious legislative body, the Sanhedrin, that first condemned Jesus to death before handing Him over to the Romans.  The Romans did not allow the Jews to commit capital punishment (though this was disobeyed at times with stoning [see Acts 7]).  Unless it interfered with Roman governance, they tended to disregard anything the Sanhedrin or the Jewish leaders did.

Recognize first what constitutes “religion.”  In dictionary.com’s definition, the operative phrase is that it “usually involves devotional and ritual observances, and often contains a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”  Thus religion is basically the human attempt to do what is right, and the popular view, even among many “Christians” is that this is what will make one okay in God’s eyes.  To summarize, religions are human attempts to please God.

Being a Christ-follower does not mean I am not religious, but it means that religion is a very minor part of life.  The central issue of following Jesus is to know Him as one knows a friend or brother.  This can be difficult to get our heads around, because we cannot see Jesus in His flesh as we would our local friends or relatives.  But that is where becoming “born again” comes in.  Jesus told a good Pharisee that in order to enter the Kingdom of God he had to be born again

The old man had some difficulty getting his head around this concept as well.  It is not just taking on a different point of view or disciplining oneself to behave differently.  That would be religion, and Nicodemus knew all about religion.  It was that on which he had based his life!

Jesus said that he did not need to go back into his mother’s womb and be reborn, but rather to be reborn of the Spirit of God, like a wind over which we have no control.  It is a yielding of ourselves to the divine in a way that we do not fully grasp just as an infant does not understand what is happening to him when he is being born.

You say “the truth can be found within your heart and your divine formless aspects.”  But Jesus’ claim is that we cannot find truth on our own because we have been deceived from our natural birth.  We are condemned even before we start searching!  Just as the arithmetic illustration shows, if one starts with wrong premises, one reaches wrong conclusions.  If you understand 2 is simply one plus one, you can begin to add correctly.  But if one does not understand the basic of what 2 IS, wrong conclusions are certain to follow.

The whole of the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us, because He is SOOO different from us that we cannot grasp who or what He is apart from Him telling us.  Like a parent cuddling his baby saying, “Hush, little one, I know what you need,” He will guide us to understand, if we begin with what He tells us about Himself.  And you will not find that in religious literature, nor in yourself, because religion is simply our attempts to find God or to please Him, and we are insufficient to grasp who God is because we are NOT divine.  Just as the babe does not understand who his daddy is, he must grow into that understanding by living with him.

The only place you will find peace that lasts is in knowing The God Who Is.  The only place you will find The God Who Is will be in the Bible.  The only way to get to know Him is through prayer.  And I genuinely wish peace for you and for your beautful country.  God knows you have had such strife, it is difficult to imagine it getting any worse.  The peace you seek can only come with the changes in human hearts that occur when people are “born again.”

your friend, always,
c.a.

An Aboriginal Mental Challenge: Can You Read Without Preconceptions?

2021-02-27 G.K.ChestertonG.K Chesterton is the source for today’s blog: a challenge to do some mental gymnastics to discover something we may have been missing.  In his 1925 philosophical tome, The Everlasting Man, the “prince of paradox” presents an interesting challenge: to read a Bible story from an aboriginal mindset.  You see, we have Christmas and Easter, jewelry and architecture, names of streets, cities and buildings and so many myriad additional references in our world to that unique man, Jesus, that it is difficult to imagine anyone anywhere in our global community that does not know something about Jesus.  And depending on the source of that something, our views of Jesus have been significantly shaped by the introductions we have been given, whether from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, friend, enemy, or Christian/anti-Christian teaching.  And Chesterton contends that much of our view, even in the “Christian west” is significantly distorted.

So I wish to challenge you, as Chesterton has challenged me, to do some mental exercising.  Set your mind as though you have never heard of Jesus, a Christian church, or anything “christian.”  Pretend for this exercise that your only exposure to the divine has been the thunderous clouds that bring rain and frightening lightning; a starry sky at night and the warm and sometimes burning heat of the sun at day; the long graceful hop of a wallaby or neck of a giraffe; the worrisome growl of a bear or roar of a lion; a baby’s sweet coo and cry and the caress of your beloved.

Begin by beguiling your brain into thinking you have never received a Christmas gift or hunted an Easter egg or walked on Christchurch Avenue or stood in front of the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral.  You have never heard of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul or John.  Equally, you have never heard of Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Rama or Krishna or Zoroaster.   Add to that, you have never been concerned with politics, social structure or economics; no Communists, Conservatives, Democrats, Greens, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Tories or any other ideology for guidance of a nation.

This is a difficult mental exercise, but I encourage you, that it is not impossible.  Settle in your mind that you have never been taught anything about any god or history of creation, whether theism or atheistic evolution.  You have never worried about issues of government or society.  Your mind has been focused all these years on eating and drinking to stay alive and whatever day-to-day activities were required to survive, be at peace, avoid enemies and enjoy your time on earth.

Now, with this mindset, approach a new short book someone has brought you.  Its title is very short, just four letters, L-u-k-e.  If you can find it in its original formatting, without chapter and verse numbers, all the better.  (Chapters and verses were added centuries later to make research and memorization easier.)

However, it is available at a website where you can look up your language in which to read it.  If English is your native language, I encourage you to use the ESV noted in the website connection.  If another language is your “heart language,” feel free to try to find it under the ALL tab when you pull down the languages from the little arrow by the default version that opened.
So sorry, Mongolian is not on the list . . . yet.  But Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and LOTS of others are there.
Any Gujariti readers here? 😉

2021-02-27 Biblegateway

Now that you have emptied your mind of any preconceptions about this little story, begin with Luke’s introduction to his narrative for his friend, Theophilus.  Read the short biography at a single sitting if you can; in your heart language it should not take much more than 90 to 120 minutes .  Remember, you have never heard of these people, Luke, Herod, Elizabeth, Martha or Jesus before.  Your entire impression of these people will come from your reading this for the first time!

You may want to have a pencil and paper handy, and note what you discover about some of the characters introduced to you for the first time.  Questions are sure to come up, as we begin with no information on the culture or history of these people and events; Why did He say THAT!?  Why did she do that!?  Why was He so rude?  Why did that confuse them?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be meek and mild? Aha, you’ve slipped from the aboriginal mindset and are remembering something you’ve heard.  Try again! 😁

If you want to dialog about your questions, email me (capost3k@gmail.com) or comment here.  No guarantees I have any answers for you.  Either Tim Keller or Rick Warren wrote (but I cannot find the referemce), “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”   (Similar to a Confucius quote.)

Here’s to hoping you have a good week and discover who Jesus really is.
Enjoy Peter Hollen’s and Home Free’s a-capella performance of Amazing Grace.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S.Lewis

“Lord, Let Me Grow Old Like Walter.”

2020-11-21 Grow Old With MeHow can we grow old gracefully? By this I mean that you can live at peace, gently interacting with others, eat enough food to stay healthy, wear clothes that are adequate for your weather, sleep quietly in a safe room, and rest from the trials of life.

This will allow you to enjoy your golden years
“before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened
and the clouds return after the rain,
in the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
and the grinders cease because they are few,
and those who look through the windows are dimmed,
and the doors on the street are shut,
when the sound of the grinding is low,
and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song are brought low,
and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about the streets,
before the silver cord is snapped,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:2-7)

There are three properties we need in order to grow old gracefully: Trust, Mercy and Grace.

Trust is necessary as we begin to find many things slipping out of our control.  We cannot hear the news reports as clearly and information seems to accumulate faster than we can digest it.  Attention to details of what we own and where things are stored begins to fade, and if you do not trust those around you, you will constantly feel in danger of losing something valuable.

Trust in any person and you will be disappointed at some time; probably more than once!  Even trusting our God leaves us sometimes with confusion and wondering if He really knows what He is doing.  But that is when the tires of our trust must truly engage the terrain.  “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.” (Lane Martin)

Do we really believe that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose?”  If so, then trust becomes an essential not just of our spiritual life, but of every aspect of life, including the people we trust, the weather we enjoy or endure, the supposed “accidents” that happen, the deterioration of our minds and decay of our bodies.  We must recognize Father brings people into our sphere of influence (and influence over us) as part of His plan, and if we trust HIM, it will extend to the people and circumstances around us.

And that is where Mercy comes in.  As we put our trust in flawed humans they will fail us, often unintentionally. But they will also misuse us, steal from us or take advantage of us.  But remember, HE allows it! 

So we must be prepared to forgive them, even before they ask for it, and sometimes they may never do so.  We are still responsible to Father to forgive them from our hearts – !  That is SOOOO hard to do, but God does not give us an option here.  If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (See Matthew 5:43-48 and 6:14-15.)

And mercy will extend Grace to those who do not deserve it.  Whereas mercy is not getting the bad that we deserve, grace is defined as unmerited favor; i.e. getting something good that we do not deserve.  Just as we have received grace from The God Who Is Here, He expects us to extend that same grace to those who offend us. (See Matthew 18:21-35.)  After all, “we are all broken people to one degree or another.  And God loves using broken people, because that way we know it is Him working out His grace in us.” (Doug Johnston)

A friend told me of two old fellows who died many years ago. His maternal grandfather went to Heaven at 92 year old. Walter had dementia but loved God and was as sweet as apple pie. He trusted his care-givers even when he could not remember their names or that he had ever met them before. He was patient and kind and always grateful whenever anyone did anything for him. Everybody loved Walter, right up to the day he passed away.

Some years later, my friend’s 57 year old father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. His wife once heard him praying, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.” And he did. As his disease limited his understanding of the world around him and left him often confused about what was happening to him, he also finished this life expressing Trust, Mercy and Grace to those around him.

How can we grow old gracefully? Trust your care-giving Father; give Mercy to any who offend; extend undeserved Grace to everyone God brings across your path. And pray, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.”

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

[the first stanza of Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning] (pictured above)

What We Know So Far ;-)

The election of our president was not a landslide for either candidate as some had predicted. It was, in fact, a reflection of the wider divide in our country between worldviews of our culture and of what a president needs to be. So our 45th was not assured on Tuesday night that he would continue to serve, and our potential 46th was not certain he would replace him. My brother sent me this perceptive graphic analysis.

There have been several clear-sighted responses to the election process that are finally filtering into the Christian media and reminders that our presidents do not get to choose themselves. If you followed a link in last week’s blog, October 31, 2020, I noted a reference to Daniel 2:21: HE removes kings [presidents] and sets up kings.”

The God Who Is Here, our Creator, the Maker of Heaven and earth, the sustainer of the universe, has not been caught off guard. His sovereignty is still intact and He is still on His throne. His plan for the ages is still progressing and will find its fulfillment in the return of Jesus as was told to the original disciples on the Mount of Ascension: “This Jesus . . . will come in the same way as you have seen Him go.”

He remains King of kings and Lord of lords. The Bible still gives us guidance for every issue we face in our daily lives, whether that includes how to accept and work with an egomaniac as president or a half-asleep abortionist. The bottom line is our president nor any human government is going to bring in an age of enlightenment, pure justice and mercy and peace. Only the Prince of Peace will accomplish what our hearts desire.

He is still alive at Father’s right hand to make intercession for us, and though we may not get everything we wish for when we pray, He will supply every need, even if that is grace to face death and thus participate in the resurrection of our Lord.

Remember, Jesus, not our president nor our government, is still our only way to Heaven, our only means of salvation, the only author and finisher of our faith. Our neighbors still need to know that He loves them, and they need to know that WE love them. Even the rioters and murderers need to know this, maybe “especially” so, and we may be the means for them to understand His love as he plants it in our hearts for them.

In another blog, I will comment on why He allows men like Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler or Donald Trump/Joe Biden to take rulership over us for certain periods of time. But rest assured, He has chosen our next president through our participation, and He is setting a stage for events we cannot yet see clearly. But we remain confident in the end result: Jesus will reign.

The Electoral College Map as estimated by new outlets as of 11/06/20

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Ripe For Fraud – Mail-in Ballots

2020-09-24 Jarrett StepmanCommentary By
Jarrett Stepman

States across the country are experimenting with a mass switch to mail-in elections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But is it wise for states to make such a big change, especially in light of messy voter rolls around the country?

What I was sent earlier this month by election officials in Alameda County, California, makes me worried that ballots going to the wrong locations will be a significant concern this year.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters notified me by mail at my parents’ address in Oakland that I would receive a ballot when the state sends them out Oct. 5. This is following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order that all California voters receive a mail-in ballot before the Nov. 3 election.

The problem is, I should not be considered a California voter.  Since I left California in 2011, I have registered to vote in two other places. I’ve officially changed my address. And my parents notified election workers at their local voting location after I left the state, but to no avail.

The only reason I was even aware of the situation is that my parents still live at the same address. 

I posted this information on Twitter, noting that it’s particularly concerning given that there will be a massive uptick in mail-in voting this year.

Although the official mail my parents received isn’t the actual ballot, it informed me that I would receive one along with every other California voter. Unless something changes, a ballot will be sent to me in a town where I haven’t lived or voted for a decade.

I’m hardly alone in my experience. That’s a problem.

What if I or my parents had been dishonest, and I voted twice? What if somebody else living at that address tried to submit my vote?

It’s not hard to see how this system could be abused by those who care to do so.

Again, this is an even bigger problem right now. Much of the country is experimenting with mass voting by mail even while many states have done a poor job of cleaning up their voter rolls and taking extra precautions to ensure election integrity.

A municipal election in May in Paterson, the third-largest city in New Jersey, demonstrated how a mail-in ballot system potentially can be abused. Ballot irregularities and alleged fraud led to a significant number of cast ballots being invalidated and a judge’s ordering a new election.

Among the problems were mismatched signatures on ballots and hundreds of ballots that were bundled improperly. Several people were charged with voter fraud.

That election in New Jersey simply may be an ugly outlier, but it’s also a good reason to be concerned about an election system being transformed on a widespread scale, as we are seeing for the 2020 presidential election.

State officials should treat election integrity as the serious issue that it is.

The bottom line is that voter rolls around the country are bloated and filled with inaccuracies. Countless voters are registered in multiple states, many of which have resisted cleaning up their rolls.

The 2020 election also presents unique problems. Most states are moving toward a mail-in system as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This makes irregularities in voter rolls more problematic, given that many states simply are sending out ballots to everyone who is currently registered. Others require a request, more like the typical process of acquiring an absentee ballot.

My Heritage Foundation colleague Hans von Spakovsky has written extensively about election integrity issues and warned about the implications of mass mail-in voting.

“Going entirely to by-mail elections would unwisely endanger the security and integrity of the election process, particularly if officials automatically mail absentee ballots to all registered voters without a signed, authenticated request from each voter,” von Spakovsky wrote in April.

Von Spakovsky noted in the article that having “thousands of ballots” arrive in places where voters no longer reside “risks those ballots being stolen and voted.”

As far as my own ongoing problem with California sending me ballots, von Spakovsky says:

Voter registration forms usually have a place on the bottom of the form where you can write in where you were previously registered. But states are notoriously lax about forwarding that information to the former jurisdictions or doing anything about information when they get it from other states. Their voter rolls, particularly California’s, are also in notoriously bad condition because they don’t take off people who have moved or died.

Mark Hemingway, who has written extensively about related issues, wrote in 2019 that a sharp divide now exists between those who prioritize “ballot access” and those who focus on “ballot security.” 

These sometimes competing concerns are prevalent in the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, often called the “Motor Voter Act.” Officials streamlined the process for voter registration, but opened the possibility of more inaccurate rolls, especially given how many people move from state to state.

“People are far more likely to register to vote in their new homes than to alert their old communities that they have moved,” Hemingway wrote.

It’s up to the states to do regular maintenance on their voter rolls, and they are supposed to follow up with a notice to voters who have been inactive for a long time.

However, Hemingway wrote that since passage of the National Voter Registration Act, “many states have simply ignored the maintenance requirements while others have sought legal workarounds.”

For those who say they’re concerned with protecting “democracy,” ballot security should be a priority. Messy voter rolls open up the possibility of fraud as well as innocent errors that could gravely threaten our electoral process.

Jarrett Stepman is a contributor to The Daily Signal and co-host of The Right Side of History podcast. Send an email to Jarrett. He is also the author of the new book, “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past.”

Intermezzo: Covid-19: to Fear or Not to Fear, Part 2

Yesterday (July 15, 2020) I addressed a promising treatment that has been in clinical trials since May of this year.  While a clinical trial provides the last word for medical researchers as well as major medical centers and hospitals, a doctor in the US has the prerogative of prescribing medicines “off-label,” meaning if the doc decides there is benefit for a particular patient he/she can prescribe Vaporub for treatment of lymphoma. 😀

While researchers and agencies wait for clinical trial results, some doctors like Dr. Bartlett are going ahead with their own therapy of Inhaled Cortico-Steroid (ICS) for the Wuhan Virus, and counter to advice to reserve it for when a patient becomes seriously in need of oxygen, his idea is to provide it as soon as Covid-19 is diagnosed.  The patients he has successfully treated are ecstatic that their doctor solved a health crisis for them.

But then we ask, what is there to fear about Covid-19?  For a Christ-follower there should not be any reason to fear this disease.  Lane Martin said when he was 17 years old, “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower.  Filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.”

That does not mean a Christian should act foolishly.  If you jump off a cliff God will probably not cushion your landing just to prove a point.  This was Jesus’ warning to those who wanted proofs in miracles. (Matthew 12:38-39)  He is not into magic tricks.  So if you attend a church service with infected people singing vigorously, you may get the disease.  Or you may not.  And even if you do, barring other underlying health issues, you will probably recover.  And even if you have underlying health problems, Inhaled Cortico-Steroids may just be what the doctor ordered.  ASK YOUR DOCTOR!

Results from the Recovery Trial in England are significant: “The preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear – dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications. COVID-19 is a global disease – it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”

In the meantime, even before the Recovery trial the number of recoveries far exceeds the number of deaths to the tune of 97% to 99.75%!  As of yesterday, July 15, 2020, the CDCP was reporting less than 4% of diagnoses are resulting in death in the US.  While some, like the Washington Post, try to massage numbers to make this number look like an underestimate, the fact that many more are probably infected makes 4% probably a very high estimate.  That said, the number of deaths attributed to Coronavirus exceeds deaths to other diseases, e.g. flu, but these numbers become suspect when we learn that anyone with the virus is counted as a Covid-19 death, even if some other illness may have caused death.  (The attached photo of Wolf Blitzer is a joke, folks, so don’t anyone blow a gasket!! 😉 )

2020-07-16 Coronavirus Death

Add to this that numbers from even medical labs are coming under suspicion as some Florida labs were reporting 100% POSITIVE rates which at first glance looks really bad, but it turns out they were NOT reporting negative results!?  These lab reports are being fixed by the Florida Department of Health, but what of labs that only over-report less than 100%?

Who can one trust when police and protesters are suspect, when labs are suspect, when politicians on both sides of the election are concerned with ballot-authenticity, when they will say anything to get elected/reelected?  And why is Biden’s camp escalating groundless fears that Trump will refuse to concede results if Biden is elected?  Who do you trust!?

I do not trust Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or Justice John Roberts.  But neither do I trust Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Senators or any other supreme court judges.  (Okay, I trust Mitch McConnell, so far, but that’s because I know him.)  But more than any of these, I trust that The God Who Is Here is reeeally here.  He sees what is happening in our health ‘crisis,’ in our politics, in our world.  He is here and He is not silent (with apologies to Francis Schaeffer).

For the Christ-follower who is schooled in the Bible, we must remember that Father determines who will be our President, who will rule Russia, who will be the leader of China, and this is true of all the nations (Daniel 2:21, Psalm 22:28, Romans 13:2).  So if all the leaders of the world are first of all chosen by God, how do we account for the Khans, Hitlers, Stalins, the Obamas and the Trumps?  There is more to this answer than I can give in a short blog, but we can live in confidence that He has it all under control.

So what is there to fear?  Nothing at all!  Not Covid-19, not Trump, not Biden, not Antifa, not KKK!  The most important aspect of this is to obey the Holy Ghost of God, the leading of His scripture and the example of the Lord, Jesus, the Christ.  My friend, Larry Smith, has served a growing Christian community for over 35 years in a country that is still over 90% Muslim and less than 1% Christian.  His comment to me once when I asked him if he felt safe in such a small minority and facing an expansion of radical Islam was, “C.A., there’s no safer place to be than where God wants you to be.”

 

About Death

Vicki SmithShe was a vibrant 58 years old, attended a party at our subdivision Clubhouse on January 20, 2018, helped set up the hors d’oeuvres and made sure everyone there had whatever beverage or goodie they wanted to eat as the crowd settled into conversations and watched the UK/Florida game on the TV.  She was a beloved wife and mother of two successful adult children, active as a swimmer and attended the Racket Club in Lexington, the picture of a healthy maturing adult woman.  Yet, on Monday, January 29, when her husband could not reach her by phone, he called a dear friend and neighbor and asked her to go tell his wife to turn on her phone.  But her lifeless body was found in the living room, having died suddenly.  No suggestion of any villainy or criminal act; no complaints about illness or pain.  Just suddenly gone from this earth, the autopsy revealing the cause of death.  Gone.  Though I did not know the woman very well, she was the best friend to someone who is dear to me, and it hit her very hard, to be the one to discover the body of a friend who was closer than many sisters.

Another dear friend was just told two weeks ago about his recurrent cancer.  He is taking chemo and probably radiation to reduce the tumors, but there is no talk about a “cure” or removing tumors that are in his liver.  He and his wife are taking one day at a time but expect there may come a time when they will have to weigh how severe the side effects will have to be before they say, “Enough; we know where he is going after this is over.”  Many of you reading this will recognize your beloved friend and helper, one who is always ready to serve young people and his church.

My favorite professor in college walked across campus, telling his secretary that he felt a little indigestion.  Ten minutes later a security guard saw him collapse and tried to administer CPR until paramedics arrived, to no avail.  Dr. Donald F. Johns was gone at 52 years old.

A dear 24-year-old Afghan friend walked out of a café in his hometown and the coffee shop he just left exploded in fire behind him, temporarily deafening him as the force slammed him into the pavement.  He was fortunate; had he stayed for another cup of joe he would have been at the center of the blast.

In 2015, the most recent year for the statistics, 2,333 teenagers, 16 to 19 years old, died in auto accidents in the U.S.  The more general stat about total traffic deaths reports 40,000+ deaths on our highways in 2016.

Grim ReaperI have blogged before about death (December 6, 2015, April 10, 2016, and May 15, 2016 (among others).  And sometimes it comes so close to you, you can almost feel the Specter with his dark hood and scythe breathing cold air against your neck.

Something about life on earth beguiles us into thinking it will not end.  No one leaves his/her home in the morning thinking the spouse will be gone by the time he/she returns.  No one drives up Nicholasville Road expecting some fool to plow through his red light and terminate your time here before you even leave your car.  Very few make careful plans about what will happen if the jet they are boarding today does not make its destination.  Rarely does one go to the doctor expecting a terminal prognosis.

The story was told about a young man in his 20s whose little sister of 19 was in hospice, dying with no expectation of further treatment.  She was a Christ-follower whom Jesus had chosen not to heal, and it was only a matter of days before disease would take her.  Yet her jubilance and delight in talking with staff and friends who would visit would have made you think she was going to leave for home the next day.  When the visiting brother was silent for such a long time, she finally asked him, “What’s the matter?”  With pain in his eyes and voice, he said, “I don’t understand what it must be like to realize you are going to die.”  With a look of love on her face, she replied, “I don’t understand what it must be like to pretend you will not.”  So she was going Home in a few days, just not to bricks and drywall.

Some people become very uncomfortable even mentioning the possibility of death, as though one might cause a jinx that would end one’s life.  But Scripture is very clear: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16) Talking about when you will die will not change God’s design on your life.  Rather, we should be clear and open: it is not whether or not we will die, but if we will be ready when that time comes.

“O Lord, make me know my end
    and what is the measure of my days;
    let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
Psalm 39:4-5

Heavens Gate.jpgYou can know with certainty what will happen when you die.  Not the means of death, nor its timing, but what will happen after the moment that this heart of flesh stops beating.  There is nothing more important in life than knowing THIS!  To discover what your destiny is read the Gospel of John and his letters along with some of the other titles inside the mini-library that is the Bible (April 6, 2015 and January 10, 2016).  Spend time in prayer to The God Who Is There and who has revealed Himself most clearly in Jesus Christ.

My mother used to say, “Heaven is just a breath away.  You breath out one breath here and the next moment you breath in the Fresh Air.”  I look forward to seeing her again when we share that Fresh Air before the throne of our Lord, Jesus.

Where Was God When I Fell?

Where was God when I fell two weeks ago ()?  Just having written blogs about being aware of His presence in everything we do (August 20, 2016August 28, 2016) I actually had pictured Him beside me as my sister-in-law and I made our way to the Golden Bear Bridge bears for one of my favorite pictures: me atop a statue.  So I was “practicing the Presence.”  But where was He when I dismounted and put my foot out into thin air so that I flew to port and crashed into a guardrail post, breaking my back in several places and ruining three more days of hiking in the forests, not only for me, but for my wife and sister-in-law?

Each of us at one time or another has probably asked this question, some with more and others with less profundity:
∗ Where was God when my puppy died?
∗ Where was God when my cancer was diagnosed?
∗ Where was God when I was abused?
∗ Where was God when my infant son died?
∗ Where was God when the bombs fell?

My nickname for Him has been “The God Who Is There” because that is what He is; but perhaps I should call Him “The God Who Is Here,”  because He is not just housed in a far-away-Heaven.  He is ever present with us, in all places and all the time.  He was by my side as I climbed the golden bear, He was at my elbow when I stepped out into thin air, He was whispering into my ear when I thudded against the guardrail support.

You see, the real question is not “Where was God?” but “Why did He not do something?”  Could He not have ordered angels to prop my foot at the right place?  Could He not have “floated” me down to the ground?  Of course, He IS God, and could do any number of things to prevent me from falling or suffering injury, so why did He not do something?

The Bible is filled with stories of God’s interaction with us and if you’ve followed Jesus for long, your life probably has its own stories of His supernatural intervention, a miracle or two.  Mine does.  But what makes a miracle special is just that: it is special for a special purpose.

Consider when Elijah came on the scene in 1 Kings 17 to prophesy a coming drought to wicked King Ahab.  He was then told to go to Zarephath in Lebanon, about 200 miles north of Shechem, the Israelites’ capital.  There at a widow’s house, God would miraculously provide him food through the drought.  Acting as the agency for this miracle meant the widow and her son would also survive the three year drought that left many dead.

Later, Jesus recalled this story to His critics when He pointed out that there were many starving widows in Israel, yet God had sent Elijah to a Lebanese widow; He also noted the many lepers in Israel at the time Elisha, Elijah’s successor, was working miracles, “and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman, the Syrian.”  (Luke 4:25-27)  Sometimes God does not behave in ways we think He should, and that takes some getting used to.  We must remember HE is God, and WE are not.

God created a universe with sensible order, not one that was subject to magic spells or deific whims.  There are times when He decides the “laws” of physics need to be ignored for His purposes, like the instant healing of a lame beggar (Acts 3:1-10) or the opening of prison doors (Acts 5:17-26).  However, most of the time He allows us to live in an orderly universe that is logical and consistent.  And if I choose to step off a statue into thin air, though mistakenly thinking I would step properly, God will not usually change the location of the statue base, the direction of my foot, nor the consequences, beyond what could be understood without faith.

His purposes are not thwarted by my injury, and in some ways may find fulfillment by my ineptitude.  Consider the interactions we had with the doctors and staff at Sutter Coast Hospital.  On one occasion the physician’s assistant came to my room while my sister was on speaker phone, praying for me.  Now my sister knows how to pray, as do many members of my family.  But Jacque is one of the best prayerers.  She takes you right into His throne room and you know where you are.

I glanced nervously at the PA, in that I did not want to annoy him, but I certainly was not going to interrupt my sister’s audience with The King.  When she had finished and we turned our attention to him, instead of expressing exasperation, he commented on how the prayer had moved him!  Later this opened a dialog about faith in God and what it means to follow Christ.

The graciousness of my sister-in-law was in full view throughout this episode as well.  Afraid she would be upset by the curtailing of her hiking in the forest, I apologized, to which she replied, “It’s not your fault, c.a..  Accidents happen, that’s why we call them accidents.”  Later she thrilled me with a comment about how fortunate we were to have God by our side!  Hmm, maybe I should ask her if she saw Someone I did not when I fell.

So where was God when I fell?  He was there!  Right by my side, running to my aid with my sister-in-law, comforting my wife as she drove us to the hospital, opening doors for the growth and sharing of our trust in Him.  Yeah, He was there. 😉

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  ― C.S.Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Next week () I’ll suggest some answer to Lex Luthor’s accusation against God:  “If He is good, He cannot be all-powerfuI; if He is all powerful, He cannot be good.”