The twenty-eight chapters in this book each include a chapter from the Gospel of Matthew in the World English Bible. The commentary and questions guide the reader to understand who Jesus really is. An excellent ministry resource for mass distribution or to give to your neighbors.
Life isn’t meant to be hopeless or meaningless. God has answers. Solomon had every material thing he could wish for, yet he lacked one thing: meaning in life. To find it, he went on a quest. This book is a study of Ecclesiastes and was previously published under the title Where Is God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense?
The World Health Organization told us a long time ago that a
major health pandemic was overdue. But few of us expected it to happen. Not
right now, anyway. It might happen in ten years, or fifty years, but not this
year. And certainly not to North America.
We should have known better. All of us learned about the Bubonic Plague and the Spanish Influenza pandemic in our history classes when we went to school. Both caused millions of deaths at a time when the world’s population was a lot lower and much less mobile than it is now.
But those are just statistics from history textbooks. Right?
But Then it Did Happen
My wife and I were over 2,000 miles from home helping care
for her parents when the bubble burst. We knew China had some cases of COVID-19
a month of so before we left. We learned that our country had a case a week
before we left home. The first death took place during the middle of our stay.
A few days later we attended a program put on by the students where our
daughter taught. I don’t think we seriously considered the possibility of that
But over that weekend, the sky fell, or so it seemed. We listened
to announcement after announcement, each with progressively worse news. For a
while we wondered if we’d even be able to fly home again.
We did get home. Our plane was only half full. Half of the
passengers seemed to be hiding sniffles or coughs. Some of the passengers were
university students trying to get home before events became even worse. It was
a serious flight. I overheard little conversation and no laughter and joking or
I think all of us were in a state of shock.
We are self-quarantining for the recommended two weeks. By the end of the month we should know if we have the dreaded COVID-19 or whether we managed to navigate three airports and two flights safely. We have family to bring us groceries for now, and I already work from home.
But this is only the beginning for all of us. Some people
still aren’t taking this seriously. However, most people are realizing that
this is serious business. The jokes and the light-hearted remarks are fading
away on social media.
Did God Do This
I’ve already gotten some emails and comments from people looking to start a campaign against God. Is this God’s fault? Really?
No. We are part of a broken world because of sin. We brought this on ourselves, since we are the sinners. We deserve much worse than this! Someone, somewhere, dreamed up the idea that God owes us an enjoyable time here on earth. He owes us a guaranteed income and a middle-class lifestyle. A lot of people, including a lot who should know better, have picked up on this idea. Unfortunately, the last several weeks have pricked our collective, complacent balloons and given us a good dose of reality.
What About the
I don’t know the answer to this. I suspect that things will
get worse before they get better. Perhaps even much worse. I listened to an
online seminar hosted by six experts who talked about these things. All were
hesitant to put a definite date on the end of it. One said six weeks. Another
thought it could go on for twelve weeks. Apparently, some government
contingency plans extend the possibility to eighteen months.
In other words, we really don’t know. China has apparently
peaked at close to 12 weeks, but the aftermath could still continue for months.
I’ve faced the fact (or tried to, at least), that I might not be around to enjoy the return to “normal” life. For various reasons such as age, underlying health factors, and immunosuppressant medication, I am in a high risk brackets. I would guess that the chances are pretty high that I’ve been exposed. If so, I might not survive this. In the meantime my wife and I are isolated together
Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen, however, if you’re ready for it. But a lot of people aren’t ready. You probably know if you are or not. If not, the nice thing about this scenario is that you have lots of time to think about it and get ready. Take a close look at your life and your future.
One of my favorite Bible passages is found in Matthew 11:27 – 30. It’s an invitation. It promises rest. Even in times like this, or worse, you can have rest.
Are you Anxious? Concerned? Worried?
Here is your answer. Straight from Jesus Christ…
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 NKJV)
“The man who is most aggressive in teaching tolerance is the most intolerant of all: he wants a world full of people too timid and ashamed to really disagree with anything.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
In spite of what many people seem to think, you can disagree with someone, and even say so, without hating that person. Often accusations of hate speech or hatred are simply ways of putting your opposition on a guilt trip so that you can get your own way, or force everyone to say they agree with you.
The author of this book is Ted Dekker. It is co-authored by his daughter Rachelle, who apparently thinks a lot like Ted does.
I’ve read a number of Ted Dekker’s books. To understand them, you must realize that not all will be as it appears at first glance. Ted is a theologian by training, and he buries theological propositions in his books. They are often buried deeply and unless you know where he might be going it will take you most of the book to figure it out. He has some good ideas, though I think he over reacts to his past church or home experience.
Ted has a habit of personifying spiritual characteristics as physical ones. For instance in his Books of History series, sinners show their sinful nature by a skin disease. People drown in a red lake to be converted and healed of their skin disease. It seems weird at first, but you get used to it once you understand it.
In this case the people are more realistic, to a point anyway. It is the story of a small, radical congregation. A prophetess who also happens to be their minister’s wife, learns that the final appocalypse of judgment against evil will come in three years. They are warned to move into a remote valley where they will escape in order to repopulate the earth. But this will only happen if they remain pure. Absolutely pure. No sin. No sinful thoughts. No appearance of sin even. The prophetess and her husband are quite paranoid and the list of things that threaten purity get very long and difficult to maintain.
They are very good people, and very sincere. But they are stuck in their little valley for over ten years, and the time starts to get long, and the pressures rise. The punishments get worse as time goes on because they HAVE to maintain their purity or they will all be eternally lost.
Finally the pressure gets so great that the prophetess needs to order a whipping. And then an execution. And then another. Could God’s people stoop that low? Could you? Even if it seemed that your soul and the souls of your family and friends would be lost if you didn’t?
You will be surprised at some of the things in this book. What, or who, are the Fury that threaten the entire population of earth? You’ll be shocked at what they might teach you. Who controls the Fury? (That’s not a typo–Fury is a plural form of Fury, even as moose is the plural form of moose).
You will also come away with some healthy qualms about ever joining a cult which might save your life someday.
But that’s enough for now. Read the book and tell me what you think!
In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book entitled, The
Power of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide to Mastering the Problems of
Everyday Living. It’s at least forty-five years since I bought it and I
have no idea what I did with it. But the book promoted positive thinking as the
antidote for about everything between being depressed and being over-weight.
The book was popular at the time, but I haven’t heard
anything about it for years. It is true that attitude is a powerful motivator
and there is nothing wrong with being a positive person. But I’ve noticed
during my lifetime that this idea has filtered strongly into Christian teaching
and theology. Only we call it “assurance of salvation.”
In some circles a lack of assurance is one of the worst sins
you can struggle with. It seems that God will forgive about anything except
that. I suspect that lots of Christians try to whip themselves into enough of a
spiritual frenzy often enough that they can assure themselves that they are
okay. But does this actually open any doors into heaven?
I’ve often wondered about that. Positive thinking doesn’t
change facts. I was unacquainted with grits until I was an adult. One day we
visited a conference and stayed with a young couple for several nights. The man
of the house regaled me with stories about the wonderful breakfasts his wife
made, and I looked forward to it all night long. I hopped out of bed licking my
To understand this story, you need to know several things about
me. One is that I like good food. Another is that I have never, even as a baby,
liked to eat baby food or anything of that texture. Cream of wheat, wheat-lets,
and even oatmeal porridge were NOT something I enjoyed. So you might understand
why my heart dropped when I got to the table that morning.
Grits, I discovered, are what we called cornmeal mush when I
was growing up. I could keep it down if I had to, but it was hard for me to
stomach. I have only been served grits twice in my adult life, but I remember
both times very vividly. And all the positive thinking I could produce, and all
the anticipation I had, made no difference.
Similarly, I doubt that God will be impressed with the sinner
who has drummed up a lot of good feeling in his life. Jesus talked about people
who claimed they had healed the sick and cast out demons in His name. But He
brushed them aside. He called them workers of iniquity. I imagine those people
had wonderful testimonies about assurance. They probably looked down on the
poor Christians who, like the tax collector, would not even raise their eyes to
heaven but struck themselves on the chest saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a
sinner!’ (see Luke 18:13 CSB)
I believe that a Christian can find peace in Christ. He
doesn’t need to wake up in fear in the middle of the night. But our faith needs
to be placed in Christ, not in our feelings.
Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.
The beginning of
a new year tends to make you stop and evaluate where you have been and where
you are going. Self-evaluation is a good exercise. It can also be a troublesome
or discouraging one.
For instance, am
I walking closer to God than I did a year ago? Am I more victorious over
temptation than I was a year ago? Am I putting my heart into the Kingdom of God
like I did a year ago? Is my love for my fellowman growing or diminishing?
I suspect that
most of us feel we fell short in these areas last year. But what are we going
to do about it? Write up a list of resolutions which will fall by the wayside
during the next month or so? I’ve been there and done that. I know one or two
people with enough self-discipline and determination to make a change in their
lives if they decide to. But that is not true for most of us, and we may as
well admit it. I will not become a better person this year than I was last year
without some help.
That help may come
from my brothers and sisters. I am not discrediting that because we all need
that kind of help. But I’m troubled with our increased dependence on accountability
groups and counselling centers. In the long run, human helps will only help us
if we have allowed God’s grace to operate in our lives. Ephesians 2:4-10 is a
wonderful passage that should be precious to every Christian. But
unfortunately, so many people stop reading at the end of verse 9. According to
verse 10, grace turns us into a new creation. We become God’s workmanship not
happen overnight. All of us need to continue to grow. But that growth will only
come as we allow God’s grace to work in us. Our victory and our spiritual
development are intrinsically linked to the closeness of our relationship with
God. This coming year will be one long progression of tomorrows. At this point we
have no idea what those tomorrows hold for us. But if we walk with God today,
we can leave tomorrow in His hands. At the end of 2020, we can look back and
say, “I have walked with God this year.”
He holds tomorrow
in His control. He holds this year in His hands. I can face this year with the
power of His grace, because I know He holds my hand. If I fall, He will help me
up. If I lose my way, He will guide me back to the right path. If I face grief,
He will comfort me. If I find new victories, He will rejoice with me.