Reflection #12 – A Tale of Two Crowns

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

A Tale of Two Crowns

It’s a tale of two crowns. That expression comes from an interview Colin Hansen did with John Lennox on his forthcoming book, “Where is God during COVID-19?”

The name COVID-19 stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019 – because that’s the year this particular version of the coronavirus first appeared.

As you likely know, corona is the Latin word for ‘crown.’ It’s called the coronavirus because under a microscope its surface is shaped like a crown.

But the fact that this virus is shaped like a crown makes it no prettier. It’s ugly, it’s nasty, it’s an enemy, and joins a long list of global epidemics that have brought suffering and upheaval to society. We see people isolated, sick and dying. We see markets plunging, businesses closing, and workers losing their jobs. We meet fear and discouragement.

Satan wants this corona to rule our lives and make us its subjects and its prisoners. 

But there’s another crown, a far more powerful one to remember today and everyday. It’s the crown of King Jesus. This Sunday we join many churches around the world to celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was publicly acclaimed and announced as the King.

As Christians we celebrate His coronation, His corona, His crown. Jesus is our King forever!

And what a great King He is! – not a disease, but our Deliverer. Not a virus, but our Victor. Not a sickness, but our Saviour. Many kings, like a virus, are out to oppress, exploit and trample their people in pursuit of their own glory, wealth and power. But this King is altogether different.

On Palm Sunday about 2,000 years ago He chose to come riding into Jerusalem not on a proud white horse, but on the colt of a donkey, a beast of burden. Jesus is a humble king. His heart is kind; His hand is compassionate. He came to help the poor and needy, to heal the diseased and blind, to raise the dead. He came to forgive sin. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

As a King, He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

The crown He bore was a crown of thorns and the throne He mounted was a cross. He did this all for us. We deserve eternal suffering, curse and death for our sins against God. But He sent His Son to earth to be our King and rescue us. As our King, Jesus took our place in the agonies of hell in order to lift us up to the glories of heaven. His kingdom is out of this world!

Now that Jesus has rescued us, dressed in His thorn-crown and hanging from His cross-throne, He has been taken up to heaven where He our all-powerful King, continues to hear our prayers, help us, sympathize with us in our sufferings, and strengthen us through life’s journey until we reach our final destination – victory and joy forever and ever with Jesus in God’s heavenly kingdom!

Do you want this Man to be your King and His crown to rule your life? Believe in Him. He will save you from your sins and share His glorious life with you!

These days, coronavirus dominates the headlines, our governments, the markets, our thoughts, our work and conversations. Satan wants this dark and deadly crown to dominate our lives. He wants to drive us to despair.

But the victory belongs to King Jesus who destroyed this diseased crown. He carried its curse with Him to the cross, killed it in His death, buried it in His grave, and then rose again to give life to the world.

Under His crown, we are secure. In His crown, we conquer. For His crown, we live and serve. In Jesus we have a kingdom that lasts forever, even after all the kingdoms, powers and wealth of this world have been destroyed.

So let’s remember the crown of King Jesus today and everyday. No matter how deep the waters and worries all around you, let that King and that crown dominate you. He sees you and loves you right where you are. He has only good stored up for you. Following Him, you will receive a throne and a crown that will never perish.

Take a Sabbath from your worries this Lord’s Day and re-focus your life on King Jesus. Stay in His Word. Stay in contact with His people. Focus on the work He is doing through missionaries around the world. Jesus’ crown and kingdom are infinitely bigger than any other crown that’s trying to rule our world today.

Reflection #11 – “Where is your God?”

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

“Where is your God?”

That’s the question opponents used to taunt the psalmist in Psalm 42. This challenge to his faith only added to his depression and sense of isolation.

“Where is your God?” When disaster strikes, whether war or tsunami or coronavirus, this is the inevitable question, “Where is your God?” Where is He now? Where is God in this?  

Some ask it as scoffers, denying the very notion that there is a God. Others as it as believers, wondering why God has allowed bad things to happen in the world He made and controls. Still, others ask it as those searching for answers to the crisis they face right now in their lives.

For all that we can say about the human and natural origins of COVID-19, and the research on this will certainly continue for a time, the natural explanations cannot satisfy the inherent sense of God that lives in our never-dying souls.

We believe that there is a God – one true God – who created the world and controls it so completely that nothing happens apart from His will.

Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. “ (Matthew 10:29-30)  If even sparrows and hairs are in His almighty hand, so are bacteria and viruses.

So why did God not stop this virus? Why has He plagued our planet with this pestilence?

It would be arrogant for us to say we know exactly what God is doing at all times and why He is doing it. The Bible says, “How unsearchable are His judgments and how unexplainable are His ways!” (Romans 11:33)  Whatever He does or allows, happens in His perfect wisdom and for His good purposes, even when that wisdom and purpose of God are hidden from us. 

He is God and we are not. Let us humble ourselves before that unalterable fact of life. He is the Potter and we are the clay. Let us fall down in reverence before the Lord of all creation.

Still, we have the question, “Where is your God?” We know this: He is right here. He is both above this epidemic ruling over it, and in it working through it. In our secular worldview which has tried to chase God out of the centre and put Man there instead, God is showing Himself to us in a powerful way.

We want a life without God. We want to be God. We want to declare Him unnecessary. But once again God is reminding us how fragile this world is, and how mortal we are. Just when we thought pandemics are a thing of the past and we have got the world under our control now, we find ourselves shockingly unprepared, frightened, and small.

Before the final judgment comes, God is at work in this disease now, calling us to repent, and to honour Him as God before it’s too late.

But God is here in this fallen, messy world in another way: He is with us in the suffering. At the centre of history and of the Christian faith stands a cross and the one who died there is God Himself. (see Colin Hansen, “John Lennox on Where to Find God During COVID-19,” The Gospel Coalition, April 2, 2020)

Where is your God? He is with us. His name is Jesus. He came and joined our suffering. God loved this world so much, a world lost in sin and misery, that He sent His Son to suffer and die with us and for us. He suffered our judgment and punishment on the cross so that whoever believes in Him has a doorway of hope out of suffering and death.

But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. That changes everything! For those who belong to Jesus, suffering doesn’t have the last word; victory does. Death is not the end of the journey; life is. By believing in Jesus we receive a life that will outlast coronavirus and every other form of suffering.

So through this terrible virus let’s learn to take God seriously. Sometimes He turns things upside down in order to put things right-side up in our lives.

Where is your God?He is in heaven, ruling over everything. And He is here. He is with you in your suffering when you ask Him to take your life in His hand and rescue you. Then you are not alone. As David said in Psalm 23, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

When God is with me, I have everything I need. He is enough.

Reflection #10 – A Tribute to Nurses

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

A Tribute to Nurses

Let’s pause today to thank God for our nurses and all others at the frontlines of the ‘war’ effort against the COVID-19 pandemic: doctors, PSW’s, medical researchers, and all who are putting themselves in harm’s way at hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and pharmacies.

Jenna Meloche, a registered nurse from Windsor, Ontario, knows what it’s like to do double duty by functioning as a close family member to her COVID-19 patients. Jenna stated, “A family member said to me ‘I want you to go into my husband’s room and I want you to say in his ear that we love him and we miss him and just be strong.”

After taking precautions during long shifts at work, Jenna comes home to the same thing. To protect her parents she changes in the garage, uses a separate bathroom, and wears protective gear when in common areas of the house. She says: “My nose is raw from wearing a mask every waking hour – first at work and then again at home….We’re fighting a war.”  (CBC News, March 28, 2020)

Mary Lyn, a nurse in our local nursing home, was giving care to an elderly man who hadn’t been able to see his family in weeks since lockdown. Seeing a Bible at his bedside she had compassion on him and sat down with him. She opened his Bible, and finding his bookmark at Psalm 47 where his wife had last read to him, read the Word of God with him. Then she grabbed a couple of Kleenexes from his table to wipe the tears streaming down his face.

The stories of Jenna and Mary Lyn are repeated in millions of places around the globe right now. In addition to increasing demands and risks of health care, they offer special acts of kindness by functioning as family members, friends and pastors on behalf of those who cannot reach the sick and dying.

Last week in Quebec an emotional Premier Legault was deeply grateful for the outpouring of response from nurses across his province. Fears of an overwhelmed health-care system led Quebec to invite retired doctors and nurses and anyone with health care experience who wished to help with COVID-19 to contact them. Within just a few days 10,000 people had sent in resumes to help out.

Nursing students at McMaster University are the latest health-care students to ask for early certification so they can join the fight against the coronavirus and ease the burden on the health-care system. (Global News, March 28)

Nurses across the province of Ontario have been put on notice that they may be called on to leave their home and workplace to be deployed to other areas of the country where there’s greater need.

Our greatest tribute, of course, goes to medical workers who have already lost their lives in the line of duty fighting COVID-19. We thank the Lord for His good gift of health care and of those who are willing to dedicate their skills and their lives in this important calling.

So how do we appreciate them? There are many ways, but let me suggest 3:

  • First, take the epidemic seriously. Hear the warnings of our doctors and nurses to take proper precautions. Scott Laughton first served as a soldier in Iraq in the 1990s, then for 25 years as a police officer, and now as a registered nurse in New Jersey. Last week he suddenly found the hospital unit where he works transformed into a COVID-19 ward. He says, “Many are not careful. They don’t understand the devastation that this can cause. Not only to the people themselves but to the families and to the health care workers that are actually in there holding their loved one’s hands when they’re going through this.” (Julia Musto, Fox News, April 1, 2020)
  • Secondly, take time to pray and appreciate them, especially the ones you know in your own church and neighbourhood. Help them with your prayers. It takes new courage, compassion and strength each day. Send a text, email or card expressing your gratitude for their sacrifice. Even if they’re not working directly with COVID-19 patients, they’re all dealing with the stress of the lockdown, staffing shortages, and virus precautions.
  • Thirdly, thank God for His gift of health care. When Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He told us He cares about all our physical needs too. One of the ways He answers this prayer is by raising up doctors and nurses who have a passion to study medicine, research diseases, care for the sick, and are willing to risk themselves each day by coming into contact with infectious diseases.

Through them God shows His care for us. He shows that our sicknesses matter to Him. He cares about our sicknesses so much that He sent Jesus to carry not only our sins but also our sicknesses and diseases with Him to the cross. (Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17)

In our health care workers we get a taste of Jesus’ real TLC; we get a taste of what Jesus came to do for us forever. Through faith in Jesus who died and rose again, you get healing for both soul and body. He heals you of both sin and sickness! Even though we will die some day in some way, full healing is on the way when we belong to Jesus. That’s the eternal health care God provides for everyone who believes in Jesus, including doctors and nurses.

Reflection #9 – The Fearless Pharisee

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

The Fearless Pharisee

As a Christian, I know that Jesus has made it totally safe for me to live and die. I know that no matter what happens, Jesus has me in His grip and will not let me go. He makes me unsnatchable.

Neither troubles, nor abuse, nor sickness nor death can take me away from Him. Even if I die, I still have life with Him in heaven. My soul will go immediately to be with Jesus. And one day He will raise my body too, and body-and-soul I will live with Jesus and with all His family in a new creation, heaven-on-earth.

What a day that will be! What hope that gives me all the time!

Even so, though I have so much hope and safety in Jesus, I still often feel fear and anxiety. And then I need to take my fears to Jesus, and He quietens my soul. He reminds me that He died in my place and came back to life for me. He reassures me and renews my peace. He says to us:

Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

If I did not know Jesus, I’m sure I would be a nervous wreck right about now. What if I catch the virus? What if I die? What about my family? What about my plans? What about facing God?

What I want for every person around me, and the whole world, is to have and enjoy the same peace that I do – Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)

But I also have another tendency – to get on my fearless kick, look at the panic and hysteria all around me, shake my head and think, “Wow, I thank God I’m not as foolish and afraid as they are. What’s their problem?! Why on earth are they behaving like that? I have no fear.”

Then I’m like the Pharisee in the parable that Jesus told. As very religious people who studied a lot about God and theology, the Pharisees used their relationship with God to look down on others who didn’t have the same knowledge they had.

In Jesus’ parable, told in Luke 18, the Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed like this:

God, I thank you that I’m not like other people-greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.

Luke 18:11-12

He didn’t realize that he was just as sinful and unworthy as everyone else and that the only way he could be saved is if God showed him extreme mercy. Rather than rely totally and humbly on God for his salvation, he believed in himself. He put his confidence in his own goodness. He was self-righteous.

But as a Christian I can think the same way about myself and about the fear I see around me:

God, I thank you that I am not like other people, scared, anxious, panicking. I thank you especially that I’m not like those crazy shoppers who hoard as if it’s their only hope. I’m not afraid. I have faith. I belong to Jesus.

When we think or talk like that, we suddenly have forgotten grace. I would be a panicky mess if Jesus had not come to me when I was lost, confused and afraid, and if He had not rescued me from judgment and made me His very own. I would still be falling apart from fear if Jesus didn’t keep comforting me and reassuring me every day.

None of my fearlessness is from myself. It’s all from Jesus. And when I see someone’s life unravelling from fear, I should see myself in that person.

I should feel the deepest empathy and compassion and do whatever I can to share with her the comfort that Jesus gives me. My only comfort is that body and soul, in life and in death, I belong to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. What a mighty comfort that is, day and night, for me and my family!

As the epidemic continues to spread and the numbers jump in our part of the planet, fears are escalating. People everywhere need peace. We need hope.  We need safety for our tired, guilty, anxious lives. Jesus is the perfect place for you today, whether or not you are a Christian. He says: Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) He will not turn away anyone who gives up on himself and gives his life to Jesus for safety – safety in body and soul, safety in life and death.

Reflection #8 – Unsnatchable

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Unsnatchable

I’ve been delighting in Jesus’ promise in John 10:28-29: 

I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

John 10:28-29

Nothing is secure in this world. Even the things we thought were certain are not.

  • The surgery booked for next month was cancelled.
  • So were your plans to go to the game or concert.
  • The airline called to say your flight is cancelled and your tickets are non-refundable.
  • The wedding so long in planning had to be trimmed down to 5 people.
  • The nurses would not let you into the delivery room to be with your wife.
  • Plans for baptism are on hold.
  • You could not visit your dying loved one in the hospital.
  • The plans for expanding your business are suddenly all up in the air.
  • You were laid off from your job after 20 years of steady work at the same company.
  • Your retirement savings just lost 30% of their value and crude oil plunged to $4.53 a barrel.

This is just the beginning of a long list of the unexpected these days. Things we have been counting on have been snatched away from us. Hopefully, we are learning that everything is up for grabs in our world.

How good it is to know that there is something that can’t be snatched away in this world – you.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are unsnatchable. You are not up for grabs because He’s got you in His almighty hands. His loving grip on you cannot be broken.

What’s more, God the Father is also holding you in His hand. God the Father and the Son, who are one, share in a covenant of love to save you from damnation, to hold on to you forever, and bring you safely to Paradise. You are unsnatchable.

The reason for this absolute certainty is that there’s nothing human in it. It is made of nothing from this world – it’s all divine – divine power and love that cannot change or be broken into.  

It’s not for lack of trying! All kinds of forces are at work to sink their teeth into you to pull you away from the Shepherd’s grip.

Jesus spoke of wolves who come to snatch and scatter the sheep. (John 10:12)  They can’t succeed with those who truly believe, but they sure try! Wolves are false teachers who try to deceive you with heresies. They tell you that you are great and Jesus came to make you even better than you already are.

Jesus also said the devil comes around trying to snatch the word away from our hearts. Satan hates the word of God because it is the Truth. He tries his utmost to keep you away from the word and the word away from you. We must resist him standing firm in our faith and as we fight back, we rest in the promise that the word of God lives in us as God’s imperishable seed.

Incredibly, even we can work against our own unsnatchability! The power of sin which still lives in us fights against Jesus’ tight hold on us. We want freedom from Him to sin. Even as His sheep, we are prone to wander away from our Shepherd and look for a better life in pastures of poisonous weeds that will kill us.

  • We flirt with sexual immorality.
  • We drift into spiritual laziness by neglecting sincere Bible reading and prayer, and easily skipping worship services.
  • We climb the pedestal of proud self-reliance and foolishly put our confidence in ourselves, weak sheep that we are.
  • We oppose the Spirit of our Shepherd by giving bitterness and lovelessness more and more place in our hearts. 

But the Good Shepherd’s hold on us is far greater than our sin! He intercedes for us so that our faith will not fail so that we will return to Him who is our Safety. (see Luke 22:32)

The strong arms of Jesus: in a world of so much uncertainty, this is the blessed place to be!

Our unsnatchability has nothing to do with the character of the sheep and everything do with the character of the Shepherd. He is powerful, good and faithful. He lay down His life for you and He who paid such a price for you does not abandon you.

God is greater than all that opposes you – even when that opposition is you.

Knowing this makes all the difference in our lives. It helps us handle uncertainty, disruption, cancellations, and loss, with patience and peace. Let us show our frightened world that Jesus is truly the Man for all Seasons. He is the Place to be, now and always. He is unshakable, unbreakable, and unyielding.   

Reflection #7 – The Fix is in – or is it?

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

The Fix is in – or is it?

Governments around the world have been stepping into the COVID-19 pandemic with emergency measures. Restaurants, schools, worship services, travel, sports, entertainment, tourism and businesses have been shut down in one of the largest ever worldwide economic shutdowns.

Businesses and families are reeling from the impact. Now governments are stepping up to fund the collapsing global economy with huge injections of cash. The G20 leaders have committed to spend $7,000,000,000,000.00 ($7 trillion) on their economies.

The US government, for example, is providing a whopping $2.2 trillion for its families, businesses, and hospitals! Canada’s government is supplying $75 billion to our economy, with an allowance of up to $107 billion. This includes a guaranteed income of $2,000.00 per month for the next four months to every Canadian who lost a job due to lay-off, social isolation, or helping a sick family member.

In a recent article, Gwynne Dyer referred to Economist Milton Friedman who called this “helicopter money.” A government can reboot the economy by flying over its penniless consumers and throwing out free money. [Gwynne Dyer, “Don’t scare anyone just yet, but universal basic income is coming,” London Free Press, March 27, 2020]

This way we can avoid another great depression and soon the economy can go back to roaring. In just a few months life will be back to normal again. We can continue pursuing our dreams of cash and happiness. One man responded: “Who needs God when you’ve got the government?!”

Now, I respect the government’s responsibility to give special help to its citizens in crisis. I do not think it was wrong for Pharaoh to take special measures to protect Egypt in the 7 years of famine. I believe Joseph acted properly when he helped Pharaoh prepare and provide for Egypt’s citizens in hard times.

But as Christians, we should all be concerned about this helicopter money fix.

First, where does this money come from? It comes from the taxpayer, eventually. It’s borrowed. It’s added to our skyrocketing national debts which are now, before the stimulus, $785 billion in Canada, plus $2.28 trillion in consumer debt (mortgages included). The USA carries a national debt of $23 trillion plus personal consumer debt of $14 trillion. Eventually, we will have to pay whether through taxes or spending cuts or inflation or all of the above. But more likely we can’t pay.  

Second, it exposes a moral issue: we are living way beyond our means. Very few of us have personal savings to pay our bills for 1 month, let alone 4 months ahead. The average Canadian worker saves $850 per year for every $50,000 earned, yet carries a standing balance of $4,500 in credit card debt. When a crisis comes we think somebody else should pay if we can’t. And the government is all too happy to function as our deliverer.  

Are we willing to learn from this our responsibility to set aside 10% – 20% of our income to save for a rainy day and do our part in preparing for a crisis? He who gathers in summer is wise…and he who gathers little by little will make it grow (says Proverbs 10:5 and 13:11)

If we don’t do due diligence in saving we fall prey increasingly to a socialist mindset of expecting big government to sponsor us from womb to tomb. By taking on such huge national debt we allow our government to control our future wealth.

Thirdly, my biggest concern is the fundamental belief in our secular culture; that we can fix this problem – and all problems – with money. If we can get the economy up and running again all is well. Life can continue as before. Things can go back to normal. We can all be happy again.

Is this really what we want? Don’t we hear God calling us to stop putting our trust in the economy, in the government, and in our own strength? By bringing the whole world, even its superpowers, to its knees with a virus, God is calling for a deeper fix than money. He is looking for humility, for repentance, for spiritual revival and a return to God.

He doesn’t want us to waste this crisis by taking our fallen gods and putting them back up on the wall again. He is calling us to fall down before Jesus, to plead His mercy, and to seek forgiveness for our rebellion and arrogance.

Then God will send true renewal to our lives and land. He will raise us up again in new life to devote our lives to loving God above all and our neighbour as ourselves.

In times like these we may need an injection of cash in responsible amounts to stabilize the economy. But, far more, we need to turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and new life. He is the true fix our whole world needs.

Reflection #6 – Freed from Slavery to the Fear of Death

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Freed from Slavery to the Fear of Death

I remember a time in my life when I was scared to death of dying. How would I die? What would happen to me after I died? Where would I spend eternity?

What about you: are you afraid to die? I have good news for you: God has a way of escape.

The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, He destroyed the devil who holds the power of death and freed those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. (see Hebrews 2:14-15)

The fear of death makes us slaves. All people, even the most convinced atheists, know they will one day die and have to give an account to God their Creator for all their sins.  

The fear of death makes us slaves. We can’t face death. We have to keep the thought of death away from us, so we try denial, distractions, drugs, defiance, indifference, or anything else that will keep it away. Fear of death is a prison that destroys our freedom to live authentically.

We work overtime to keep death away.

Then God comes along and gets in our way with a death scare. Cancer. Or the Coronavirus. We read death stats day after day after day. As of today, 23,647 deaths from the coronavirus and counting. Worldwide, 53,039 new cases today. How many of these will die? We don’t know but Death stalks the planet. It always does. Now a new death threat has been added and it’s in your face.

102 years ago the Spanish Flu stalked the globe.  Our best estimate is around 50 million people were killed by this Grim Reaper. 50,000 Canadians died. 675,000 Americans. Somewhere between 12 million and 17 million deaths in India from the Spanish flu.

These figures are staggering. The Spanish flu preyed especially on 20-40 year-olds. What fright gripped the globe at that time. If you weren’t dead you were mourning.  

In a way viruses are even more scary today. Viruses can get on a plane and cross the world in a day.

We can discuss causes of the disease. No one knows where the Spanish flu began, most likely not in Spain. We know the COVID-19 outbreak began in China. But, whatever human factors and errors are involved, ultimately, God is in control of all things and has a purpose for this. The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.  (Psalm 103:19)

One of the things God is doing with it is pushing the reality of death to the front of our consciousness. Life is terminal and we must realize it. We must deal with it. God in His great mercy is sounding the alarm so that we face death squarely, that we look for a way of escape, and find freedom from the fear of death.

But what is the way of escape? The way of escape is not escapism – hiding in refuges made of lies, like drugs, denial, distractions, defiance. The only real way of escape is Jesus Christ.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to earth and made Him a real human being just like us. Jesus became man so that He could die. Jesus stepped into our death and eternal suffering. This is God’s great gift of love: Jesus took on Himself our suffering and death to give His life to those who are headed for death.

Everyone who believes in Jesus is truly free from death. Through faith in Jesus, your death sentence was put on Him, and His life is given to you instead. Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. (John 11:25-26)

What freedom we have in Jesus:

First, you are set free from death. Your soul will go to Jesus immediately when you die, and one day He will raise your decomposed body too – immortal and forever strong.

Second, you are set free from the fear of death. You are free to face it, accept it, and even mourn it as the last enemy that has been defeated and destroyed by Christ Jesus for you.

Third, you are set free from slavery to the fear of death. You can leave your prison of denial or defiance. You can live in peace and hope. You can face the issues of life authentically, without pretending, and in hope, without despairing.

Jesus makes you safe. He makes life safe. He makes disaster and sickness safe. He makes death safe for you. Without Him, death is forever. But if you belong to Him, life is forever.

Reflection #5 – Coronavirus Craziness

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Coronavirus Craziness

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself. These two commandments fulfill God’s law and they drive every true Christian.

But love gets tested under pressure. We are all being tested right now to trust God fully and to love our neighbour sacrificially. Crises can bring the best – and the worst – out of us.

It’s deeply disturbing to see how badly and bizarrely we can behave in a time of crisis. When we really need to support one another, we often follow the impulse to serve ourselves at the expense of others.

We see that in price-gouging practices during the coronavirus crisis.

  • Companies are hoarding materials needed for medical supplies in order to sell them at high prices in a shortage.
  • One dentist’s office order of hygiene masks was cancelled and the office was told by the company to re-order. When the office did so immediately, the company had jacked-up the price of the masks by 500%.
  • Another company was charging $149 USD for two small bottles of hand sanitizer, and $44.25, plus over $14 shipping, for one container of Clorox wipes.
  • Amazon.com had to remove or block more than a million products on its platform for price-gouging and for deceiving the public.
  • One man ordered 3 boxes of N95 masks on eBay for $62USD only to discover that each box contained only one mask. [for these examples, see Jessica Guynn and Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, Mar 4, 2020]
  • Many members of the US Congress want to hijack an emergency stimulus bill by adding their own pet porkbarrel projects like abortion funding and green energy.

And what about panic buying? People rush frantically to empty the store shelves of essential and non-essential products before their neighbours can get to them.

A friend of mine is reluctant to return to his local No-Frills store because he witnessed an all-out brawl between two grown men fighting over the last two boxes of wipes.

And what about the craziness of hoarding toilet paper? The psychology of this behaviour is sad. One journalist calls it retail therapy. When people go out and purchase armloads of toilet paper they feel like they’re doing something meaningful to gain some control in a world that feels out of control.

She quotes consumer researcher Kit Yarrow:

The antidote to anxiety is always control. And since we can’t really control the track of this disease, we turn to what we can control, and that’s why people are shopping. It’s like, ‘well, I feel like I’m doing something, I feel like I’m preparing. I feel like I’m taking control of the thing I can control, which is stocking up.’ [Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, March 24 2020]

Kit Yarrow

Others respond to the coronavirus with callous indifference. “The world is over-populated,” they say, “This is Mother Nature’s way of cleaning up.”

Some think that old and sick people should just get out of the way so the rest of us can carry on with our ordinary lives.

Thankfully there are stories of heroism as well and maybe we can chronicle some of these later as they get told. Some companies, for example, are working hard to redirect their product lines to create medical supplies at a reasonable price. One pizza-shop owner in New Jersey took out a $50,000.00 line-of-credit from his bank to pay his employees in case of lay-offs.

As Christians, we see in this crooked coronavirus craziness the Bible’s truth that man’s sinful heart is directed toward himself, against the Lord and against his neighbour. How desperate is our need of a new heart. We must remember that the worst virus of all is sin. Even as Christians who have been redeemed from the sin-virus, we are still tempted to fall back into these old patterns of life.

Let’s view the coronavirus crisis as a huge calling and opportunity from God to show love for God and for our neighbour. Not only do we refuse to brawl in the super-market aisle over wipes, but we also call our neighbour and ask, “I’m going to the store for a few things. Do you need anything?”

May Christ’s love fill us and overflow from us especially when we’re under pressure in times of testing! Think of creative ways, especially when your kids are home from school, to serve one another, like: holding a sign with a precious promise of Scripture in front of a senior’s front window; making and sending a card to a young Mom; asking your senior neighbours if you can get groceries for them; or letting somebody go in front of you in the line-up for eggs at the grocery store. There are many ways to love!

When we love our neighbour, we show the love of God that He has given to us. He gave His love to us in Jesus who gave His life for us. By loving us so fully and freely, God sets us free to love our neighbour sacrificially.

Jesus said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 13:34

Reflection #4 – Grace One Day at a Time

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Grace One Day at a Time

God calls us to live one day at a time. We saw that in yesterday’s reflection: Put tomorrow under God’s promise of future grace, and just do today. Don’t download tomorrow’s worries into today.

Yes, we plan weeks, months, even years ahead, but we can’t handle living tomorrow today. It’s too much. Besides, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Life is so unpredictable.

Today it’s one day later, and sure enough, we face new worries. With the province of Ontario shutting down non-essential services, we’re likely to see a substantial impact on our economy. Will we keep our jobs? Will we be able to pay our bills? How will this impact my business? What will happen to our contracts? How will our lending institutions treat us? What if I have to file for EI?  

Maybe you lost your job today.

There’s so much uncertainty in our lives right now. Even if it’s just for the short term.

It takes grace – God’s grace – to live one day at a time.  Like His gift of manna, He gives us His grace in one-day increments and calls us to rest in Him each new day, again and again.

God’s grace given us through Jesus Christ covers a whole lifetime – past, present, and future. But He distributes His grace in one-day portions and calls us to live in day-to-day reliance on His grace and to share that grace with others.

Each day we are weak and He is strong – no matter how much muscle, money and talent we have. Each day God is pleased to magnify His power in our weakness.

Scripture has many ‘daily’ promises of God’s ‘daily’ grace to count on:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6

Not just my whole life long, but all the days of my life, each and every day of my life, Jesus, my Shepherd, protects and keeps me with His goodness and mercy. He doesn’t skip a single day.

Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burdens.

Psalm 68:19

Every day God stops in to carry today’s load for us. He does not visit us monthly or annually to see what problems and pains we’ve collected. He visits every day and calls us to cast our cares upon Him every day because He cares for us every day.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

We wake up to God every morning, and He gives us all the mercies we need for today’s pains and problems.

And what about promises like:

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

Psalm 121:6

As your days are, so shall your strength be.

Deuteronomy 33:25

From that verse Carolina Sandell Berg wrote her beautiful hymn:

Day by day and with each passing moment,
strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

Carolina Sandell Berg

Do you see? The eternal God is a daily God.

Living one day at a time is the right way to live because that’s the way God pours out His grace upon our lives. Whatever grace you need for today – is it patience? assurance? courage? peace? trust? repentance? wisdom? – He will give to you to magnify His power in your weakness.

So, dear friend, rest in God’s grace this morning, this afternoon, and again this evening. And tomorrow morning He’ll be there for you again.

Trust Him to strengthen you to do all the things He calls you to do, especially when those things look impossible. If He gave His Son for you, He will certainly supply every other need.

I spoke with a Christian businessman this week. His company is feeling the strain of COVID-19. Contracts are being pulled or delayed. He has a sound business plan, but God’s better plan is redirecting his.

He said to me, “God is in control of this company. We are here to serve Him. If He wants to close it down, it will be closed down. If He wants it to continue, it will continue. My job is just to treat my employees and clients fairly and faithfully each day. God gives me each day what I need.”

It really is that simple. Only faith in God can give us this kind of peace each day.

Reflection #3 – Living One Day at a Time

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Living One Day at a Time

Living one day at a time is hard for us. We like to live a week, or a month, a year, or even a decade at a time.

We want to have the future staked out, all set and ready to go, fully planned, everything accounted for, with no loose ends. We want to control the future. Then we feel safe: everything’s locked up and tied down.

We like to live tomorrow today to ensure we’re okay.

But God doesn’t want us to live that way. Because we can’t. He doesn’t want us to try to be God Who alone determines the end from the beginning. (see Isaiah 46:10)  

This is His ‘Law of Manna’ which He gave Israel in the desert long ago: Gather enough for one day only. One day at a time. And trust Me for tomorrow. (see Exodus 16)

Jesus taught us to pray that way – Give us this day our daily bread. Seek from God what you need today, and don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow shall have plenty of its own worries. (see Matthew 6:34)

There’s nothing wrong with planning. In fact, it’s required. And it’s natural. God created us purpose-filled, planning, forward-thinking. It’s a beautiful thing, imitating our God who always works with a perfect plan and purpose. Just like the beauty of ants working hard to store up for winter. (see Proverbs 6:8)

And just like Jesus who organized and lived His whole life around a set goal and plan: His heart and mind were set on going to the cross in Jerusalem and then back to the glory of heaven.

Still, He embraced the full significance and meaning of what was before Him today. He did not let today get crowded out by tomorrow. He handled each day’s people and crises faithfully, moment-by-moment. (see Luke 13:32-33, Mark 10:49)

The problem is not with our planning. The problem comes when we don’t trust God’s planning. We want to live one month or year at a time because God may have some loose ends in His plans that we need to tie down to make our lives safe. We want to control Him.

But the Lord calls us to make plans, and then submit each day’s plan to Him, and allow His plan to overturn ours. That’s what it means to live one day at a time.

It’s not living carelessly or recklessly or thoughtlessly, but humbly and submissively. Whatever you have planned for tomorrow, just gather enough for today, without anxiety for what tomorrow may bring.

Don’t live tomorrow today. It’s too much. You’ll end up impatiently bypassing today’s opportunities to hug your wife, play with the kids, speak kindly to your client, and call that person in distress.  

You need all your wits about you for what is in front of you so don’t add tomorrow’s burdens to an already full plate.

Ed Welch, Meditations on Fear, Worry and Trust

COVID-19 is a huge disruption to everyone’s plans. Governments had different plans for the economy, stockholders had different pans for their portfolios, students had different plans for the school year, families had different plans for Spring Break, pastors had different plans for their catechism classes.

Yet in this unusual lockdown season with all its pain, God has provided special opportunities for families to enjoy time together. Let’s make the most of each day of it!

God is training us – again – to live ‘DV’ (Deo Volente): if God wills we will do this or that, because we do not have tomorrow in our hands. (see James 4:11-15)

So, as you live in light of your goals for yourself, your family and your business, see today’s events, problems, interruptions, opportunities, conversations as important.

The people were in a hurry to get Jesus to Jerusalem to make Him a King. Jesus was also focused on Jerusalem for a different purpose, but He stopped for Bartimaeus because this needy blind man was before Him right now.

So live one day at a time. Make the most of today. Rather than throw away the present through fear and impatience because tomorrow is already upon you, choose to enjoy the people and gifts God has put in your life, to address patiently the issues, problems, people that are in front of you.

Don’t live tomorrow today. Live one day at a time. Put tomorrow under God’s promise: I will be with you always.  And know that His grace is sufficient for you today. His mercies are new every morning. (see Lamentations 3:23)

Reflection #2 – Faith vs. the Virus

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Faith vs. the Virus

Can faith in God beat the virus?

Hundreds of people gathered for worship this week at Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, defying the state’s ban on gatherings over 50.

Pastor Tony Spell and his congregation were not going to allow some ‘dictator law’ to prohibit worship assemblies. Besides, his church claims to have special faith-powers to fight the virus. They distributed ‘anointed handkerchiefs’ with special ‘healing virtues’ to their members. [Fox News, March 19, 2020]

So what about that? Can the power of faith keep the virus away?  Who needs to worry about physical contact by meeting together when the Lord is your shield?

I hope that we find such notions not just weird, but offensive. But how then should we understand amazing promises like the one we find in Psalm 91?  In Psalm 91, God is speaking of plagues like COVID-19. He promises:

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

Psalm 91

I don’t know whether Pastor Spell used this verse this way, but many pastors use Psalm 91 to say that if you have enough faith you can ward off the virus or be healed of the disease. One example is a New Zealand “pastor” who declared:

God allows epidemics, pestilence, and famine when people have departed from faith in Him, but for Bible-believing, born-again Christians who pay their tithes God assures them protection from the virus in Psalm 91. [Todd Friel, Wretched Radio, Mar. 9, 2020]

New Zealand “pastor”

This is a scandalous abuse of God’s Word! But, again, how should we understand such a promise in light of the current ‘pestilence that stalks in darkness’ (Psalm 91:6)?

Does faith in God make a real difference? Does your Christian faith have the power to fight and destroy this virus? Certainly!

This promise is for all who trust in God, and have taken refuge under the shadow of His mighty eagle’s wings. The plague will destroy many but it will not come near you. In fact, you are so safe and secure from the war and the plague that you will not fear when it comes. (Psalm 91:5-6)  

Really?  These promises seem too good to be real. And, as we sometimes say with advertising, if it looks too good to be true, it likely is too good to be true. You say, “As good as this promise sounds and feels to me, it surely doesn’t look true for my friend who’s a believer and is in the ICU with COVID-19, and I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

But it is true. It’s true for you, believer. It’s true for every believer. Right now. This thing is not going to take your life away from you – whatever painful, terrible, fatal thing you face. This is not going to steal your future from you. This is not going to destroy your hopes and dreams as a believer. This is not going to take you off the road that leads to perfect glory. This is not going to destroy your life’s investment.

This promise makes sense only when you measure life the way the Bible does – not the way the world does: having this world’s temporary toys and joys and wealth.  If you measure God’s promises with a secular tape, they do not add up. They’re a cruel joke.

But if you measure God’s promises the way God views life and safety, then they’re absolutely true and trustworthy. When you understand from God’s true and ultimate perspective that the real life of peace, safety and joy is life lived in the embrace of God, then you know that the virus can’t touch your life.

Nothing can touch the life you have with God. Nothing can touch the love you have in Jesus Christ. Nothing can touch your safety on the road to heaven. Nothing can touch your eternal inheritance.

Even if the stock markets tumble and you lose all your earthly investments, that can’t come near you! That can’t touch your eternal inheritance which is reserved for you in heaven with Jesus.

Dear Christian, faith does not protect your short, earthly life from the virus. It does not replace your need for hand sanitizer and social distancing and whatever precautions you must take to protect your neighbor and yourself.

But faith in God does give you far greater protection than any cleanser or vaccine can. Faith conquers viruses, flus, grief, abuse, even death, because faith joins you to the Mighty Conqueror, Jesus Christ. In Him we are (already now) more than conquerors through Christ who loved us! (Romans 8:37)

So don’t live on your own, far away from God. That’s a sure death even if you never catch the virus, even if you are wealthier than Warren Buffet. But run to the Lord Jesus Christ, and you’re guaranteed life, no matter what hits you in this world.

Reflection #1 – Death of a Hero

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

You can listen to his first reflection here. Or, read the transcript below.

Death of a Hero

On December 30, several weeks into a mysterious disease outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a little-known ophthalmologist named Dr. Li Wenliang, chatted online with fellow doctors. He wrote:

A new coronavirus infection has been confirmed and its type is being identified. Inform all family and relatives to be on guard.

Dr. Li Wenliang

As Dr. Wenliang saw more of these SARS-like infections, he continued to sound the alarm. But local authorities downplayed the outbreak and its risk to the public. They accused him of telling lies and reprimanded him for severely disturbing the social order. They pressed him to sign a gag order.

After signing the order, Li could not keep silent. He shared his concerns online and spoke with journalists in the midst of a political system that does not tolerate dissent. He warned his fellow medical staff to wear protective gear. He kept urging the authorities to warn the public against this severe outbreak.

Finally, the authorities had to recognize that Dr. Wenliang had uncovered a coronavirus from the same deadly family as SARS. He had won the battle to inform the public and saved many lives by sounding the alarm.

But Li did not fare so well himself. While treating an infected patient for glaucoma, he contracted COVID-19 from the coronavirus. He was hospitalized on January 12 for coughing and fever. As his condition deteriorated, he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit at Wuhan Central Hospital where he died on February 7. He was 34 years old.  He is survived by a son, and by his wife who is pregnant with their second child. [Hillary Leung, ‘An Eternal Hero,’ Time, Feb. 7, 2020]

After his death, many in China celebrated the humble doctor as “an eternal hero” and continue to honour his sacrifice.

As I read Dr. Wenliang’s story I was moved to give thanks for his courageous concern for his community. He was willing to risk rejection and infection to save others. I do not know whether he was a Christian, but his story is an inspiration for me in at least two ways.

First, it reminds me of the greatest Hero of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, who fought for His people all the way to death. When His people faced the ultimate sin-virus and death-disease, He sacrificed His life to save us. He lay down His life for the sheep. His commitment to our eternal well-being was so great that He was willing to suffer condemnation, rejection, and persecution for our salvation.

While Li could not conquer the coronavirus through his death, Jesus could conquer the sin-virus – and every other virus! – through His death on the cross, and He did! After His death on Good Friday, He rose again on Sunday morning in new life to share His victory with all who believe in Him. Everyone who believes in Jesus has victory over sin, disease and death. Yes, we will die. Maybe even from COVID-19. Yet we shall live. Jesus will take our souls to heaven and raise our bodies from the grave on the last day. In Him, we are totally secure.

The second lesson for me from Dr. Wengliang’s story is the importance of risking our lives for our neighbour’s good. The knowledge that something dangerous had arisen propelled him to inform and warn and work to save the lives of others. He could not remain silent even when the authorities tried to gag him.

How much more should we whose lives were saved by Jesus be willing to offer our lives to rescue others for Jesus’ sake? This includes helping to slow the spread of the virus. It also includes our willingness to step out to help those who are hurt by the virus. And what about sacrificing our lives for the Lord’s sake every day for our wives, husbands, children, clients, co-workers, employees and employers? Such love is the Christian’s everyday life.

Above all, true love for our neighbour calls the followers of Jesus to warn the world of the deadliest virus of all – our sin – and the coming judgment, and also to proclaim the Good News of the greatest Hero of all – Jesus saves!