Reflection #27 – Out of Energy?

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

Out of Energy?

It takes a lot of energy to live and work for the Lord.

Whatever your calling or station in life, you need a lot of strength. Whether you are an unemployed person longing and looking for work, a teacher preparing for online classes, a mother holding the fort at home while trying to make sure the school work’s getting done, a wife trying to care for her husband who’s locked down in a nursing home, an elder or deacon trying to stay connected to his district, life takes a lot out of you.

It doesn’t just take physical energy, it takes spiritual energy. By spiritual energy I mean the energy of faith to keep pressing on in your calling; keep believing the promises of God; keep your sights set on the right, Christ-centered, God-glorifying goals; to remain confident and courageous when you face disappointments; to be patient when things aren’t going as you planned; and to keep rejoicing in the Lord whatever your circumstances. Serving the Lord faithfully takes a lot of strength.

Sometimes we feel drained with nothing left to give. Sometimes we feel we can’t face what is in front of us; the tasks for today are too much; the pressures of worry about tomorrow are paralyzing us. A difficult child, marriage struggles, a son who is wandering from the faith, troubles with the business, aging parents who need your support – these are heavy loads that require a lot of physical, emotional and spiritual strength.

And the problem is not likely going away anytime soon; you’ll wake up to it again tomorrow morning.

So where are you going to find the energy? Coffee can only take you so far! Let me encourage you with what the apostle Paul says about his energy source:

We proclaim Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.

Colossians 1:28-29

Paul’s aim was high. He wanted to proclaim Christ so that he could present everyone mature in Christ. A good and godly goal like this is very hard work. It made Paul toil and strive. He was not adequate for this task. He did not have the strength for it. It was too much for him. He recognized that he was only a jar of clay, a weak human instrument doing Christ’s work which was too heavy for Paul to do. 

But rather than cave on his goals, he relied on an Energy Source that gave him what he needed for his important work: I toil and strive with all His energy. Christ’s energy. He knew that only Christ could do the work of Christ through him. Only Christ can do the work of Christ He gives you to do!

That energy is a specific kind of energy – the energy of Christ’s resurrection power. The power that raised Him from the dead is the power of new life that He works in you to accomplish the things you cannot do. (see Ephesians 1:19-20, Hebrews 13:20-21)

That’s why Paul could say, I can do all things – all things God calls me to do – through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

And this Christ-energy by which Paul did his work did not operate like battery power but more like direct current. He said: I strive with all His energy which powerfully works in me. That means: Christ’s power is constantly being supplied to me so that I am dependent on His energy 100% of the time. The power of the crucified and risen Christ is an ever-present, ever-working power through His Holy Spirit.

So let us learn from this that we need the Lord’s strength to do our important daily work at home and wherever our calling takes us. And we need His strength daily, continually. This means we should be in constant prayer for His help in the work we do and the challenges we face.

Let us repent of trying to do His work in our strength. Instead, let us pray for ourselves and for one another so that God’s power may rest upon us. This brings God glory and gives us strength.

Sometimes God may even add troubles to our trials to make us still more dependent on Christ. He gave Paul a ‘thorn in the flesh,’ and wouldn’t take it away from him so that God’s power would be magnified in Paul’s weakness. (see 2 Corinthians 12:8-10) 

As David strengthened himself in the LORD his God (I Samuel 30:6), let us also learn where the Source of our energy lies. We need the Lord. Rather than compromise godly goals so that we can do our work in our own power, let us keep God’s goals and give up on our own power. We must seek Him in faith, through constant prayer.

Let us strive with all His energy which powerfully works in those who believe.

Reflection #26 – Haman Hangs

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

Haman Hangs

Remember Esther? Though God’s name is not mentioned in this book of the Bible, the true story of Esther is full of God’s power and love for His Church.

Esther is a book of reversals. An evil man named Haman was plotting against the Church, but every wicked scheme he dreamed up came back on his own head.

Haman was the Vice-President of the Persian empire. Haman hated the Jewish people, the Church in Old Testament times.

As Vice-President, everyone had to bow before him. And he expected his enemy, Mordecai the Jew, to lead him on the King’s horse down Main Street and have everyone bow before Haman. But in the end Haman led the horse while Mordecai sat on it and received the honor.

Haman had the Emperor make a law that declared that on a certain day the Persian people could assault and kill as many Jews as they wanted. In the end that law was reversed, and the Jews were permitted to kill anybody who lifted a finger against them.

Haman built a gallows in his back yard, 75 feet high, for Mordecai to be hanged on. But in a shocking reversal, the tables were turned against Haman, and the King commanded his officials:

“Hang Haman on that!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.

Esther 7:10

Though it looked like Mordecai would hang and Haman reign, in the end, Haman hangs and Mordecai reigns.

This is the reversal God promises His people. The Enemy will hang on the gallows he has prepared for God’s people. Satan’s schemes will come back on his own head.

In Psalm 7 we read:

The wicked man makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and his violence descends on his own head.

Psalm 7:15-16; 57:6

David makes God’s promise his prayer:

And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it—to his destruction!

Psalm 35:8

Let’s pray this same prayer in our times. There’s no doubt that Satan, the enemy of our souls and the adversary of the Church, is making every effort to use the COVID-19 shutdown to weaken the church of Jesus around the world. The devil is working hard to get the church out of his way.

There are huge personal dangers to not meeting together for such a long period of time.

We can easily become disconnected and lose our way. Our faith in God, our commitment to assembling for worship, and our love for His people can grow cold. The fires of heavenly desire, fuelled in the communion of the saints, can burn low. Spiritual laziness finds more opportunity to settle in among us.

And there are huge public dangers to not meeting together because of the shutdown.

Local and national governments around the world can use the emergency measures to limit the church’s freedoms in the long term. Opponents of the church see this as an open door to lash out against the people of God and increase surveillance on the church’s ministry. For some reason drive-thru beer is considered essential while drive-in worship is declared illegal.   

So let us pray against Satan’s schemes against the people of God. Let’s resist him, standing firm in our faith. Pray that he will fall into the pit that he has dug for us. Pray that he will hang on the gallows he has built for us.

In spite of the personal and public dangers of shutdown, God is able to make His Church flourish. He is able to make His people cherish more than before the communion of the saints. He is able to extend the reach of the Gospel through the worldwide web. He is able to promote the Christian faith through the love and compassion that people show to their neighbors. He is able to expose and bring down governments and officials who persecute His people.

Pray that God will do this.

Pray for yourself. Pray that your faith will not hang on the gallows Satan has built for your soul. Pray that God will increase your faith in Him and your love for all the saints.

Pray that the virus crisis will weaken and even topple governments that persecute Christians.

Pray that God will use the fear of millions who are lost to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and add them to His church.

Pray that Satan will hang in the gallows he has built for us!

Haman hangs and Mordecai reigns. What encouragement and motivation for the people of God! Jesus promised:

I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

It’s not just a promise. Jesus did it! He was hanged on a cross and killed, and it looked like Satan reigned: Jesus hangs while Satan reigns. But then Jesus rose, proving Satan is the big Loser. Now Jesus reigns and Satan hangs.

Satan is chained and is headed for the eternal gallows.

Reflection #25 – Do Not Worry

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

Do Not Worry

“Do not worry.Jesus said. (Matthew 6:25) Really?! Telling me not to worry is not going to do anything to stop my worrying!

Worry and anxiety seem so inescapable. Worry is such a deeply ingrained exercise of the human mind. It’s the fixation of the mind on the problems or potential problems relating to our needs and goals.

Jesus described worry as a preoccupation with earthly issues of life like food, drink, and clothing. He said, Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will wear.

Worry focuses on the things that could go wrong, the things that we might miss out on, the problems and pains that might come our way. Worry is tormenting yourself with disturbing thoughts about what might happen, and then stresses overtime how to prevent anything bad.

We worry about whether we’re going to be able to keep our jobs and pay our mortgage. We worry about whether we’ll ever get that renovated kitchen we’ve wanted for a long time. We worry that we might get that disease that runs in the family. 

We worry that our children might miss out on some of the pleasures of life our culture says they should have. We worry about what others might say if we drive around in a second-rate vehicle. We worry about whether there’s going to be enough rain and sunshine for the crops this year.

The global shake-up caused by the virus and our response to it gives us plenty of reason to rev up our worrying several notches.

Worry, worry, worry. We worry about everything. You worry. I worry. So it does no good to tell me not to worry. Unless…

Unless you give me a good reason not to worry. Unless you have an alternative for me. That’s exactly what Jesus does in Matthew 6. He came to give us a reason not to worthy: God. He came to bring us into a relationship with God as our heavenly Father who cares for His children perfectly.

Jesus taught us that knowing and having God as our heavenly Father is the cure to every worry. He not only knows all our needs, but He also has the power to control what we need, and the love to provide what we need. Trusting Him to care for you replaces the need to worry.

Jesus reminded us that our heavenly Father feeds even worthless little sparrows, though they don’t plant, harvest or store food. He dresses up even worthless field lilies with beautifully designed clothing, though the lilies don’t shop, spin or use a sewing machine.

Since God values you so much more than birds and lilies – and you do work hard to make a living and put food on the table – can you not give all your needs and plans and goals to the heavenly Father and leave them with Him?  With Him your life is in excellent hands. Trust Him to do a good job of caring for you! If He gave up His best for you – His own Son to die on a cross – you can surely trust Him to take care of the rest for you. (see Romans 8:32)

Then, said Jesus, instead of putting all that energy into worrying about earthly things, you’ll have so much extra energy to put into what’s most important: seeking God’s kingdom, investing in heaven.

Worry is a secular way of life. It’s the belief that all there is in life is just me and that need for food and clothing, and God is out of the picture. It’s up to me to pursue them and guarantee my own physical security. We may not be officially secular in our beliefs, but too often we’re functionally secular!

We can run around like unbelievers fretting about having our earthly needs and goals met.

But faith is entrusting your fragile life in an unpredictable world to a trustworthy heavenly Father.  Every time you have a worry, put it There! Put it in His hand. So you can plan and work without the added stress of worry (and all the misery that brings to other people!), and stay preoccupied with kingdom matters like loving, serving and sharing Jesus Christ.

Let’s live with our focus on God, not on the difficulties. Let’s set our minds on knowing God, not on controlling our future.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

She added:“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” (Corrie Ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook)

If you don’t believe in Jesus, then you don’t have a relationship with God as your heavenly Father. And then you don’t have a place to put your worries. You are alone. God calls you to give up on yourself and on every earthly power. He calls you to trust in Jesus as Your Saviour so that God becomes your heavenly Father.

And with Him, there’s no need to worry. Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Reflection #24 – Kingdoms Totter

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

Kingdoms Totter

Psalm 46 is immensely comforting for Christ’s Church on earth, not only for its opening words, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” but also for its middle words:

God is in the midst of [His Church]; she shall not be moved…The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:4-7

What a contrast in this Psalm between the tottering kingdoms of this world, surrounded on either side by the church’s stability and security. The kingdoms of this world shudder, shake and fall, but the kingdom of Christ shall not be moved!

This is amazing, especially when you consider how weak and weaponless the church is from a human standpoint. Just a bunch of people who believe in Jesus, gather for worship, pray to God, read their Bibles, love God’s commandments, and tell others the Good News of salvation. Where’s the power in that?

Yet, mighty Superpowers shake. Kingdoms totter. Dictators dodder. They have all through history. They do now. Nations feel their frailty and are afraid.

We shouldn’t be surprised, because the nations are but men, but it still shocks us to see how quickly the world with all its power, wealth and technology can go into upheaval.

Nations the world over are in shutdown mode due to the coronavirus. They’re reeling from the tidal waves coming in from the resulting economic earthquake. The rising economies of Superpowers suddenly went crash.

And the nations are also embroiled in an oil war. Aggravated by the worldwide shutdown, crude oil fell to a historic $-37 USD per barrel this week. We have yet to see the impact this will have on relations between oil-producing nations, especially Russia, the USA, and the Middle-East.

Then there’s the W.H.O. Corruption was exposed at the highest levels of the World Health Organization in its lies and cover-up for China’s criminal mishandling of the novel coronavirus. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party is aggressively exploiting the current crisis by tightening its grip on Hong Kong and exercising control over African nations. And what will result from the escalating tensions between America and China?

Meanwhile, the powerful dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, lies in critical condition in a hospital bed following emergency open-heart surgery on April 12. Uganda’s economy is being crippled by a second wave of locust invasion. Zimbabwe is being ravaged by a second year of famine and devastating poverty. Tanzania is overwhelmed by floods. The list goes on.

Kingdoms totter. Superpowers tremble. Nations shake. It’s a global shake-up. We live in a world that’s crumbling.

I’m not saying that this is the end of the world. God alone knows when that Day will come. But we do know that the kingdoms of this earth are inherently unstable. They rise and they fall. According to the Bible, they have the number of man – 666 – the number of incompleteness and weakness. They carry within themselves the seeds of their own destruction. (see Revelation 13:18)

And one day, when the Lord returns, the kingdoms of this world will perish forever. They will experience the ultimate, eternal shutdown.

But there is one kingdom in this world that can not totter or shake. It’s the kingdom and church of our Lord and of His Christ. She shall not be moved. (Psalm 46:5)

Not because of her own strength. As Christians, we are weak and vulnerable, easily tempted and distracted. Our strength is God. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:5,7) His strength is invincible. His help is faithful and ever-present. His love is steadfast.

Jesus died to rescue this kingdom for God out of this world. His powerful life and death, and resurrection, as the Son of God, guarantees the eternal security of this kingdom.

With Him in our midst, we cannot fail and we cannot fall, even though we will face tribulation, sickness, hardship, heresies, persecutions until Jesus returns to judge the world and to take His Church with Him into the new heavens and the new earth.

Whatever earthly kingdom you belong to, be thankful for its blessings, opportunities and freedoms; serve your country well. But don’t trust in it or worship it. It will perish.

Put your hope in Jesus Christ and He will make you part of His global kingdom which will never perish, which will last forever, and where you will find eternal life with Him.

As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, what peace and stability we have to offer to people now, in a time of global shake-up and in a world that is inherently unstable.

Reflection #23 – Give Me the Real Jesus, Please

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

Give Me the Real Jesus, Please

The great benefit of the internet and social media in times like these is that the Good News is so readily available. We can connect to Hope anytime, anywhere. God’s great Gift of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the Bible is so accessible today.

We may be quarantined but the Gospel is not!

But the internet also poses a great danger – Bad News is also readily available. I don’t mean Bad News like atheism which offers no hope, but leaves you to look for the cure where the problem is – in nature, in yourself.

I mean Bad News dressed up in Christian costume. I mean men and women who talk about Jesus but preach their own fictitious version of Him – a version of Jesus that disagrees with Jesus’ version of Jesus which He wrote down for us in the Bible.  I mean motivational speakers who borrow Christian language to sell their self-help message.

Beware of a counterfeit jesus. Beware of the false gospel.

Some preach Jesus as the Medicine Man who will heal you now if you have enough faith, or as the Money Man who will make you rich now if you do the right things. Some present him as a Motivational Mentor, your inspirational life coach who helps you become a better you. Others preach Him as the Immaculate Model for you to follow to get to God.

I’ve even witnessed a he-man version of Jesus – the Muscle Man Jesus, the Tough Guy who doesn’t weaken or weep, but lands a mighty fist on everyone who crosses him.

Now there’s something to each of these. Jesus does heal His followers, not always in this life, but perfectly and always in the life to come. He is pleased to give some of His people wealth so that they may generously serve His kingdom with it. He is the perfect Man of God whose model of living motivates us to walk in His steps, and to fight the good fight of faith. He will punish all who refuse to embrace Him as their Saviour and Lord.

But the problem is that false teachers take a secondary aspect of Jesus’ mission, and then twist Scripture to make it the main thing they preach, so you end up with a counterfeit jesus who can’t save you. That’s what makes it such Bad News. The false jesus they preach is an idol that will destroy you if you believe in it.

This is not the Jesus of the Bible. This is not the Jesus of historic Christianity proclaimed by the apostles of Jesus.

The counterfeiters teach that if you tithe 10% God will make you financially rich, and that your words of faith have power to get from God whatever you ask of Him. But the Jesus of the Bible says that if you follow Him you should expect to suffer for His Name, and be willing to leave everything you own for His sake. When Paul suffered greatly from some affliction, he prayed in faith for God to remove the thorn from his flesh, but Jesus said, No, My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in your weakness. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9)

The false teachers rarely, if ever, talk about sin and repentance, but Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32) They gush feel-good sound-bytes of positivity, but Jesus brought God’s message of truth and mercy. He taught us that every sinner who falls down before God and says, God, be merciful to me, a sinner (Luke 18:13) will be lifted up.

He didn’t come to improve you, but to make a new you, so that you die to yourself and become a new person in Christ. Our greatest need is not a good Model to follow, but a Mediator who will take our judgment and die in our place because we are too sinful to follow a good Model. 

Give me the real Jesus, please!

The real Jesus is the Merciful Mediator who gave His life as a payment and punishment for sin. Just before Jesus entered this world as a newborn baby, an angel told Joseph: You shall give Him the name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) That’s His name. That’s His mission. That’s His message.

If you trust in Him to rescue you from your wickedness as a sinner, Jesus will give you a salvation that is far better than anything this world and its wealth and health can ever give. He will give you an eternal life with God that is full of joy, strength and glory.

In this world you will have suffering when you follow Jesus, but the life to come will be Paradise with God.

So as you look for hope online, beware of the counterfeit Jesus, and be sure to connect to the message of the Merciful Mediator who bore our sins in His body on the tree to save us from God’s eternal wrath and to bring us into God’s eternal love.

Reflection #22 – Religion Goes Viral

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

Religion Goes Viral

Since the beginning of March, when the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt worldwide, religion has been on the rise.

Around the world non-Christians, both with and without a Christian background, are tuning in to livestream church services in large numbers. One Christian missionary in Italy reported that even though he has a congregation of about 50 members, his livestream audience jumped to 700 after the second week of lockdown in mid-March.

The Chinese authorities in Shandong province recently banned online services because of the number of people flocking to the internet in search of a message of hope.

People are turning to the Bible in record numbers.

The number of Facebook followers for churches and religious organizations has also surged.

Jeanet Bentzen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, has been studying ‘Google Trends’ data on internet searches for prayer. She writes:

The data-timeline for search intensity on ‘prayer’ is flat before a country registers its first case of Covid-19, and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world.

The increases in prayer intensity are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available.

see Carol Glatz, “Surge in online Google searches for ‘prayer,'” The Tablet

Bentzen concludes that humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis.

A secular worldview accounts for this rise in religion as an irrational response to fear. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe and fires off signals to send you into protection mode. Quarantine and other precautions are sufficient, but if your brain still sends you anxiety signals, try mediation and train your brain to let go of scary thoughts. (“This is Your Brain on Quarantine…and How to Cope,” Kathryn Soule)

But as Christians, we know that eternity is in our hearts. We are made in the image of God. We are all never-dying souls who stand in an inescapable relationship with a Personal God who made us. We will have to answer to Him for every deed, word and thought. The rise of religion is people’s innate sense of this truth. Even the atheist knows and feels this deep within his conscience. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-16)

What Paul said to the people of Athens is also true now: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.”

Fear for safety in the face of sickness, death and huge economic threats is not irrational. Fear that drives us to look for help in religion, in something bigger than ourselves, something higher than anything or anyone in this world can offer is very rational and logical. It’s exactly the right thing to do.

But here’s the problem: religion itself is not enough. There’s a lot of religion that’s just plain wrong. Though we’re spiritual and religious beings by nature because we’re created in the image of God, our hearts and minds are twisted by sin. So we reach out to false gods and false religions.

Some people eat bats and tigers so that the Spirit of the animal enters them and makes them strong and gives them power over sickness. That’s spiritual, but it’s wrong. Becoming a religious person can’t save you if the spirituality you’ve chosen is false.

But there is one God who is true. He’s the God who made the universe out of nothing and created you in His image. He made us to trust, obey and worship Him. This is the God we’ve sinned against, and whose judgment we deserve. This is the God who had such amazing pity on us that He came to earth to take our judgment on Himself and die for sinners. His name is Jesus. He died to rescue us from our sin and everything we fear and rose again to give us life.

True spirituality is knowing Him. True religion is believing in this God.

When we were reaching out to false religions, and even to “no-religion,” for answers, He reached out to us with the Answer.  He came to us in Jesus Christ. And He gave us the true message about Himself in the Bible.

If you’re looking for true religion, He is the Person to go to. The Bible is the book for you!

Let’s pray that in this season where religion is going viral, God will reach out to those who are searching for something bigger, stronger and better than themselves, that He will find them and show Himself to them.

And let us be His witnesses in our presence on-line and everywhere else.

Reflection #21 – ‘My Worth is Not in What I Own’

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

‘My Worth is Not in What I Own’

When God sent wind and war Job’s way, he lost almost everything: his 500 donkeys, 1,000 oxen, 3,000 camels, 7,000 sheep, many servants, and all his happy family – 7 sons and 3 daughters. Then he lost his health and his wife’s support. You can hardly imagine a greater personal disaster than his.

From riches to rags in one day!

Job was utterly crushed. In his agony and distress, what did he do? He worshiped God and confessed his faith. He said:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21

As painful and humiliating as this was for him, if he measured his worth by what he owned, His life would have lost all its value. But Job knew and confessed a reality that was bigger than himself: God.

Even when he lost everything else he knew he still had the LORD His God. He had devoted his whole life to following God and fighting sin. His #1 desire for His family was to see their sins washed away and their lives consecrated to God. He didn’t just have God as a part of His life. God was his life!

What a test for Job’s faith! Did he believe in God because his life was good and he had lots of stuff? Was God good for him only in the good times? Or did he believe in God for God’s own sake, knowing that God was his life and his only true worth, even if he had nothing else?

His confession of faith in disaster proved that though he owned stuff, his stuff never owned him. My farm, my family, my health and my life, are the Lord’s. He has the power and right to give them. He has the power and right to take them. It’s not really my own. My life is His

When crisis strikes, our faith is put to the test. Do we believe God’s right over our life? Do we accept His ownership of our business? Do we confess that He holds the title to our health and family? Do we join this grieving man in saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord

Or do we take the side of Job’s wife in complaining against the Lord as if God owed her everything? She said to her husband:

Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!

Job 2:10

She put up with God while He gave her wealth and a comfortable life, but cursed Him when hard times came.

Crises are a test of faith – Is my worth in what I own, and I’ll take God with it? Or: Do I find my worth in God, and I’ll accept loss with it? Will I accept God only because good things happen to me, or will I accept God because He is God? And He is right and good no matter what happens to me.

When God strips away from us the things of this earth we enjoy, He is asking us whether we love Him more than these. Have I put my faith in God or in idols?

Hulk Hogan is not my hero but he said it quite well:

In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship.

God is teaching us, ‘You want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theatres. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can’t go to church.’

Hulk Hogan

Finding your worth in what you own is a false measurement. It devalues life, and robs us of true stability, peace, joy and self-worth. Finding our worth in the God who made us in His image and then sent His Son to rescue us when we fell into sin and death, is the only true measurement of life.

William Temple wrote:

My worth is what I am worth to God, and that is a marvellous great deal, for Christ died for me.

William Temple

In good times and in bad times, when the LORD gives and when He takes away, hope in God. Then, no matter what happens to your health, wealth and family, you belong to the One Who gave up His Son for you so that you have abundant life with God both now and after you die.

That’s true wealth. It can never lose its value, and neither can you! As the hymn says:

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

Words and Music: Keith and Kristyn Getty, Graham Kendrick – © 2014 Getty Music Publishing

Reflection #20 – Escape from Suffering

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

Escape from Suffering

Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does God allow it? Why doesn’t He put a stop to it? Is there a way out? For many people these are pressing questions right now, cries from the heart for those who are face-to-face with poverty, sickness, and death.

All suffering has the same source – mankind’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden long ago. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, rejected God and His word, they brought the world under a curse of suffering and death.

Someone said: “When Adam and Eve broke the rules in the garden they broke the world.”  (Timothy Barnett, “The Bible, Jesus, and Covid-19,” passiontoreach.com)

So all suffering has the same source, but not all suffering is the same kind.

Some suffering comes from “Moral Evil: war, violence, abuse. We may suffer as a result of our own moral failures and sins (family breakdown caused by alcoholism or adultery), or we may suffer terribly because of those who sin against us (slavery, theft, rape) .    

Another kind of suffering comes from what we call “Natural Evil: hurricanes, drought, cancer, viruses.

Although God is not to be blamed for the suffering in this world, He does rule over it and could stop it if He wanted to. For His own perfect reasons – some of which we do know (God is calling us to turn back to Him), and many of which we don’t know because we don’t know the whole mind of God – God allows suffering.

Even though He allows it for a time, our good and gracious God has a provided a way of escape from  all suffering and one day He will put a complete stop to it, as long as we take His way of escape.

But God’s way of escape is not the same as escapism – man-made dead-end roads that lead only to eternal suffering.

One example is karmic religions. Whatever suffering you bear you deserve personally for being bad in your past lives, and now you have to suffer your way out of it alone, until after many lives of living rightly, you enlighten your way into an impersonal Nirvana. No one can help you. To help someone is to slow down his progress. You’ve got to heal yourself. It is a merciless system.

Another false method of dealing with suffering is atheism. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, some people will get lucky, and some are going to get hurt. That’s nature’s way, Mother Nature’s random, heedless indifference. If you’re suffering, too bad for you. There’s no answer, but here’s a pill for some relief, and several stiff drinks on the side when you’re feeling low, and, when you really run stuck, Dr. Death has a syringe to administer your final solution.

Imagine if atheism were true. Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try; No hell below us; Above us, only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. (John Lennon)  What a terrifying thought! No God, no right, no wrong, no justice, no injustice, no way out.

There’s no answer there. Reducing man to a machine is a tragic, hopeless lie. Under Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and the abortion machine, atheism has brutally killed hundreds of millions in the last century alone.

Others pursue the hedonistic path. Try pleasure. Escape from suffering in an endless Disneyworld of vacations, entertainments, narcotics, fantasies, new-and-better partners. But when we awake, the pain is still there. Each pleasure-pursuit leaves us only more empty, and closer to dead.

In contrast to every form of escapism that man invents, God alone offers the true escape from suffering. How? He came into this world and suffered for us. No other god has ever done this.

The one true God who made the world, and placed it under a curse when mankind rejected Him, was so pained by our misery and suffering, that He came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ and suffered for us in order to remove suffering from us.

God the Father knows what it is to lose a Son. Jesus was the victim of horrible abuse and injustice. He cried. He cried out to His Father in pain. He knows what it is to be persecuted, betrayed and utterly alone. He knows all about suffering. He’s been through hell for us. He truly feels your pain, and He cares.

He was a man of sorrows. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)  He took all our suffering and made it His very own until it destroyed Him, and then rose from the grave in victory. In Jesus Christ all suffering finds its personal answer.

Because of Him one day God will put a stop to all suffering for everyone who takes His way of escape.

Reflection #19 – Power to Change

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

Power to Change

Dr. David Wood recalls April, 1996:

I was sitting in a jail cell. I had lost 80 pounds from refusing to eat, and the prison doctor was threatening to begin tube feeding me. My lawyer said that the psychiatrist was going to have me sent to my third mental hospital. I was 20 years old. I had hurt everyone around me, my life was destroyed, and I just didn’t care. The only thing that kept me going at all was that there were more people I wanted to hurt. I viewed human beings as disgusting blobs of cells, cosmic accidents, delusional wastes of consciousness. The faster we were all wiped out – the better.

Then I got slapped in the face by the resurrection of Jesus.

Dr. David Wood

Knowing the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything for David. His view of himself, other people and the world was radically transformed. He began to understand and feel his real purpose for living.

The resurrection of Jesus is still the most important event in history nearly 2,000 years after Easter.

We have reflected on Easter as God’s open door to hope. But let’s also think about Easter as God’s power to change us. Jesus’ resurrection means that our sins are paid in full. But, as David’s testimony confirms, Jesus’ resurrection also brings power to change.

We need outside power to change our lives. We do not have the moral or spiritual power to change ourselves. The Bible describes human nature accurately: We are dead in sin. (see Ephesians 2:1-5) We are against God, and in love with sin. We need no less than a spiritual resurrection. We need to be born again, Jesus said. (John 3:3)

Real change comes when the power of the risen Christ invades our internal graveyards. There’s hope for each one of us no matter how lost we are! That divine power that raised Jesus can also raise you up from your moral and spiritual death. And make you alive. Alive to God. Alive to good. Alive to kindness. Alive to your family. Alive to hope.

If you call on the name of Jesus who died and rose again, if you ask Him to save you from your sins and change you, He will raise you up. His power will invade you and make you a new person, with new desires and attitudes and behaviours.

This new life begins as a small seed and keeps growing and maturing for the rest of your life.

But it doesn’t grow by its own power. Everyday again, we need the power of Christ’s resurrection to keep on working in us so that we grow in grace.

Jesus said to His followers, I am the Vine; you are the branches…apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

So don’t let Easter fade from view. Easter is an open door to life. It’s power to change. We need Easter everyday. No, not Easter itself, but Jesus Himself, risen from the dead and now is seated on heaven’s throne, sharing His resurrection power with all His people. That power is for you. He shares it with you through His Holy Spirit.

As Christians, never a day goes by where we don’t need this power of Christ’s resurrection to work in us.

In our current global crisis and homebound living, we feel that! Pressures of work and marriage and children and schooling and finances can make us fearful and impatient. We become frustrated and short-tempered. We get lost in ourselves. Sin attacks and tries to get the upperhand in our lives.

Are you asking the Holy Spirit to work Jesus’ resurrection power in your life? Are you praying for Him to work that in others? If you are not saved, ask Him to begin that work in you today. He will change you. If you are a Christian, ask Him to continue that work in you. He will change you.

The book of Hebrews ends with a beautiful benediction:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ…

Hebrews 13:20-21

If you are convinced that you can’t change, you’re right. But Christ can do what you can’t, and He will if you ask Him. He is power to change, and to keep on changing for good. Ask the Risen Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to equip you with everything good so you can live a life that’s pleasing to God.

Reflection #18 – Fearing the Fallout

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

Fearing the Fallout

Many of us don’t worry much about the coronavirus. But we are worried about the long-term social, economic, political and spiritual fallout that will hit us as a result of the pandemic.

People everywhere are discussing what the new normal will be like when things get going again after the slowdown. What will happen to small businesses? Will our economy quickly ramp up again or will this leave us in a major recession or depression for years to come? In this economic uncertainty should I move forward to implement my business plan?

Will we still have sufficient retirement savings when this is all over? Will I get my job back? How will the increased national debt impact my future and my children’s future? What will happen to our standard of living? Will we have to downsize our lifestyles and earthly dreams?

Will hand sanitizers and social distancing become the new law of the land? Will we ever be able to do public handshakes and hugs again? Will governments use the emergency measures as an opportunity to seize greater control over public and private life? What will come of international relations and trade agreements? Will the tensions between nations caused by the virus lead to war?

How will this affect the church? Will religious liberty suffer a major blow? Will people stop assembling for worship when they discover how easy it is to stay at home in front of their TVs? If you’re in a church plant, how will this affect your fledgling congregation? Will this make us afraid of having contact with one another for fear of passing on sickness? If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like crowds, how hard will it be for you to step into a crowd again? Will reliance on Zoom and Google technology leave a lasting negative impact on how closely we’re able and willing to fellowship with one another?

What will happen to Christian charities? After suffering a major interruption in support, will their donors pick up the pace again as before? Will charities have to downsize or even close their doors? How would that impact our nation and globe?

So there are many, many things to fear, moving forward.

Of course, there could be major positive results as well. Maybe we’ll be more generous toward each other. Maybe we’ll value social connection more. Maybe we’ll learn to value the quiet life and take steps to rush less and meditate more. Maybe fake Christianity will take a major hit. Perhaps we’ll put less confidence in the economy, in our plans, and in the strength of our own hands. Western culture has a very proud and self-sufficient spirit. Maybe we will repent? Maybe we’ll be more in tune with our mortality and look to God for life’s true remedy.

In the midst of all the fears we have for the uncertain future we face, let’s remember that the future is always uncertain. Our earthly expectations and demands for tomorrow are a mirage. We really don’t know what will happen. That was true a year ago, it’s still true now, and will be a year from now.

As Christians, we need to hold onto three great truths to steady our hearts in uncertain times. In his meditation on Psalm 46, Pastor Tim Keller encourages Christians to remember: (Trusting God in Difficult Times, Psalm 46 Meditation)

  1. Your bad things will work out for your good.
    • This is our Solid Rock in the storms of life. Though we cannot know all that God is doing or how he will use it, knowing that God works all things for Your good gives you firm footing and unimaginable peace. When you know that God is always good, then you believe that He will work out all trouble for your good. If you give your fearing and fretting for the future to God, the God of peace will comfort you and enable you to rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4-9; Romans 8:28)
  2. Your good things will not be taken away from you.
    • The things that really matter remain certain at all times. All your sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. You have eternal life. Your citizenship is in heaven. Christ your Mediator is there praying for you, protecting you, and defending you. At the same time, He is with you here and now. Even if all the powers of this world and of hell should conspire to come against you at once, you will never lose the love of God in Christ Jesus and all the riches of your salvation.
  3. Your best things are still to come.
    • When you die you will meet Jesus immediately. You will be with your God to enjoy Him forever. The new heaven and earth will be your everlasting home where, together with all the saints, you will have fullness of joy and eternal pleasures at God’s right hand. Fellow Christians, whatever the fallout in the coming months and years, let these certainties help us keep our footing in all our uncertainties. Let them make us peaceable and kind, faithful and unshakable.

Reflection #17 – The Open Door

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

The Open Door

Easter is an open door. It’s a door out of death into life. It’s a door out of despair into hope.

Jesus opened that door when His dead body, mangled by crucifixion, came back to life on Easter morning. Almost 2000 years ago, Jesus walked out of His tomb, bringing life and immortality into full view. (2 Timothy 1:10)

When His grieving friends came to the tomb early Sunday morning, they were shocked to find it open and empty. They saw only Jesus’ empty grave-clothes, neatly folded up. That same day they met Jesus Himself! Their grief became joy, and they were radically transformed from devastation to confidence and from fear to courage.

A dead man – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God – came back to life by His own power, and that means the world for us! A whole new world. As God’s Messiah, Jesus’ death and resurrection have special virtue and power to conquer sin and the whole curse that sin brought into our world.

Easter is an open door to a life where sickness and death, war and poverty, sin and pain are no more. Everything you could ever want or hope for is found in that historical event – in Jesus Himself. He is that Open Door!

We’re all headed for death and eternal devastation but Jesus is the Way out of there. If you are locked into one of life’s many prisons; if you’re stuck in a grave of bitterness, despair, addiction, or self-love; if you are a slave to the fear of death or to hating God or to seeing no purpose for your life or to anger; then Jesus calls you today to come to Him for an open door out of your living grave.

When you give your life to Him in faith, He will make you a new creation. (see 2 Corinthians 5:17)  He will share with you His victory over death and every other symptom of the curse. And one day He will bring you into the perfect world that He is preparing for all who belong to Him.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Bible sales have been skyrocketing. Publishers report anywhere from a 50% to 150% increase in sales. That’s encouraging because the Bible reveals the Open Door everyone needs.

But at the same time, consumption of alcohol, marijuana, and pornography have also been skyrocketing. There is a marked increase in domestic violence, electronic device fixation and gaming addiction. Many people are looking for comfort in what the Bible calls “broken cisterns that hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)  They’re retreating deeper into their prisons instead of looking for the Open Door.

If, as a Christian, you find that you or your children are looking for shelter in these prisons or other mind-numbing, life-wasting, freedom-destroying behaviours, then let God’s Good Word about Good Friday and Easter bring you to repentance.

May God revive you to find in the Risen Christ a doorway out of your tomb, into His new life of victory over sin. A life filled with purpose and hope, loving and serving your family and neighbors, of striving to please Jesus and to become more like Him. A life that leads to eternal glory where God is all in all.

Easter is Jesus’ open door to new life. It is victory over the grave. This is the ultimate comfort and hope we need every day. It’s the hope that encourages us through all worries and troubles, especially in death. 

In his poem, ‘Time,’ George Herbert wrote, “Death used to be an executioner, but the Gospel makes him just a gardener.” Death used to destroy us, but Christ took care of it in His own body-and-soul on the cross. He took all the punishment out of it. Death no longer has power over us.

All that the enemy Death can do now is plant us like seeds in the ground like a gardener. One day Jesus will raise us up new, strong, immortal and beautiful. (see Tim Keller, On Death, p. 72)

Easter is an open door to life.

Dr. Jonathan Evans, son of beloved African American Pastor Dr. Tony Evans, gave powerful witness to this at the funeral of his mother, Lois Evans, in January. The family had prayed for her to be healed, but she died of cancer on December 30, 2019.

In his eulogy Jonathan said that just because God didn’t answer our prayer our way doesn’t mean He didn’t answer our prayer anyway.

God’s answer to His children is always yes or yes. Either your Mom’s going to be healed or she’s going to be healed. Either she’s going to live or she’s going to live. Either she’s going to be with family or she’s going to be with family. Either she’s going to be well-taken care of or she’s going to be well-taken care of. Either way, Mom has victory because of Jesus who died and rose again.

Dr. Jonathan Evans

Reflection #16 – Jesus in Isolation

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

Jesus in Isolation

Hanging from a cross in mortal agony, Jesus was completely alone.

He experienced dehumanizing social isolation. The crowds who applauded him with palm branches and Hosannas on Palm Sunday now loathed him with whips and shouts of “Crucify! Crucify!” on Good Friday.

His own disciples betrayed him, double-crossed him, and abandoned him. One of His closest friends, Peter, repeatedly denied and disowned Him. To save his own skin, he was completely ashamed of Jesus and wanted nothing to do with Him.

At the time Jesus needed their fellowship most they turned on Him. They were gone.

The only ‘friends’ keeping Him company were two criminals writhing in pain on crosses to his left and right, and they were busy calling down curses on Him.

He was completely alone.

But Jesus’ deepest pain was His spiritual isolation. God turned His face away from His Son. Though Jesus never sinned, He became sin for us. The guilt and punishment for our sin were laid on Him. As a condemned sinner, He became a curse for us too. He became a vile, ugly, wretched, horrid creature in the eyes of the holy God and Father who is too pure to look upon sin.

So the Beloved Son of God became also, at the same time, the discarded Outcast, a Reject, an alienated Stranger. He became the Plague. He said, “I am a worm, and not a man.” (Psalm 22:6)

God’s presence left Him. Total darkness came upon Jesus at the cross. Jesus cried out the terrifying words of Psalm 22, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?

He was absolutely alone.

Stretched out on a cross, hanging somewhere between heaven and earth, he was rejected by both heaven and earth. It was hell.

We experience some level of isolation today because of a plague. We can’t go to church. We can’t go to family gatherings. We can’t go to work. We can’t go to school. We can’t even go to the park! But our isolation doesn’t begin to compare with Jesus’ isolation. Our sorrows can’t begin to measure up to His sorrows.

Jesus suffered His horrible isolation for us. Because of our sin, we all experience deep isolation. Spiritual isolation. We are far away from God, strangers to Him. And social isolation. We experience the pain of conflict, betrayal and brokenness in our relationships with people.

Without Jesus coming to save us from our sins, our lives are headed for ultimate, endless isolation from God and people. Jesus said that hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is a place where God is present only in holy wrath, and where people are present only to degrade and abuse one another.

But in His great love and pity for us, God sent His Son who willingly and lovingly took on Himself this ultimate darkness of absolute isolation from God and man. He made it His very own to save us from it.

He did this to take us out of dreadful isolation and into joyful relation – friendship with God and people. That’s what Good Friday is about. If you put your trust and hope in Jesus who died in deepest darkness for sinners, He will bring you to God to enjoy eternal fellowship with God. And He will bring you into His family to enjoy blessed fellowship with His Church.

As Christians we often struggle in our relationship with God, and sometimes feel like He is forgetting us or even forsaking us. May you feel that way right now. But you can be totally sure of this – because of Jesus who was isolated from God in your place, God will never, ever abandon you. Jesus took that from you. God is always with you even when you can’t see or feel Him. Let us trust Him to be near at all times.

Sometimes we struggle socially in our relationship with His family, the Church, and with friends and relatives. People disappoint us. We disappoint them. Sin gets in the way. But you can be totally sure of this – because of Jesus who was isolated from people, God always has a place for us in His family. Let us believe that – and make much of that!

As you remember Jesus’ death and resurrection this year, give thanks to Him especially for His isolation. Because of Him, you can be sure that in your isolation you always belong – you belong to God and His people.

Reflection #15 – Hope is a ‘Now’ Thing

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

Hope is a ‘Now’ Thing

Many view Christian hope as “pie in the sky when you die.” (Joe Hill, “The Preacher and the Slave”) It does nothing for you now. It’s disconnected from today’s problems. It’s useless for this life. It holds value only for you laterif it’s real.

But true hope doesn’t work that way. Christian hope is a present power that comes from having a glorious future.

On the one hand, our hope is right now “laid up in heaven.” (Colossians 1:6)  Hope is a Person named  Jesus Christ. He has a wonderful inheritance reserved in heaven for us. Our hope is as real as Jesus Himself who died for us, rose for us, and is now reigning on heaven’s throne for us.

That hope is there already now, waiting for us. It is untouched by the problems and pains of this world. It can’t lose its beauty or value. It can’t “perish, spoil or fade away. (I Peter 1:4)  

At the same time, hope in the Bible is something that lives not only above us in heaven, but also in us. “May you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) The hope that lives in us comes from trusting in and looking up to the Hope that lives in heaven.  

This hope we have as Christian believers is not only something that makes a difference in our lives when we die. Hope in Jesus is a present hope that powerfully helps us right now.

In his book, Coronavirus and Christ (Crossway Books: 2020), John Piper describes the power that Christian hope gives to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

Hope is power. Present power. Hope keeps people from killing themselves—now. It helps people get out of bed and go to work—now. It gives meaning to daily life, even locked-down, quarantined, stay-at-home life—now. It liberates us from the selfishness of fear and greed—now. It empowers love and risk-taking and sacrifice—now.

So be careful before you belittle the by-and-by. It just may be that when your by-and-by is beautiful and sure, your here and now will be sweet and fruitful. (pp. 15-16)

John Piper

The “sweet by and by” is not “pie in the sky;” it is power for living day-by-day. It makes a difference every moment as we face the struggles of sickness and poverty, of marriage and raising children, of sin and temptation.

It doesn’t make us immune to the problems but gives us strength to travel through them.

So let this hope go to work for you during these times. Let me offer 4 ways hope is a ‘now’ thing:

  1. It brings joy now. Paul says: In the midst of suffering “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God(Romans 5:2) Hope provides proper perspective on our suffering. Hope says, “This suffering is not all there is. It will not have the last word. It is light and momentary compared to the weight of glory that’s coming.”  (see 2 Corinthians 4:17)
  2. Hope gives patience now. In the Bible, hoping and waiting go together. Psalm 130 says: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5; see also Psalms 33:20-22, 62:5)  In hope you trust that the Lord is using this trouble to advance you and all His people to their heavenly goal. So rather than lose heart and do rash things that dishonor God and trample on other people, hope helps you take God’s hand and walk with Him through trouble as His faithful follower.
  3. Hope gives freedom now to serve the Lord. Because our hope is not set on this life in this world, it sets us free from our love affair with earthly wealth and amusements. We are free to live and die for Jesus. Hope frees us to work in the hospital or nursing home, to give generously to mission and charity. It frees us to work through the problems rather than try to escape them. Hope sets us free to love God and our neighbour because it frees us from self-love.
  4. Hope purifies us now. The Bible says that because we eagerly wait for Jesus to return and make us perfect and bring us to our perfect eternal home with Him, this hope purifies us as Jesus is pure. (I John 3:3) Because perfect holiness is hope’s goal, it is also hope’s desire now as we get ready for that day. In every trouble we face, hope prays and strives for holiness.

Hope is a ‘now’ thing. In this current crisis, dear Christian, may you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)  May the Spirit use your hope to work joy, patience, freedom, and holiness in you right now so that you may become more like Jesus Christ.

Reflection #14 – “The Gospel can’t be Quarantined”

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

“The Gospel can’t be Quarantined”

People can be quarantined, but the Gospel can’t. It seems like the whole world is housebound right now, but the Gospel can’t be tied down to our homes. The Word of God is living, powerful and always free.

The apostle Paul was thrown into prison in Rome for his faith. Because he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was chained to a wall and guarded by soldiers. He was definitely tied down!

As much as he hated the chains that bound him, he was not discouraged. Paul knew that God’s message of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead for sinners was not tied down with him. Amazingly, God was using his chains to advance the Gospel!

The whole imperial guard got to hear the Gospel from him! He was given special opportunity to testify before kings and governors and preach Christ to them.  And, what’s more, other Christians were encouraged by Paul’s boldness as a prisoner and it motivated them to spread the word of God.

Paul wrote:

“Even though I am being chained like a criminal, God’s Word is not chained.”

2 Timothy 2:9

This is a good reminder for all of us during this ‘house arrest’ of so many people around the world. I don’t mean to suggest we’re being persecuted like Paul or unfairly treated in any way. We accept these public emergency measures sadly, yet gladly, in order to protect our neighbour from illness and prevent the spread of the epidemic.

But our being home-bound doesn’t mean God’s Word is homebound. And shutting church buildings doesn’t mean Christ is shut down.

  • Consider how the Lord’s word continues to go out via livestreamed services all over the world.
  • Consider how organizations like Ligonier Ministries have opened up their treasures of biblical and theological studies to the public for free.
  • Consider how households have more time to spend around the family table to open up the Word of God together.
  • Consider how people are using social media to study the Bible, talk and pray together for mutual encouragement and for evangelism in ways we did not consider 1 month ago.
  • Consider how many new opportunities for personal Christian witness God has opened up as a result of COVID-19.
  • And who knows how many hopeless people around the world are using their free time to tap into the Christian message on the world wide web in search of hope.

Christians may be quarantined, but the Gospel is not.  If you are reading this and are without God and without hope, I urge you to hear Christ calling you to come to Him for eternal peace and safety. He promises you that if you entrust your needy life to Him in faith, He will love you and take excellent care of you. He will forgive all your sins and give you eternal life. You will never perish.

So how can we use our current ‘house arrest’ to advance the Word of God in our lives and neighborhoods? Consider the following possibilities:

This can be a time for a richer devotional life and ministry to our families. There’s more time to read the Bible, talk about it, pray, and even do special studies together without having to rush off to a meeting or game. What a rich gift to have the Gospel unleashed in our own homes!

What about finding a powerful, self-abasing, God-glorifying testimony of Christian faith, or preparing your own, or finding a simple message of Christian hope and sharing that testimony or message on your Facebook page in the prayer that God will use it to reach many who need hope today.

If you live in a town or city, have you noticed how many people are out for walks in this beautiful Spring weather? Though people keep their distance on the sidewalk, they seem more ready to talk. Who knows what kind of conversation a simple “Hello” could lead to?  And you may get to know some neighbours you’ve never seen before.

Or we could simply contact a friend or acquaintance, a neighbour who doesn’t know the Lord, and ask them if they would like us to pray for them, and how.

“Bloom where you’re quarantined,” someone wrote. (Clarissa Moll, Christianity Today, April 1, 2020)

“The Gospel can’t be quarantined,” wrote Paul Worcester. (“10 Simple Ways to Evangelize During a Pandemic,” The Gospel Coalition, April 6, 2020)  

How true! Are you making use of every opportunity?

God’s Word which created the world cannot be shut down by an epidemic. It cannot be shut up in prison or locked down in chains or tied down to the housebound. It is the word of life, the seed of the kingdom, the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes!

Reflection #13 – Earth is Groaning – Can You Hear It?

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

Earth is Groaning – Can You Hear It?

Can you hear the patient gasping for her next breath? Can you hear the sobbing of the grieving widow, the cries of children who lost their Dad? And what about the sounds of hospitals pleading for more masks? Can you hear creation groaning in the gasps on Wall Street and the groans at the Chicago Board of Trade? In the Mom struggling to help her child do his on-line schooling? In the grocery store employee reminding customers to keep their distance?

The sounds of COVID-19 are the sounds of what the Bible describes as “creation in bondage to decay.” Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

The story of the virus goes back to the early days of the human race in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had been warned by God that if they disobeyed Him and ate of the forbidden fruit, they would surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

When that liar and murderer, Satan, came along and tempted them to eat, they ate. At that moment, a death sentence came upon the human race, and the whole creation was placed under a curse. God kept His word.

The coronavirus is yet another powerful reminder that this world is not Paradise anymore. We may try hard to reverse the curse and restore paradise through social, genetic, political and economic engineering, but “for all our technological advance and economic development, the world remains cursed by a plague that originates in sin.” (Richard D. Phillips, “Does Christianity have an Answer,” Reformation21)

We’re not saying that COVID-19 is God’s judgment on someone’s specific sin, or on a specific nation for its sin. But we know that when the human race sinned in our first parents, Adam and Eve, we chose the misery that sin brings with it, including a whole creation that groans with sickness, disaster and death.

Can you hear the groaning?

So, are groaning, decay and death all there is to look forward to? Is there no hope? There is hope. Real hope. The Bible says that the whole creation is groaning in the pains of childbirth. After the pains comes the baby! After the groaning of this creation God will bring about a new creation! Paradise will be restored. It’s on the way.

But who will bring Paradise back to us? What doctor? Which leader? What nation? Which thinktank? None of the above. Jesus is the gate to Paradise. When He rose from the grave on Easter morning, He became the seed of a whole new creation, a world where there’s no pain, sickness, tears, or death. No groaning.

Everyone who commits his life to Jesus in faith and becomes His follower will enter that perfect place. Jesus will bring Paradise back to earth on the last day when He returns to judge the living and the dead.

Through the blessing of technological advances, God gives some relief to a groaning world. These are gifts of God’s mercy to a weary world. We thank God for those who serve the human race in this way and praise Him for the discoveries they make and solutions they bring.

But these technologies do not carry the power of Paradise. Only Jesus does. They cannot heal the creation’s groaning. Only Jesus can.

Dr. Gregory Poland is a vaccinologist and Director of Vaccine Research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. He and his team have now put in 13 weeks of 16 hour days developing a vaccine for this novel coronavirus. Dr. Poland is a Christian. He is thankful for the developments that he and many other researchers have made in seeking a remedy.

He is also thankful to be able to share God’s message of hope with his fellow team members and with COVID-19 patients. “Our hope is not in what we see today; our hope is the faith we possess about tomorrow. The most important tool is not a vaccine, but hope, and spreading that hope, and not a virus.” (“Christian Reflections on COVID-19,” Ligonier Ministries, March 31, 2020)

What an important message in our age of advanced technology! For all technology can do – and it’s a blessing from God to be used and enjoyed with thanksgiving – it can’t create Paradise. It can’t stop the world’s groaning. It can’t reverse the curse. And it can’t save the human race.

May God remind us all over again that hope lies in His Son. Jesus is this world’s hope. What peace and freedom this gives to Dr. Poland as he directs his research with vigour. He knows that he is not the key to solving the world’s problems. That burden lies on Jesus, and Jesus has empowered Dr. Poland to do his research in true hope.