Providence United Reformed Church held Vacation Bible School (VBS) the week of July 25-29, 2022. From 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM each day we enjoyed Bible stories, singing, crafts, outdoor activities, and snacks. Thanks to all who came out and for the supporters and voluneteers!
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.
On Monday, May 25, police in Minneapolis responded to a call that a man had given counterfeit money at a corner store. The caller also said he appeared to be behaving not-quite-normally, like he was drunk or something.
The police found him, escorted him out of his vehicle, and even though it appears from that there was little, if any, resistance, an officer pinned George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, to the ground by pressing his knee into George’s neck. While Mr. Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, the officer kept his knee on his neck for more than 8 minutes until he was dead.
That was Monday, and since then Minneapolis has erupted into a frightening scene of rioting, breaking, looting and burning. (It should be noted that most, if not all, the protesters come from ‘out of town.’)
It’ll be sometime before we know the details of the arrest and death of George Floyd. But one thing is sure, the furor this event has ignited, and understandably so, will be with us for a long time to come.
It will take a lot of wisdom for America’s leaders to move forward from this. And it will take a lot of Gospel from black and white church leaders alike to give just and loving leadership which will magnify Christ and advance His kingdom.
But I want to tell you another part of the story of George Floyd’s life that gets lost in the May 25 video footage.
Before moving to Minneapolis in 2018 for work, George Floyd lived in Texas, in Houston’s Third Ward, a historically black neighborhood. There he was well-known as a Christian, a man of God, and a person of peace. He served his neighborhood for decades as a mentor to a generation of young men.
He knew that the Gospel was the key to breaking the cycle of violence among young people, so he brought the ministries of his Church, Resurrection Houston, to the Third Ward. He helped bring Bible Studies, church services, mercy ministries, and youth activities to his neighborhood. He wanted the youth to trade in their guns for Jesus.
He was a towering 6-foot-6 man, affectionately called ‘Big Floyd’ by all in his neighborhood. Big Floyd was well-known “as a gentle giant, an inspiration to his neighborhood, and a positive force for change. Floyd’s handle included the name ‘BigFloyd4God.’” (Kate Shellnutt, “George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston,” Christianity Today, May 28, 2020)
I don’t want to paint too holy of a picture of this gentle giant. No doubt his life would have borne some of the marks of his prevailing culture – and the same is true for all of us whether we are Christians living in Houston or Strathroy – but we can be thankful for the “Gospel Legacy” he left in Houston’s Third Ward.
And we should all mourn his death – because of his life as the image of God, because of the gift he was to his community, and because of the especially tragic way in which his life was brutally snuffed out.
The challenge is to mourn well – to mourn in a way that builds community, rather than destroys it; in a way that pursues justice, rather than violates it; in a way that advances the Gospel of reconciliation rather than perverts it. These are easy words for me to say; it’s a huge challenge to implement them.
Let us pray that God will give much wisdom and courage to everyone at the frontlines of this tragedy to respond in a way that promotes healing.
Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, pleaded with the public to protest his death in a peaceful way:
Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd… He loved the city….He was about love and about peace.Courteney Ross
Floyd’s family members also pleaded for pursuing justice peacefully. “We thank protesters for joining us in standing for justice, [but] we also cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and outrage.”
One American Pastor who serves in an African American community wrote to me that earlier this week he was very anxious and not very hopeful about the church’s ability to overcome the tribalism of Babel in such times. But then the truth of Pentecost came to his mind.
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.John 16:13
Our great need in this situation is to know the Truth of our current moment. It’s not black truth or white truth but the truth of the Gospel. This is the only Truth that will move us forward together in justice and love.
May the almighty Spirit of Jesus Christ lead us to the Truth that conquers all our prejudice, racism, hatred, violence, despair, indifference and cynicism.
May the blood of Jesus cleanse us from all our sin and use us to build a community of faith which, like Big Floyd, urges people to replace their guns with Jesus, pride with humility, and hatred with love.
As Floyd’s life was ‘Big’ may his death also be ‘Big’ in the way God can use it to shake us, break us, and remake us into a community which seeks and finds unity in Jesus Christ, the One Man for All Peoples.
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.
Primitive and Obscene
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the Good News that saves every sinner who believes in Him. But this Good News is offensive to the unbelieving mind, and impossible to accept. The Bible says that the world views the message of the cross as a stumbling-block, as scandalous. (see 1 Corinthians 1:23)
Today I read the terribly sad story of Jonathan Steingard, frontman of the Christian rock band Hawk Nelson. He declares he no longer believes in God. Raised in a Christian home, son of a Christian pastor, surrounded by everything Christian in his life, Jonathan now disavows the religion he grew up with. He no longer believes the Bible, or in God, or in any truths of the Christian faith.
He lists several reasons as to why he can no longer accept the Bible or the existence of God. But at the heart of his objections lies the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a payment for sin. Why does Jesus have to die for our sins? That’s just more killing again. What kind of God appeases His anger toward us by taking it out on His Son? That’s an angry, vengeful and primitive God. What a terrible model for a Father!
More and more we encounter professing Christians who cannot tolerate the heart of the Christian faith – the so-called ‘blood theology’ of substitutionary atonement. This is the teaching that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
God our Creator is holy. Sin is highly offensive to him and merits his eternal wrath toward us in the form of endless punishment of body and soul. Sinning against the infinite Majesty of Almighty God deserves the infinite penalty of eternal punishment.
But God in His great love for us, while we were yet sinners under His wrath, sent His Son to take the place of the sinner and suffer the punishment of God’s infinite anger in our place, as our Substitute. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ under God’s wrath in our place are the heart of the Bible’s message and the essence of the Christian faith.
It is the Good News that saves us and sets us free forever.
R. C. Sproul once told the story of being invited to speak at a gathering of the Society of Friends, the Quakers. They asked him to speak on the relationship between the Old and New Covenants.
He spoke about the day of the atonement in the Old Testament where animals were slaughtered and their blood was spilled as a picture of the way God forgives sins. This picture was fulfilled many years later in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse.
Suddenly a man in the back couldn’t handle it anymore. He stood up and interrupted the speaker, “That’s primitive, and obscene!”
R.C. Sproul responded,
You’re right. And I love the words you used to describe this. What could be more primitive than killing animals and sprinkling their blood over the throne of God? What could be more primitive than taking an innocent human being and pouring out his blood as a human sacrifice? That is primitive. This is what I love about the Gospel. It wasn’t written merely for a gnostic elite group of scholars who had to have their PhD in theology to understand.
Not only is it primitive, it is obscene too. Sproul wrote:
If there ever was an obscenity that violates contemporary community standards, it was Jesus on the cross. After he became the scapegoat and the Father had imputed to him every sin of every one of his people, the most intense, dense concentration of evil ever experienced on this planet was exhibited. Jesus was the ultimate obscenity.
So what happened? God is too holy to look at sin. He could not bear to look at that concentrated monumental condensation of evil, so he averted his eyes from his Son. The light of his countenance was turned off. All blessedness was removed from his Son, whom he loved, and in its place was the full measure of the divine curse.R. C. Sproul, “Forsaken – Jesus Became a Curse.”
This, dear friends, is the Good News. Jesus in your place. God’s wrath placed on Jesus instead of you. Jesus was cursed so you may be blessed. Jesus was forsaken by God so you may be accepted by God. This is all yours if you repent of your sins and believe in Him.
Rejecting this primitive and obscene Good News cuts you off from any hope of salvation and will lead to your damnation.
So do not be offended at God’s Good News. Don’t turn away from God’s salvation which is primitive and obscene to the world, but for everyone who believes it is the source of eternal hope and blessing!
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.
‘Because I Live, You Also Will Live’
With these words, Jesus Christ saved Ravi Zacharias when he was 17 years old.
Ravi Zacharias, an evangelist and Christian apologist, died of cancer on May 19, 2020, after crossing the globe for more than 50 years proclaiming Jesus Christ. The first time I ever heard him and heard of him was when he was speaking on his radio program, ‘Let My People Think.’
That was his main concern – to connect the gospel with the life of the mind. The basic aim of his life-long ministry was to “help the thinker believe and the believer think.”
He wanted to show that Christianity makes rational sense on the one hand, and is able to offer deeply satisfying existential answers to life’s big questions on the other. It is both reasonable and liveable. (Alister McGrath, “Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020) and His Legacy,” May 19, 2020)
Ravi Zacharias grew up in India in a nominal Christian home. He did not know the Lord. He was not familiar with the Bible. An ache and a loneliness ate away at his life in his teen years. He confesses that his life was a like a leaf blowing in the wind. He was a very confused and angry young man. His life was endangered by a very violent father who battered him in fits of fury.
As a 17-year-old high school student, Ravi had come to a point of no hope. There was no tomorrow to live for, and today felt worthless. At his sister’s urging he attended a local Youth for Christ event where he heard Sam Wolgemuth preach from John 3:16 and Fred David singing “There is a Balm in Gilead.” He was moved by the Gospel, but his life continued to spiral downwards.
One day he stole several packets of poison from his school’s science lab and walked home. Then, when nobody was home except a servant, he locked himself into the bathroom, emptied the packets into a cup, filled it water and drank it down.
But his body couldn’t handle it and he began to retch uncontrollably. The servant heard the noise, broke down the bathroom door, saw Ravi on the floor, and got him to a hospital.
That’s where the Lord Jesus met him. Guess who came to visit him? It was Fred David, the man he heard singing at the Youth for Christ rally. Fred opened his Bible to John 14 where Jesus is talking to his disciples and said to them, “Because I live you also will live.” (John 14:19)
With these words, Jesus came to Ravi Zacharias on his suicidal hospital bed and changed his life. He later wrote: “With these words Jesus breathed eternal life into my broken body…it was a passage of Scripture that sprouted in the moisture of God’s sovereign grace.”
He cried out to the Lord, “If You are whom you claim to be, rescue me, and I will leave no stone unturned to pursue the truth.“ He trusted in Jesus Christ, became right with God, and spent the rest of his life in the confidence that in Christ his life was filled with meaning and purpose.
The key was that now I looked at life through a window of meaning. And that was the one thing I had been desperately longing for: meaning. Now everything in my life was packed with it: my studies had meaning, my family had meaning, my friendships had meaning, my sports had meaning.Ravi Zacharias, “Think Again: Through the Eyes of God”
In spite of the complexities of the worldview issues he addressed, Ravi confessed to being a simple person who lived by the simple belief that there is no answer to the meaning of life other than the Person of Jesus Christ. That is the message he brought to king’s palaces, atheistic universities, Christian conferences, and the poor villages of India.
It is the message that saved his father too and transformed him from an angry, violent man to a gentle and loving husband and father.
Jesus said, “Because I live you also will live.” (John 14:19) This is the good news of Jesus Christ. He saves sinners, rescues the suicidal, fills the empty, softens the violent, gives hope to the hopeless, and meaning to the restless. Jesus is life for the dying.
Jesus came to destroy death and to bring life. He did that by dying on the cross to destroy our sin, and then coming back to life again by His own divine power. And because He lives forever, in Him you also will live forever. In His death your sin and death are conquered. In His life your life is headed for glory. Your life is now an investment into eternity, and every day, every moment is overflowing with meaning and purpose.
If you are in a place of despair, if your life is without meaning and hope, a pointless investment of time and energy, I urge you to seek Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. He will meet you in His power and mercy. He will breathe new life into your dead spirit. He will make everything new. He will make you whole. He will bring you to God.
Jesus said, “Because I live you also will live.” (John 14:19)
‘And Be Thankful’
It’s easy to forget. And forgetting it will become the source of a lot of complaining, discontentment and anger in our lives. It causes discouragement and depression. So don’t forget to be thankful!
After mentioning a long list of Christian graces we must put on – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiving one another, love, peace – Paul adds one more sentence, almost as an afterthought: And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15) As if to say, “And, by the way, don’t forget to be thankful!”
But it’s not an afterthought; it’s more like the last word on the subject of Christian graces. A thankful spirit is the key to living the Christian life. Without it none of the other graces work. How can you be humble if you’re not thankful? How can you love someone if you’re not thankful?
Thanksgiving is the grace of being able to see God’s blessings even when everything seems to be going badly. It is the power given to you by the Holy Spirit to see God’s goodness in all that is going on in your life and world. He fills your life always with underserved gifts!
At the same time it is the spiritual discipline of counting your blessings and offering up praise to God for all He has done for you, is doing for you right now, and will yet do for you in the future. “And be thankful“ is a command. Since we easily become blind to the good that God is doing and the gifts God is giving, we are called to search and see God’s goodness and give thanks.
Especially if life is really dark for you right now, take a moment to write out a list of blessings from God you’re enjoying right now and give Him thanks. Count your blessings and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
When we become blind to the blessings that will bring a lot of mischief into our lives. There is a spirit of unbelief in that which produces constant complaining, self-pity, depression, anger, and unkindness.
Thanksgiving comes from faith. It comes from seeing God’s hand and God’s goodness in our lives. This is why Paul commands us to remember to be thankful when we’re giving our worries to God in prayer. Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6) Add a note of thanksgiving to every request you bring to God. There is never a good reason to be unthankful, even when your life is wrapped up in anxieties.
Thankfulness has two opposing vices – one is pride where you’re so focused on how talented and smart you are, and on all your wonderful accomplishments, that there’s little room to look past yourself and see that you have nothing in yourself; it is all a gift from God for His glory.
The other enemy of thanksgiving is self-pity. You’ve become so focused on the things you’re missing, and on the troubles you’re facing, that you can’t see the abundance of God’s blessing. Self-pity is the evil twin of pride. It focuses on self and refuses to see the goodness of God.
And be thankful!
Joni Eareckson Tada reminds us that God calls us to be thankful in everything. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) No matter what your circumstances are, you have reasons to give thanks.
But Joni says that this doesn’t go far enough. Too often we hear it said that we must give thanks in everything but that doesn’t mean we have to give thanks for everything. Not true, she says. What about Ephesians 5:20? “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
She proceeds to give thanks to God for the diving accident that broke her neck and made her a quadriplegic so that she turned to Jesus Christ and was saved. God used that terrible event to move her to dedicate the rest of her life to the Lord. She thanks the Lord for her lifeless limbs and her wheelchair every day. (see Nancy Leigh de Moss, Choosing Gratitude)
I’m reminded of the example of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom in The Hiding Place. Remember how they were shoved and crammed into the women’s barracks in the German concentration camp in Ravensbruck? Soon they discovered it was infested with fleas. Corrie wailed in horror. But soon Corrie and Betsy were thanking the Lord for the fleas because it kept the guards away and allowed them the sweet freedom of doing Bible studies with all the other women.
And be thankful.
Have you allowed thanksgiving to slip away from your mind and mouth? Have you closed your heart to the goodness and mercy of God? Have you allowed anger to strangle a thankful spirit?
Remember what God is for you and does for you in everything in Jesus Christ. In Jesus you are rich, full, and blessed every day and in every way.
Who Allows the Church to Gather?
In response to a letter sent by hundreds of churches, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that, as of May 19, the Government was allowing drive-in religious gatherings, as long as vehicles are at least 2 metres apart, only members of the same household are in one vehicle, people don’t leave their vehicles, and no more than five people may conduct the service at one time from outside a motor vehicle, and they must stay at least two metres apart.
Well, if you’ve recently visited your grocery store parking lot, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that few, if any, of these restrictions apply there.
But my main concern in the Government’s response is the word “allow.” Can the Government allow worship services? Does it have that kind of authority?
Back in March when we suspended worship services, we were not obeying a Government edict forcing the shutdown of church assemblies. We were obeying the Lord’s command to love our neighbor by cooperating with the Civil Government’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
As church leaders we were careful to acknowledge we were not being forced by the Government to shut down; we chose voluntarily to cease meeting for a short time, out of love for neighbour and respect for our government, while civil and medical authorities were trying to get a handle on the seriousness of the pandemic and bracing themselves against overburdening our health care system and workers.
I’m convinced that was the right thing for our churches to do. As Christians, we do not fear death because of the resurrection hope that is ours through Christ, but we deeply desire to show love to all people. (Letter re: Reopening Ontario Churches)
Just as the Lord permitted a temporary delay in the celebration of the Passover in the days of Hezekiah because of the condition of the people of Judah (see 2 Chronicles 30), we sought the Lord’s blessing on a temporary suspension of worship gatherings, even though the Lord commands us to assemble, especially on the Lord’s Day, to hear God’s Word, to break bread, and to pray together; to speak to one another in spiritual songs; to bring Christian offerings, and to stir one another up to love and good deeds. (see Exodus 20:9-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:42, 20:7).
Today, the virus concern continues, but the virus crisis is past. We can be thankful for immediate steps taken by all members of our society to mitigate COVID’s potential damage.
But now, God’s call to us to gather for weekly worship, to minister personally to the distressed and dying, compels and impels us to re-open our churches. Gathering is an essential and vital service for all God’s people. We need to gather at least weekly in order for our faith to flourish and the church to prosper.
The gathering of the Church is also crucial for the well-being of our society. As Jesus said, the Church is light of the world, the salt of the earth. (see Matthew 5:13,14) Even if our province and nation do not recognize it, they need the Church too. Our culture needs the truth of the Gospel, the strong faith and witness of Jesus’ followers, and the Church’s service to the poor and disadvantaged in our communities. That’s God’s gift at least as much as any other front-line service.
I appreciate the work being done in Ontario by Pastors Aaron Rock and Joel Boot, and also by Legal Counsel Andre Schutten, to appeal to Premier Ford to stand with our churches and support us in Jesus’ call to His Church to gather for the ministry of the Word and sacraments, and for the ministry of mercy. (see the correspondence at reopenontariochurches.ca).
Their letter on behalf of many churches to Premier Ford includes this very important testimony: “We would respectfully remind the civil government that the church does not exist by permission of the state, for its establishment and rule is found in Jesus Christ himself.“
The letter goes on to implore Premier Ford “that we must start meeting very soon because of our obligations to God and because our people need us. We cannot delay.” It does not ask the Premier to allow churches to assemble but simply “to support the reopening of churches and ministries by early June, pending any unforeseen circumstance.” (italics added) The letter includes a specific plan that honours government guidelines for social distancing.
At a time like this it’s very important for Christians to recognize proper spheres of authority. The Civil Government exists and functions by Christ’s authority, not by the Church’s authority. It’s equally important for Christians to recognize, especially at this time, that the Church exists and functions by Christ’s authority, not by the Civil Government’s authority. The state does not have the power to allow churches to gather. It can only support – or refuse the support – Christ’s command for churches to gather.
The Church is called, in obedience to our Saviour, to decide when it’s time to gather. That decision does not lie in the hands the Civil Government. We should collaborate with our Government on this for wisdom, but in the end its our task to decide this matter in obedience to Jesus Christ.
So with the courage of our convictions, let’s all do our part, for the honor of Christ, the well-being of His Church, and the good of society, to press for re-opening soon. Let us urge our local and provincial officials to support us in that calling we have from Christ.
Let us pray that God would continue to grant us the blessing of religious liberty in our nation.
I’ve Got The Joy
Remember when you used to sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay“?
What is joy? It’s the deep and settled happiness of your soul in God your Saviour, a soul-happiness which can’t be taken away from you, no matter how sad you are. It remains with you regardless of what’s happening in your life and world because it comes from knowing for sure that no matter what you face, you belong to Jesus Christ, and in Him all your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.
Joy is the reason Paul and Silas could sing in prison. That’s why the apostles could rejoice when they were beaten up for following Jesus. (Acts 16:25, 5:41. 1 Peter 4:3) When we believe in Jesus, Jesus comes to live in us through His Holy Spirit, and His presence in us is our constant joy.
Do you know this joy way down in your heart which is there to stay? It’s different than the superficial happiness that depends on your circumstances, temporary glee that comes from having a good time or winning the lottery or having your day go smoothly.
Joy is the deep, lasting happiness of the soul whose hope is built on Jesus Christ.
The Bible not only speaks a lot about joy; it commands us to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” the Bible commands. Then it adds, “Again I will say, rejoice.”(Philippians 4:4)
But what is rejoicing? Joy and rejoicing are not quite the same thing. Joy is a noun; rejoice is a verb. Joy is a thing; rejoice is an action. To rejoice means that you let the joy which lives deep in your heart shine out from your life all the time, in every situation. Don’t hide your joy in the Lord, but let that happiness of soul come out of your life so people can see your joy and be blessed.
Especially when darkness is close. Especially when frustration is rising. Especially when things aren’t going well for you.
That’s what the apostle Paul tells the Philippian church when he’s chained up in prison for his faith: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4) Not only is Paul joyful himself, but from his prison cell, in the very heat of persecution, facing death, he even stirs others up to show their joy! (Matthew Henry)
But have you ever noticed when Paul commands the Philippian Christians to rejoice? When two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche, were fighting in the church; when people were tempted to react harshly; and when anxiety was overtaking their lives. Right in the middle of that set of problems, Paul sets down this clear command to rejoice and, in case they didn’t get it the first time, he repeated it.
Rejoicing is a command for us not only when life is running smoothly, but especially when it isn’t, when life isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. It is the solution to petty grievances, holding grudges, and daily worries.
But how does rejoicing help? Not by forgetting our problems but finding the right way through them. Tell Euodia and Syntyche to agree with one another in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2) These two Christian women must remember who they are in Christ, how Jesus has made them one family, and given them the same truth. Then in that joy of the Lord, they can work out their disagreement and come together.
If they let their joy come out in this circumstance and let it speak to them, they will find a way.
The same is true with fighting harsh over-reactions to difficult circumstances in your life. Paul first tells us to rejoice, then he says: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) By remembering the nearness of Christ, you stir up your joy and deep happiness of soul, and then your rising frustration and anger can give way to a spirit of gentleness.
This is also true in anxiety. Replace worry with rejoicing, says Paul. But how do you do that? Send up your anxieties to the Lord in prayer, and then you will find the peace of God that passes all understanding. You will rediscover joy when through prayer you remember who God is for you, and what he has given you in Christ. Let joy overwhelm your worries when worries try to smother your joy.
There is enough in God to furnish us with matter of joy in the worst circumstance on earth.Matthew Henry
So, dear Christian, let’s remember always the joy we have in Christ. Let’s use that joy by letting it come out of our attitudes, eyes, mouths and lives in the form of rejoicing. May rejoicing fill every nook and cranny of our lives, every room in our homes, and every relationship in the Church. May it settle our fights, calm our frustrations and replace our worries.
Our sins are forgiven, Christ is our perfect righteousness, our citizenship is in heaven, and our lives are headed for eternal glory. Why should we allow anything to overwhelm our joy in him? Why should we allow any hardship to smother the deep and settled happiness of our souls in God our Saviour?
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.
‘I Will Question You!’
Job was angry with God. Wouldn’t you be?
Job was a good man, a righteous man, and holy. He loved his family. He cared for the poor. He stood up for the oppressed and fought injustice. His advice was respected everywhere he went. If ever there was anyone who didn’t deserve suffering, it was Job!
But God sent Him wave after wave of heavy affliction: the death of his 10 children and loss of all his wealth. He was afflicted from head to toe with painful sores. He was rejected by his wife, and lost all his friends. The incredible pain, grief, shame, and loneliness he suffered were more than enough to destroy his life in every dimension.
So this believer, this righteous man, Job, became very, very upset, even angry with God. He was full of arguments and accusations against God. He had all kinds of questions for God.
Why has God overloaded me with suffering? What did I do to deserve this? How is this fair? Is God just? Why do so many evil people lounge around in the lap of luxury and get away with their abuse? Does it make no difference to God whether you’re righteous or wicked? Why do I strive hard to keep God’s commandments when it makes no difference to God? Does God really know how to run the world? Is He truly wise and good? If He is, I surely can’t see Him!Job
Job cried out to God:
Let me know why You are fighting me! Do You find it good to oppress me…while You smile at the plans of the wicked?Job 10:2-3
He even wanted to take God to court!
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat! I would lay my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.Job 23:3-4
God described Job as a faultfinder who was contending with the Almighty. (Job 40:2) After Job argued and argued with God, God finally answered him: I will question you.
“I will question you, and you will answer Me.“Job 38:3, 40:7
Then He asked Job question after question:
- Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you’re so wise!
- Can you direct the stars and order the seasons?
- Can you make the clouds drop rain and the earth give dew?
- Can you manage the lives of mountain goats, of wild horses and oxen, of ostriches, Behemoth and Leviathan?
In other words, God was challenging Job: Who are you? Who are you to question God? Do you think you can do a better job of ruling the world than I? Do you really understand all that I am doing, the good and perfect plan I am pursuing and advancing?
A man was talking to his neighbor some time ago on a cold, wet, windy day. “What miserable weather!” he said, in disgust. His neighbor rebuked him, “Do you think you could do better?”
It’s a lesson we all need to learn in messed up, sin-cursed world. God has a right to question us about our lives, because He is God. But we don’t have the right to question God, because we are creatures, and sinful.
I don’t mean that we may never ask, “Why are you doing this, God?” “Where are You, God?” But in our questions we should never accuse God of doing a poor job of running the world. We should not try to become His advisors. The Bible says: Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can advise Him? (1 Corinthians 2:16)
God is doing an amazingly, incomprehensibly superb and wise job of running the world! Just because we very little people can’t see what He’s doing doesn’t mean God doesn’t know what He’s doing!
Everything that happens, in every detail, whether good or evil, happy or sad, comfortable or crushing, is specially arranged by God:
- for His glory,
- for the good of those who trust in Him, and
- for the total destruction of all evil and injustice.
The ultimate proof is the cross of Jesus Christ – where unimaginable evil and injustice were arranged by God in such a way as to accomplish the greatest good that ever happened: our eternal salvation!
Job could safely entrust his life to this good God even when everything was so bad – and so can you. Through the trial of suffering, God would bring Job to the triumph of glory.
A friend of mine was converted by Job 38 where God says, “I will question you, and you will answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” In her pride she demanded from God an answer to all her questions, an explanation for all His actions. She expected God to give an account to her.
Then she realized she had reversed reality. Reality is that she is insignificant and God is great; she must answer to God, not He to her. When God put her in her place with these words, “I will question you,“ she found peace in the midst of suffering.
She had met the God who was so great that He could work good out of evil. She trusted Him to save her even when what He was doing didn’t make any sense to her.
Making it through the Maze
One of the things we have to navigate in this virus crisis is a cyberspace teeming with science, data, information, theories, models, and opinions.
Plus changing science, revised data, adjusted models, and misinformation. One day we’re told that 1-2 million Americans will die, and the next day maybe only 50,000.
Plus constantly changing and conflicting guidelines. Masks are essential, and masks don’t help. Social distancing is required; social distancing doesn’t make a difference. The virus can linger on a surface for as long as 3 hours, or as long as 3 days. Transmission requires contact; or the virus can be transmitted through the air.
And on and on.
The pandemic has produced a confusing infodemic of facts and figures, hoaxes and conspiracy theories, honest misunderstandings and conflicting solutions. It’s a maze to maneuver if you’re paying attention.
So how should we handle this? Whom should we listen to? A few days ago I mentioned the George Webb conspiracy theory that the virus crisis is a conspiracy of the Benassi family to spread the virus over the world. People believe this stuff.
Then there’s ‘Pastor Jonathan,’ self-identified as God’s prophet, who claims that the coronavirus is just our bodies reacting to 5G technology (the non-ionising radiation of radio and microwaves). The virus story is really technology giants covering up their plot to take over the world and insert Artificial Intelligence microchips into your body through vaccines. This will pave the way for the coming of the Antichrist. One of the masterminds behind this take-over plot through vaccines is Bill Gates. (see Incontext International, “COVID-19 and 5G: Biggest cover-up in history? True or False?” April 2 and 22, 2020) People believe this stuff too.
Whenever you read of ‘organized plots’ and ‘cover-up’ theories, tread very carefully. These are usually ‘Da Vinci Code’ category fantasies of twisted imaginations.
Then there are other reasonable, though often conflicting, medical and scientific opinions featured on news sources and Youtube that end up on your Facebook page or on Twitter. One says lockdown is essential to stop the spread. Another says that unless you’re in the vulnerable sector, business as usual is much healthier and will save more lives in the long run. Some views get censored, while others get centre stage; then the tides change and the censored view gets centre-stage.
So what do we do? Here are a few thoughts as to how we as Christians can keep our heads as we move through the maze of this infodemic:
1. Be thankful for medical and scientific experts, and for the freedom they still have in our society to discuss and disagree (see Albert Mohler, The Briefing, May 6, 2020). Although they have their own biases, they are skilled specialists in understanding health and sickness. We do well to listen and weigh and learn, and not dismiss them out of hand, even though their understanding has limits.
2. Respect the limitations of the experts as well. We should not bow down to science and data as the source of ultimate truth and the giver of health and safety. Nor should we fall apart when they’re predictions don’t come to pass.
Whatever information you read, realize that science is not absolute truth. That attribute is reserved for the Word of God alone. When experts censor all information that disagree with them, and when their followers do the same, they have made science a god requiring complete loyalty. Maybe God will use Covid to remind our idolatrous world that science is not God. May He humble our society to see that only the Word of our God is unchanging and endures forever.
3. Let’s be reminded again to be wary of conspiracy theories. If we have an anti-vaccine or anti-pharmaceutical or anti-government or anti-science bent we are especially prone to follow idle tales.
4. Plant some radishes in your garden. And garlic. And beans. Get way from the TV and off the internet so that you’re not constantly connected to the information maze. Don’t let it become an obsession that consumes you. Some folks live on the Covid News roller coaster and become paranoid. But there’s much more to life, many gifts of God to enjoy inside and outside. Breathe in the depth and breadth of life in God’s green world as much as you can.
5. To keep your head on straight, spend much time in the Bible. God’s Word is Good News. It’s hope. It’s proper perspective. The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. (Psalm 19:7) It helps us see that any crisis that strikes us here on earth is a small blip on the screen of eternity. Jesus died and rose again, and in His victory over sin, suffering and death, we are more than conquerors over whatever may come our way in this life.
If you put your trust in Him, you have a life that is far bigger than any news cycle and an eternal kingdom that will outlast and outshine any kingdom here on earth.
I heard a meditation today on Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I was immediately struck by how Paul referred to God as “My God.”
What a beautiful way to speak of God!
1. It expresses love and devotion for God; it is a term of endearment. “God, you are mine. My God.” This is how David expresses his love for God in Psalm 18. He keeps calling Him “Mine.” I love You, O Lord, my strength…my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock…my shield…my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:1-2)
This is the God who has done so much for me. He loved me when I was lost in my sin, sent His Son to rescue me from the pit of destruction, and lifted me high on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. This is my God!
2. It shows belonging. When you believe in Jesus Christ, He brings you to God. God becomes your Father, and you, His child. You belong to Him by covenant. He says, “I am your God; you are my people.” He has embraced you as His dearly loved friend and committed Himself to you in an everlasting relationship.
3. It shows trust and dependence. Paul is commending his God who supplied all his needs to the Philippian Christians as their God who will supply all their needs. He is my God in whom I trust. (Psalm 91:2)
After he survived a night in a den of hungry lions, Daniel said to the Persian King Darius, “My God sent his angel and shut the lion‘s mouths and they have not harmed me.” (Daniel 6.22)
4. It shows a personal relationship with God through personally experienced mercies. A Christian does not just know about God. He knows God through personal experience of God’s grace, protection, patience, power, and kindness. God has come to Paul through Jesus and forgiven all his many sins, accepted and adopted him as His child, strengthened him in every task, and stood with him through every trial. This is my God!
How important at all times, and also at such a time as this, to know God as “my God.“ As much as I like to think that we’re coming out of the COVID woods and can soon leave this thing behind, I know that it is far from true. It is a tornado cutting a wide swath of trouble through our lives and livelihood, our work and worship, our fellowship and freedom. It demands so much of our energy, attention and time. It creates so much fear, blame-shifting and political conflict. It blinds us with endless facts and figures from experts. It hurts churches and missions, and places heavy financial strain on Christian organizations.
It is a consuming cultural and global crisis.
I know there are blessings in it too. The Lord is working out His glorious purposes. He is destroying our idols. He is summoning the world to bow before Him and be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. He is calling us to account for our arrogance: spitting in His face, defying His laws, killing millions of unborn babies every year around the world, and all the while thinking that God does not see or know, and, if He does, He has no right to invade our space.
Well, He has invaded our space! Because this is His space. He calls us to honor Him and give Him thanks.
But the most blessed and wonderful thing for us at this time is to know Him as my God. In the midst of all the turmoil that surrounds me, I have God. And God is infinitely more than all that is around me. He is infinitely greater than all the troubles of this world, infinitely richer than all the wealth of this world, infinitely wiser than all the wisdom of this world, and infinitely more loving than any love in this world.
To know Him is eternal life!
Do you know this God? Can you say of Him, “My God?” Do you love Him? Do you trust Him?
He is not an idea. He is a Personal, Living, Divine Being. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
A Tough Journey but a Worthwhile Trip
We’re coming close to completing a marathon in our family devotions – reading through the book of Job. “Long, windy speeches,” I remember my uncle saying to describe this book.
And that’s the way it feels after you go through round 1, round 2, and then still a 3rd round of arguments between Job and his 3 ‘friends.’
That’s followed by 6 chapters of response by Job, then 6 chapters of rebuke by Elihu, followed by 4 chapters of questions from God, and then a final chapter of resolution. It’s easy to lose your way in the book of Job!
Its elevated poetry, ancient imagery, fiery emotion, and deep theology can be overwhelming. We read it after mealtimes, one chapter per sitting, with each family member having a Bible and taking turns reading verses until the chapter was done.
Usually we highlight one verse in our reading to ask, “What in the world does that mean?” If someone in your family has a Study Bible, you can take a minute or two to discuss one of the verses you just read.
By the way, I recommend the podcast, “Christopher Ash on Job,” a conversation of Nancy Guthrie with Bible scholar and teacher Christopher Ash. It will help you in your Job marathon at the family table.
Job is a very important book because it helps us see that God is upright and good even when He allows righteous Christians to suffer. It’s really all about God, and helps us know and trust Him more.
Job is a picture of Jesus, the Ultimate Sinless Sufferer, whose horrible suffering God used to destroy Satan’s kingdom and to set up His eternal kingdom. As a servant of Jesus, God also used Job’s suffering to prove Satan wrong and to show God’s greatness and goodness.
This is where Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are completely unhelpful, and worse, dangerously wrong, in their ‘ministry’ to grieving Job. Job calls them ‘worthless physicians,’ and ‘miserable comforters’ (Job 13:4, 16:2) because they have a wrong view of God.
They begin well enough. They come and visit him, weep with him, and sit with him for 7 days without saying a word. They’re just there. We can learn from that! Often when people get hit with trouble, we’re afraid. What are we going to say? What if we mess up? We stay away. We’re not there.
But as soon as the 3 friends open their mouths to ‘comfort’ him, things go badly. The problem is not that they speak, but what they say. Their theology of suffering is wrong. It’s superficial and graceless. They assume only bad people suffer; therefore Job must be bad. If he was good, all good things would happen to him.
Their theology of God is like Maria’s in ‘The Sound of Music:’ Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, but somewhere in my youth and childhood, I must have done something good.
They tell Job he must be harboring some secret sin in his life to deserve such suffering. He must have done something wrong. He can’t be in a right relationship with God. His faith in God must not be good to be in such trouble as this. He must be a hypocrite.
They accuse him with the worst sins imaginable without a shred of evidence to support their accusation.
But if there’s no room in God for righteous people to suffer, even suffer horribly, where does Jesus fit in? Jesus is the Ultimate Good and Holy Man, yet God brought suffering upon His Sinless Son like no one could ever experience here on earth.
Later God says to Job’s 3 friends, “My anger burns against you because you have not spoken of Me what is right.” (Job 42:7)
As you read through the ‘long, windy’ speeches of Job’s 3 friends, there are a lot of spots where you say, “You’re bang on there, Bildad!” But even their right statements are used in the service of wrong theology and therefore are worthless and graceless.
Dear Christian friend, if God has brought deep suffering into your life, don’t assume God is punishing you for some hidden evil. Don’t conclude you must be a hypocrite. True and faithful believers suffer. Righteous people suffer. They suffer as servants of Jesus to bring Satan down and exalt Christ.
God has answered your suffering in the suffering of Jesus who died to remove the punishment from your pain and then rose again to bring you to spend eternity with Him in Paradise. God brought unimaginable grief on His Sinless Son to bring unimaginable good to you!
So don’t adopt Bildad’s Bad Theology when you suffer. Trust in Jesus Christ and know that God loves you and is good to you even in your pain. Like Job, He uses your suffering to promote Jesus’ suffering. He uses your suffering to prove Satan wrong.
Look ahead to the end of the story of suffering – it leads to full glory with Jesus in Paradise.
The Destructive Power of a False Witness
Have you ever heard of Maatje and Matthew Benassi? Neither had almost anybody else until they became the target of George Webb’s conspiracy theory in March. Theirs is a story of the destructive power of a false witness, how a false narrative made them the subjects of worldwide hatred, and ruined their quiet lives.
Maatje Benassi is a retired U.S. Army reservist. Both she and her husband, Matt, work as civilian employees with the United States’ military in Virginia.
Maatje is an accomplished cyclist and last October she travelled to Wuhan, China, to join hundreds of other military athletes at the 2019 Military World Games. She competed in the cycling competition there. In the final lap she had an accident that left her with a fractured rib and a concussion, but, despite the crash, Benassi still finished the race.
It turned out to be the start of something worse, however. For some unknown reason, Maatje Benassi was selected out of the group of athletes and interwoven into George Webb’s story line that Maatje is “Coronavirus Patient Zero.” His false claim is that COVID-19 began with her, then spread to the city of Wuhan in China, and from there it travelled across the whole world.
According to this American peddler of disinformation, Maatje Benassi is the key part of a larger plot of the Benassi family to spread the virus throughout the world. (Donie O’Sullivan, CNN Business Report, April 27, 2020)
The lies of this conspiracy theory are ludicrous. Maatje has never tested positive for COVID-19, and has never shown any symptoms for it. Yet George Webb has more than 100,000 followers on Youtube, and internet trolls have spread his poison everywhere, translated in many different languages. His videos are especially popular in China where the Chinese Community Party is using his false claims as propaganda to support its claim that American military personnel brought the virus to China.
George Webb has also advertised Matt and Maatje Benassi’s street address so they are being pummelled not only with cyberbullying, but also with snail mail and the threats of personal assault in their home. Their lives have been turned upside down by having a new, false identity imposed on them by men who bear false witness.
Conspiracy theory is an evil sport perpetrated by people who love the power of a following, and believed by people who love an intriguing narrative that makes them feel powerful and important too. They are empowered by the sense that they are raging against the machine of the mainstream media. They boast that they are not blindly following the evil media, yet blindly fall for something that’s often far more ridiculous and damaging to other people.
As Christians, though we should not blindly follow mainstream media, we also have to arm ourselves against the equally, if not more, dangerous power of a false story arising from conspiracy lovers. Especially when that false story fits the narrative of the world that lives deep within us, we are all prone to jump on the bandwagon of bearing false witness.
If we’re anti-Hilary, or anti-Trump, or anti-semitic, or anti-leftist, our commitment to the 9th commandment can quickly fall apart when we hear a story or theory that supports our cause. We spread
false testimony, and join in condemning someone rashly or without a hearing. (see Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 112)
Remember, there’s always someone at the other end of the story, a Maatje Benassi whose life is being upended by the rumours. Words have power to heal and destroy.
Sadly, as Christians we are too ready to fall for a false story. We are too quick to imitate the devil who is the ultimate liar and murderer (see John 8:44), rather than God who is the Truth and Source of all truth.
It’s difficult to steer a pathway of truth through a very complicated world of journalistic bias and social media trolling, but this is our calling as God’s children. Truth is real, and our hearts and minds have to yearn for it, look for it, and avoid lying and deceit of every kind.
The key is knowing Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (see John 14:6), and knowing His Word. Jesus is so committed to the Truth that He came into the world to perish on the other side of it – He was condemned to death and destroyed on a cross by the testimony of false witnesses and those who supported them.
Jesus did this because of His love for liars like you and me. In His death He paid the price for our lying and destroyed the power of the lie. By faith in Him we are given a new heart to know and love the truth, and to hate and avoid the lie.
So as God’s children redeemed by Jesus, let us do whatever we can in these times to promote the truth. Then we bring glory to God and we protect and advance our neighbor’s honour and reputation.
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.
Maybe you have read the Bible, but have you ever felt it? I don’t mean ‘have you felt it’ by running your fingers over its pages, but have you felt the truth of the passage resonate deep inside your heart and mind?
That’s what Christian meditation is. It is feeling Scripture deep in your life so that you thrive like a tree by water.
Psalm 1 refers to the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
The Hebrew word for ‘meditate’ is to moan, murmur, muse or feel something very deeply. Meditation means reading a Bible passage so deeply that in it God moves your soul, and you murmur your resonance with His truth for your life.
Christian mediation is different than – and very much at odds with – eastern meditation. Eastern, mystical meditation is about emptying your mind of all rational thought and just being open to the universe, whatever that means. (Tim Keller, “How to become Evergreen: Meditation on Psalm 1”)
Christian meditation also rejects secular meditation which is about focusing on your inner self. The aim of secular meditation is to get in touch with your own soul to release the energy within, and also to free yourself from outside pressures.
Neither of these forms of meditation can cure the soul’s true need. One is an attempt to erase the self; the other is the attempt to find the answer in the self.
But the soul’s real need is to connect with the God who made us and who alone can save us from all our sins and troubles. Only He can give us real life and joy.
The place to meet this one, true God is in His Word, the Bible. That’s God’s place of unchangeable, unbreakable Truth, where we meet God’s Light and Life. When you meditate on His Word He will meet you, fill you, and move your soul with His life-changing presence. It does not empty you, but fills you.
Psalm 1 speaks of meditating on the Law of the LORD day and night. The word ‘law’ means ‘instruction’ and in this context refers to the whole Bible, everything that God has spoken to us.
So what does it mean to meditate?
- It means to read the Bible. Find a passage and read it closely and carefully. Don’t run roughshod over it and trample most of it into the ground like cows in new pasture. Read a chapter or two with focus.
- Then fix your mind on a particular verse or truth in that passage. Take a few minutes to think about it, and let it sink in. Ask God to help you understand it’s meaning accurately, and to apply it to your life honestly. Jot down a note or two of discovery.
- Be regular in it. Not once a month. Not hit and miss. Psalm 1 says ‘day and night.’ The point is to make God’s Word the regular food and drink of your soul to guide you, challenge you, and comfort you.
- Delight in it. The key to delighting in Scripture is knowing Jesus. He delighted in God’s Law and kept it perfectly. (see Psalm 40:8) Without knowing Jesus, the Bible is a heavy burden. It condemns us, convicts us and crushes us. But when we see Jesus who carried the heavy burden for us, the law becomes a delight.
Because of Jesus who was condemned and crushed on the cross for our sins, the Bible now becomes for us a place of living water. There we meet Jesus telling us how He lived and died for us, and rose again. There we hear Him calling us to live our lives for Him.
So take some time at the beginning of each day to meditate on God’s Word. If you have a little more free time on your hands these days, settle in to this good, godly, and very meaningful routine.
In this way you will not just read Scripture, but feel it deeply. It becomes water that satisfies your thirst for a closer walk with God. It becomes food that feeds your hunger for a stronger walk with God.
For too many Christians, the Bible is a much-neglected book. How sad that needy souls drink so seldom, and in such small sips, from the well of living water that is right beside them. And we wonder why God seems so distant from our daily lives!
Meditate on God’s word, and let His truth sink deeply into your life, so that you feel God’s truth, are filled with God’s presence, and flourish in God’s holiness.
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.
“COVID” vs. “China”
Since the war against the novel coronavirus began a few months ago, another war is being fought on the political propaganda front: should China be identified with the name of the virus?
Some insist on calling it the China virus. That’s where the virus started and China needs to be held accountable.
It’s alarming to see just how hard the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has worked to cover-up the outbreak. For 2 months the virus travelled around the world while the Chinese government remained silent. When Dr. Li Wenliang first sounded the alarm last December he was muzzled by government officials under China’s one-party dictatorship. On his deathbed Dr. Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice.”
Since then several Chinese doctors and independent voices have courageously spoken out against the CCP and have mysteriously gone missing. These heroes have called on all their fellow citizens to “rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”
But the Communist party continues its cover-up by silencing dissident voices, refusing outside investigation, deleting medical records surrounding the virus, and pressuring the World Health Organization to comply with its cover-up.
Another sinister part of the story is China’s purchase of PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – like gloves and masks. While still hiding the seriousness of the outbreak from the world, it quickly went all out to purchase billions of pieces of protective equipment from all over the world at cheap prices – some countries even donated it – using its worldwide organizations (like the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations) as secret agents to buy and ship medical equipment for the motherland.
This left many countries, like Italy, Mexico and Canada, short of medical supplies when the pandemic hit them. But China either refused to let go of its protective equipment, or sold it back to needy countries at a very high price. Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s former ambassador to Beijing, reported to Global News: “In March, the masks Mexico sold to China in January and February were being sold back to Mexico at 20 to 30 times the price.” (Sam Cooper, “United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies,” Global News: April 30, 2020)
Indeed, China does have a lot to answer for in this pandemic, and the world will do well to be less trusting of and less dependent on the services of the Chinese Communist Party. Currently 80% of the world’s active ingredients of pharmaceuticals are produced in China.
So should we speak of COVID-19 or ‘the China virus’? The danger of speaking of ‘the China virus’ is that we target the Chinese people rather than the regime that rules the people. Given the hatred that lives in the sinful human heart, we are not surprised at the surge in anti-Asian and anti-Chinese sentiments online and on the street. The pandemic has destroyed many people’s livelihoods and even lives around the world. People are angry at China.
As Christians we should in no way participate in racist thoughts, attitudes or behaviours toward our Asian neighbours, whether they live next door or in China. These men and women are our own flesh and blood, with the same sins, needs, and talents we have. We are equally in need of salvation, and equally accepted as God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no fundamental difference between us and them.
But we do need to be honest about the lies and cover-ups that have aided the pandemic and encourage our governments to face the facts. There must be genuine accountability.
Even more, we need to repent of our love of money which has propped up the Chinese economy and supported the Communist regime in exchange for cheap goods. It will cost us to become less dependent on Chinese manufacturing and more economically self-sufficient, but these are the kinds of changes we must be willing to make.
In an Open Letter entitled, “The Communist Party’s Rule by Fear Endangers Chinese Citizens—and the World,” 100 international politicians and policy experts, including several Canadians, wrote:
We stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens…real heroes…who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China…They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.
Yes, let’s join them. And let’s remember especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, living in China and Hong Kong, who face the party’s brutality everyday. For years our Western governments, and Christians too, have ignored their plight in exchange for cash. May God use COVID-19 to open our ears to their cries and to support their need for freedom.
During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.
I’m getting tired of hearing, ‘We’re living in unprecedented times.’ The ‘coronavirus excitement’ has worn off for me a long time ago. I’m more than ready to move on from this.
What about you? Are you tired of doing school at home, and want to go back to school with ‘real people’ again? Have you had enough of circles and line-ups at the grocery and hardware stores?
We’re getting impatient with social isolation measures. We don’t want anybody to talk to us anymore about ‘bending the COVID curve.’
Wives are weary of their husbands hanging around home, working out of a makeshift office somewhere in a corner of the house. People are tired of live-streamed worship services and trying to sing with 2 other people who can’t hold a tune. We want real church again.
Grandparents think it’s about time they see their grandchildren again. Zoom visits are getting old. There’s the frustration of moving toward the 7th week of nursing home lockdown.
And we’re losing patience with our governments. We’ve had enough of stay-at-home orders and wonder about their wisdom and helpfulness. Governments are hesitant to re-open civic life and let us get back to work, back to shopping, and back to the park. We’re tempted to ‘serve’ our governments as armchair quarterbacks who see much more clearly than they how they should handle the virus.
Police are witnessing a marked increase in signs of social unrest. Some officers have been overeager to enforce quarantine rules and have charged hefty fines for tiny infractions. A teenager skateboarding alone in a parking lot gets stopped by police. Patience with our authorities is wearing thin.
Public protests are mounting for workplace opening. Our society in on the verge of a pandemic of contract disputes and lawsuits. The fight against a disease is quickly turning into a fight against people.
As Christians, it’s time to put on (again) the Christian grace of patience. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12) Patience is much different than mere tolerance. Patience is pursuing God-glorifying change with trust in God and love for neighbour, and without complaining, raging and malice.
Patience wants to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason.
It is Jesus Christ’s special gift. He is the Patient One, the Longsuffering One who died for our sin of impatience and rose again to give us the new life of patience. When you entrust your life to Jesus in faith, one of the gifts He gives you is patience. He gives you this gift through His Holy Spirit.
Let me offer four ways for us to handle life patiently:
- Patience prays. Patience prays for people. Patience prays for change. I spoke with my Member of Provincial Parliament yesterday about the government’s challenge of pushing the reset button. Our leaders grapple with a wide variety of scientific and popular views which are diametrically opposed. He asked us to pray for wisdom.
- Patience waits. Patience waits for the Lord to work in you and in others. Patience waits for the Lord to make people ready. Instead of lashing out in rage, anger, brawling and slander (Ephesians 4:31) when things don’t go as quickly as you want them to, patience works and speaks, but always waits on the Lord to make things happen.
- Patience gives thanks. In the press for things to change, don’t forget to thank God for the gift of government, the gift of health care, the gift of internet, the gift of Zoom, the gift of teachers who are willing to invest their time and energy into online learning, the gift of family and friends, and above all that great gift of Christian hope that lifts our hearts above the noise of this world to the sure promise of eternal life with God through Jesus Christ. Instead of grumbling and complaining, patience give thanks.
- Patience forbears and forgives. After calling us to put on patience, Jesus adds: Bear with each other and if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)
In the pressure cooker of the virus with all its unknowns, uncertainties, and weirdness, we have had to deal with many human weaknesses, misjudgments, failures and sins. Patience forbears with people’s weaknesses and seeks to forgive those who sinned against us.
In our patience may be Jesus Christ, who is so forbearing and forgiving with us His children, be magnified.
In the conflict and noise of re-opening civic life, the sin of impatience will tempt us. But for Christ’s glory and your neighbour’s good, clothe yourself with patience.