No Longer Normal

In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.

Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.

For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.

However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.

For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.

However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?

The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.

The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.

There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.

2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.

Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.

Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.

NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –

Life is no longer normal!

Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!

Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!

It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!

Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!

Suffering is a Blessing from the Lord

depression I have been out of circulation for a little while due to some rather difficult circumstances my family has had to face. While I will not discuss the details of this, suffice it to say that God has been blessing us through the furnace of the refiner’s fire. In the last year we have faced a great number of difficulties. As a result, there have been days where we have wept because of the suffering we faced. There have also been days where we rejoiced in our pain that we serve a great and powerful God who knew exactly what He was doing, even if we didn’t. Through all this time, my faith has been tried in ways I never expected. Even today, as I write this post, I know that in my heart, despondency and depression are close at hand. If I did not admit this, if I tried to tell you that we have been all smiles, never doubting God for even a moment, I would be a terrible liar. Yet, I write this, not to complain so that people will comfort me. I write it to be a comfort to you.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 tells us “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What this is teaching us is that God allows us to endure suffering and affliction and that He comforts us in that affliction. In turn, we then can comfort others in their suffering, with the same comfort we received from God. That is to say that one of the reasons we endure suffering is so we can be comforted and in turn we can comfort others who suffer.

It sounds like a crazy revolving door, yet it makes a lot of sense. If the world were just one giant accidental cosmic burp, as evolution teaches us, then there is not one thing in which we can find comfort in our suffering. In fact, suffering and affliction should be exalted because it is what culls the weaker of the species off. We should not seek to comfort those who are hurting; we should let them die off because they are too weak to handle the harsh realities of life.

Yet, it is in the gospel that we find the reason for comfort. God created the entire universe, this massive, seemingly endless expanse. And tucked away in one tiny portion of it, He created a planet where He placed mankind. There, He placed the breath of life into man and gave him dominion over all His creation. God gave man but one command, to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yet, Adam, in his wanton rebellion, ate of the tree, ushering in death and forever tainting mankind in sin. The creation was perfect, no suffering, no death, and no affliction. Yet, the perfect creation was forever marred by the sin of man. Now mankind must endure suffering because of the wickedness of his heart.

God then promised Adam that from his descendants would one day come a Seed that would defeat death and redeem fallen man. In that promise was comfort. It was a promise that despite what man brought upon himself, God would one day rescue him from it. That promise was fulfilled when the Son of God came down from His throne and took on humanity. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the law of God, yet He willing received the wrath of the Father at the cross and took the full punishment that all sinners deserve. Following His death, Christ was buried in the tomb, yet rose Himself three days later, defeating sin and death. God promised comfort to those who would recognize their sinfulness before a holy Judge, who would repent of those sins and throw themselves at the foot of the blood stained cross, crying out in faith to the One who had died for them. That comfort was given when sinners were made sinless in the eyes of God, being given the righteousness of Christ in exchange for the sinful burden He nailed to the cross.

All those who have ever trusted in Christ – those looking forward from the promise made to Adam in the garden and those looking back at the finished work of the cross – have the comfort of knowing that their sins are forgiven and that they will experience eternal life in the presence of their Savior. But they also have comfort in knowing two other things. One, that when they enter into that eternal life, all pain and suffering will come to an end. And that, two, while in this life, all the pain and suffering they endure will happen only because the sovereign will of God has allowed it. No momentary affliction, no matter how intense, will be felt without the express decree of God. And in that is great comfort, because if God has willed it, then it is for His glory and our ultimate good.

How can pain and suffering be good? First, it reminds us that this life is only temporary. This world, as beautiful and amazing as it can be, is a fallen, busted wreck. It is tainted by the effect of sin brought into it by man. Because it is in this state, one day, God will destroy it all and create a new heavens and a new earth. Suffering in this life reminds us that God’s sovereign decree is that one day He will bring all things into judgment. Only those who have repented and placed their faith in Christ while be spared His righteous wrath, poured down in fire from Heaven. Suffering causes us to long for that day when He will restore His creation, and reminds us to hold onto this world with very light hands.

Secondly, suffering causes us to realize we are not in control of our lives. There is nothing that happens to us that God has not ordained. Therefore, no matter how hard we try to orchestrate the events of our lives so that we have the great success and most comfort possible, only God can determine what the next day (or hour, or even minute) will bring. Suffering humbles us and causes us to understand that we cannot for even one moment be in complete control of our lives. We wholly depend upon God for life and breath. Therefore, suffering makes us cling tightly to the Master of our destiny, knowing that everything He does is right and good. It frees us from trying to be the ultimate director in the play that we try to write for ourselves. It causes us to rest in Him who ordained it from the very beginning.

Of course, such rest does not come easily for us sinful beings trapped in this tainted flesh. That is why God continually allows suffering and affliction to tear us from the grasp of wretched and rebellious world. With each new trial in our lives, if we will but cling to the Master, the pain we feel will be comforted by the very One who brought us into that suffering. And as He carries us through it, we can look back and see where He has refined us into a fine and precious tool, created for His workmanship. Then we can know that the suffering we endured was for His purposes, and for our ultimate good.

I implore you know, if you are going through a terrible trial, cling to the Lord. Know that He is using this time to make you into something He will use. It is not easy, it is most certainly painful. If you will but trust in Him alone, not so that you may gain something from it, but so that you may bring glory to Him, then you will find that one day you can be a comfort to someone else who is enduring a time of testing. You can testify to how God used your pain to strip away those things that kept you trapped in a sinful mindset. How He humbled and purified you, how He made you fit for His use. During this time, do not cry out as if this suffering never should have occurred to you. Know that, were God to give us what we truly deserve, this light affliction would be nothing compared to His judgment. So glory in His mercy that this time of hurting is His work in you, and find comfort in knowing there is not one thing God has allowed in your life that is not a blessing from Him