8 Reflections on Racism and Riots

I’m neither black nor white. I’m brown, or Asian American. And I’m a Christian; therefore, I will address racism and rioting from a biblical point of view. Here are my thoughts on these issues:

1) There’s only one race on earth and that is Adam’s race. Regardless of your skin color, your origin can be traced back to Adam (Genesis 1 & 2). We should therefore view ourselves as belonging to the same Adamic race. And having the same blood, we should love, and not hate, each other.

2) Since we have the same race, you can’t say that your race is better than other races. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to think that your race is superior to other races, since there’s only one race. Thus, to be a racist is inconsistent with the Bible. I think we see racism at its worst in the genocide of approximately six million Jews during Hitler’s time. Hitler thought that the Jews were an inferior group of people, “fit for enslavement, or even extermination.”

3) Whether you’re black, brown, red, white, or yellow, your life matters to God because He created you in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). So my life matters not because I’m brown but because I bear God’s image. Black lives matter not because of their color but because they are made in God’s image.

4) Since every life is created in God’s image, all lives (black, brown, red, white, and yellow) are equal. We should therefore treat every life with equal importance. George Floyd’s life was as important as the lives of those Nigerian Christians brutally murdered by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram.

According to genocidewatch.com, “350 Nigerian Christians were massacred in the first two months of 2020…Nigeria has become a killing field of defenseless Christians. Reliable sources show that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christians have been massacred since June 2015 when the Buhari Government of Nigeria came to power. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 murders of Christians. Boko Haram committed 4000 killings of Christians.”

Imagine since 2015 about 12,000 black lives were murdered in Nigeria! Right now there are demonstrations around the world, including England, Germany, and Canada, against the murder of George Floyd. Yet I can’t help but wonder why we also don’t hear an outcry regarding the mass killing of black lives in Nigeria? Is it because Nigerian lives are not as important as the lives of those living in the US? I’m not minimizing the horrible murder of Floyd, nor am I saying that police brutality should not be peacefully protested. However, if we really believe that all lives matter, we should treat every single life with equal worth. We should not pick and choose what life we want to value.

5) Since God’s image is sacred and since every life is made in God’s image, every life is not only important and equal, but also sacred. The murder of George Floyd was evil because it violated the sacredness of his life (Genesis 9:6). And the sacredness of one’s life doesn’t depend on who violates it. Floyd’s life was sacred not because it was violated by a white police officer. Even if he was murdered by a black police officer, his life was still sacred.

Sadly, if a black life was killed by another black person, or if a white life was killed by a black person, we don’t see the same degree of protest, as if black lives only matter when they are killed by a white person. When was the last time you heard a strong demonstration because a black man was killed by a black police officer? Every life matters because every life is sacred; and thus, I plead with the Black Lives Matter movement that they also protest against the murder of unborn innocent babies in the wombs of every black woman. The lives of these aborted unborn babies were as sacred as George Floyd’s life.

According to Grand Rapids Right to Life, “Abortion is not just a woman’s issue.  It’s a human rights issue.…Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion kills more black people than HIV, homicide, diabetes, accident, cancer, and heart disease … combined.”

6) God has gifted us in the US with the First Amendment, which guarantees “the freedom of speech” and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Constitutionally, you have all the right to protest against the injustice done to George Floyd. But according to the First Amendment, you must to do so “peaceably.” Therefore, you have no right to loot, hurt police officers and set their vehicles on fire, vandalize and ruin buildings. This is not your right! After all, what does looting have to do with the murder of Floyd? Do you think it will help solve the issue? The injustice done to Floyd does not license you to do lawlessness. My heart was grieved with what happened to Floyd but my heart was equally grieved with the riots caused by lawless protesters.

God says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21).

7) Racism is still very much alive in our country. We can either ignore this problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, or face and address it. Fellow Christians, we should deal with the issue of racism with the same equal force that we give to the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. To my fellow pastors, we should also be preaching against the sin of racism.

8) The only remedy for racism is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Racism says, “I’m ethnically superior to you.” The gospel says, “We equally matter before God because both of us are created in His image.” Racism violates the sanctity of life. The gospel treats every life as sacred. Racism begets hatred and violence. The gospel begets love and peace. Racism divides. The gospel brings reconciliation not only between you and God but also between you and your enemies. Racism harms and kills. The gospel heals and gives everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Racism resents. The gospel forgives.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

What we therefore desperately need today in our country is the gospel.

8 Reflections on Racism & Riots by Brian G. Najapfour

 

Abortion Anger Favoritism Gospel Homosexuality Racism

10 Tips on Homeschooling

Today our guest blogger is Jill Meerdink, wife to Trevor and stay-at-home-mom/teacher to their six children. She enjoys homeschooling their children in the backwoods of Northern British Columbia, Canada.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, many parents are homeschooling for the first time.  Maybe you were thinking of homeschooling already, maybe you never gave it a thought, or maybe you’ve been homeschooling for years. In any case, we’ve all found homeschooling tough (maybe even really tough!) at one point or another. Here are a few tips to help you on your journey.

1. “Commit your work unto the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3).

Lay it all before the Lord.  Ask for His guidance. After all, it is His will that you are where you are right now.

2. Prioritize your goals.

As you lay it all before the Lord, ask Him to show you what His priorities are. What does God see as most important right now?  Is it schoolwork? Teaching your kids about God (Deut. 6:6 – 7)?  Training your children in good habits? The answer will be different for every family. This is a decision that should be worked through by you, your husband, and God. As an example, our family priorities are:

a. Bringing the gospel to our children.
b. Building godly character in our children.
c. Teaching our children their “school” studies.

However you lay out your priorities, write them out and hang them up for a reminder. When the tough days come and the only thing that gets done is your number one priority, then you can be encouraged that you have done the number one thing that God has required of you.

3. Remember that God will give you the strength you need to do what He is calling you to do.

Take Moses, for example, in Exodus 4:1–5. God used what Moses already had—his rod. God will use the gifts He’s given you to do the work He’s calling you to do.

4. Schedule.

With points 1, 2, and 3 in mind, make a schedule or a routine you will follow every day.  Children do very well with a specific routine. Knowing what is next in their day and what is required of them makes them feel more settled and less agitated. Make sure that in your routine your number one priority is getting done. In our schedule, one of the first things we do in our day is family devotions.  It’s just that important. Work the rest of your day around your priorities. For a more in depth look at scheduling, I highly recommend Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell available on Titus2.com.

5. You don’t have to do it all!

Weed out any unnecessary school work and combine what you can. Is your child really good at spelling? Then lay their spelling workbook aside. Instead of doing a handwriting worksheet, have your child write his answers to their history questions in their neatest handwriting or even on specially lined paper. These are just examples. As you work with your own children you will begin to see what is unnecessary and what can be linked with other schoolwork.

6. There will be tough times.

In these times, go back over points 1, 2 and 3. You will be greatly encouraged! Remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint!

7. Include Dad if he is available.

Kids love when Dad can teach them and spend time with them, too!  Even if that’s just for a bedtime story.

8. Group kids together if you can.

This is especially true if you have a big family or mostly younger children. Quite often they can easily do the same history together and sometimes even math or reading.

9. Do you need a break? Take it!

Kids love a surprise day off.  And sometimes Mom needs that too!  Don’t view it as a weakness!  A refreshed Mom makes for a more relaxed home!

10. Relax! Homeschooling is only as complicated as you make it.

Yes, it is challenging but it is also very rewarding!  Relish the “Aha!” moments your child has when the lightbulb goes on and they finally understand something! Usually, it is your child’s teacher that gets to enjoy these times. Enjoy the ride! Relax and count your blessings in this busy time!

Are you a teacher who is sending work home?

Try to understand that a homeschool will run differently than a classroom. For instance, as a teacher, you have one whole day to devote to one single age group or level. Parents with multiple children (and especially young children) have that same amount of time (and often less, if you include all the homemaking they do) to teach multiple age groups or levels. Consider what the most important work to send home would be. Be honest about what is just icing on the cake and can easily be learned next school year or in the future. Understanding each other’s needs is important in this busy and stressful time for all of us.

Are you a parent that has already been thinking of homeschooling your children and then you got slam-dunked into it when COVID-19 came into the picture?

Let me encourage you. Homeschooling as a lifestyle is much different than homeschooling on lockdown. As parents, we have more options all the way around: curriculum, what to teach, what to leave out, etc. It is much less stressful overall than homeschooling for the short term under the direction of a school. If you are thinking of homeschooling for the long run, I encourage you to talk to a few homeschooling parents you know in your area. They can advise you on all the ins and outs and laws of your state or province and also shed more light on homeschooling lifestyle than I can here.

Keep in mind that God is using all this for your sanctification and your family’s spiritual good.  Allow God to use it to make you more like His Son Jesus Christ. And remember, like all parenting, this work is kingdom work!

10 Tips on Homeschooling

Homeschooling

Our Greatest Need as a Nation

So what do you think is our greatest need as a nation?

Interestingly, in a Wall Street Journal article, written in 1947 (two years after the Second World War), a writer made this observation: “What America needs more than railway extension, western irrigation, a low tariff, a bigger cotton crop, and larger wheat crop is a revival of religion. The kind that father and mother used to have. A religion that counted it good business to take time for family worship each morning right in the middle of the wheat harvest.”

In short, according to this writer, what America needs most is a revival of religion—a religion that is based on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his book—The Secret of Christian Joy—published in 1938, Vance Havner (1901–1986) also made a similar observation: “The greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival.” I do believe too that today our greatest need as a nation is true revival.

Now, what is revival? In his book Revival: A People Saturated With God, Brian H. Edwards gives what I think is a comprehensive definition of revival: “A true Holy Spirit revival is a remarkable increase in the spiritual life of a larger number of God’s people, accompanied by an awesome awareness of the presence of God, intensity of prayer and praise, a deep conviction of sin with a passionate longing for holiness and unusual effectiveness in evangelism, leading to the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Noticeably, revival can only be experienced by believers—by those who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Christ. An unbeliever—a spiritually dead person cannot be revived; he must first be born again, because there is no life to be revived in him. Yet, remember that God is pleased to use the revival of his people to bring many sinners to true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Or as Edwards says, revival leads to “the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Oh, may we sincerely pray with the hymn writer William Mackay (1839–1885),

Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Hallelujah, Amen!
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Revive us again.

The scriptural background for this hymn is Psalm 85:4–7: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.”

Revival is ultimately the work of our sovereign God, not primarily for our good, but for his own glory. Oh, let’s not stop crying out to God to pour out his Spirit on us as a nation—to heal our broken land. Nothing is impossible with God! Could it be one of the reasons why we don’t experience revival is because we don’t earnestly ask for it? As James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

And before we pray to God to revive the church in our country, we first need to ask God to revive ourselves. Revival must begin with us believers. The English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith (1860–1947) was once asked the secret of revival. His reply is convicting: “Go home. Take a piece of chalk. Draw a circle around yourself. Then pray, ‘O Lord, revive everything inside this circle.’” This ought to be your prayer and my prayer: “O Lord, revive me first.”

Has it really been your prayer in the past few weeks that God will revive your heart? How quick we are to see the need for others to be changed, overlooking our own need for revival. We see the speck in other’s eye but do not notice the log in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). Before we criticize others, we first need to examine ourselves. Before we ask God to revive our nation and our leaders, we first need to ask God to revive us.

Our Greatest Need as a Nation

 

Revival

Stop Blaming Others, instead Self-examine Your Heart

We are in the middle of a pandemic right now. And in the midst of this health and economic crisis we see an increasing inclination to blame others.

We blame China. “If China had told us about this COVID-19 earlier, we would not have been in this situation. It’s China’s fault.”

We blame the President. “Our president failed to prepare our country for the coming of this coronavirus.”

We blame our governor. “She is too strict. She is robbing us of our freedom to do what we think is good for us.”

We probably even blame God. “If God is good and loving, why did He give us this virus?”

Of course, blaming shifting is not new. Our first parents did this in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned against God. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:11–13). The fact that we also love to blame others shows that we are their children. Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.

But here’s my question for you: Does it solve our crisis by blaming others? Does it help our situation get better by pointing our finger at others? Of course not! So instead of engaging yourself in blaming others, use this time to self-examine your heart. Instead of finding fault with others, why don’t we pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23–24).

Could it be that you and I are in part responsible for God’s bringing this virus on us? Remember Jonah. To run away from God, he took a ship going to Tarshish. But God sent a violent wind over the sea, putting the ship in great danger. The sailors wondered who was responsible for bringing this disaster on them. To make the story short, Jonah took the responsibility. Jonah then said to the sailors, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). The sailors eventually did as Jonah told them to do and “the sea ceased from its raging” (v. 15).

Now, I share this story not to suggest that it is your fault or my fault that we are caught up in this pandemic. But have you ever thought that you could be a partaker of this crisis? Have you ever thought also of the possibility that one of God’s many purposes with this coronavirus is to specifically test you? Perhaps God wanted to see how you would react to the pandemic. This virus can definitely expose who we really are!

Ironically, some Christians have the courage to protest against their political leader whom they think is robbing them of their freedom, yet remain silent when it comes to sharing their faith with others. I sometimes wonder what change could happen in our country if these Christians have the same boldness to rally for the gospel’s sake? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying Christians cannot disagree with how our government is handling the COVID-19 crisis, or that Christians cannot use the proper means to protest. However, how many of us have the same courage and passion to proclaim the gospel to our neighbors, or to surround the state capitol because we are so grieved about how our state tramples on God’s law? When was the last time you made a special trip just to share the gospel with others?

In addition to blaming others for the crisis, some of us may also find ourselves focused on complaining about our situation. Again, let’s pause and ask God to search our hearts. And let’s ask ourselves: What have we done to actually help solve our crisis? In the past three weeks, have you earnestly prayed to God to stop this pandemic? Have you diligently asked God to direct you to ways in which you can practically help your extended family, church, community, and beyond in the midst of this trying time? One early Christian once said, “I know many who fast, pray, sigh, and demonstrate every manner of piety, so long as it costs them nothing, yet would not part with a penny to help those in distress.” What sacrifices have you made for others’ sake?

I therefore plead with you. Please let’s stop blaming others and using our energy to complain. Rather, let’s use this very difficult and painful time to engage in self-examination. Maybe God gave us this COVID-19 to redirect our hearts back to him.

We are all anxious to get back to “normal” life. But I’m afraid to say that for many of us normal life is that which is consumed with the idols of this world such as money, sports, and entertainment. Could it be that one reason why God has not yet taken this virus away from us is because we have not learned the many lessons that he is teaching us through this pandemic? Why don’t you prayerfully ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from this crisis?”

May we not emerge from this pandemic hardening our hearts like Pharaoh who feared the plagues but not God!

A Call for Self-Examination

 

Affliction Suffering

A Guide for Small, Low-Tech Churches to Start Their Online Ministry

Today our guest blogger is Tim Arndt. He is an assistant pastor at Allendale Baptist Church where he is heavily involved in discipleship, outreach, and communications. He is the director of the Michigan Apologetics Network and is a chapter director with Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they’ve ever met.

Tim Arndt

Tim Arndt

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As the COVID-19 crisis hit America, in a matter of a 48 hours, I had four churches (besides my own) contact me asking for help to livestream their services and move their ministries online.

It was kind of funny having so many churches look to my church as if we were “experts” when just a few years ago we were a low-tech church of 40 people meeting in a funeral home.

By God’s grace, our church kept growing bit by bit and we kept seeking to improve in our use of technology too.

If you’re in a smaller, perhaps “older” church that is having a hard time adjusting to moving your ministries online, I’m writing this article for you.

I understand the challenges you’re experiencing.

The advice I’m giving here assumes you have little to no knowledge of how to utilize these technologies and can be quickly implemented.

(Not to mention, my advice shouldn’t break your budget either).

So grab the most tech-savvy person at your church and see if you can start using some of these tools to get your ministries going during this time of social distancing.

Online Sermons and Classes

If your church has not previously been recording video of sermons and classes, here is the general approach I would recommend:

Record your video in high definition, with good audio, and then upload the recorded video to both YouTube and Facebook.

Let me unpack that for you a bit.

By “high definition” I mean, make sure you are recording your video in at least 1080p or better yet, 4K resolution.

You’ll notice that I recommended recording your sermon and not livestreaming.

Livestreaming can be a lot more complicated than simply recording and you will usually end up with a much lower quality video. There are more reasons I can offer, but if you’re not used to using video, start with recording good video and you can work on livestreaming later.

The nice thing about recording is most people now own phones that can record in HD.

So you don’t need to spend extra money right away purchasing a camera! (of course if you have a nice camera, feel free to use it).

For good audio, you’re going to need a decent microphone.

There are a lot of microphones out there, but I’ll give you 3 examples of mics you can use with an iPhone: The Shure MV88, Blue mics, and this lavalier-style mic.

Here is why I recommend uploading your video to both Facebook AND YouTube.

Chances are your church has a Facebook page with some following. Since you already have an “audience” there, put your sermon right in front of them and then they can easily share it with their friends and family.

The reason it’s good to also upload your video to YouTube is because while over 70% of Americans use Facebook, over 90% use YouTube. For the people in your church who are not yet on Facebook, you can email them a link to your sermon on YouTube.

There’s a lot more that could be said about how to take good video of your sermons and classes, but if you at least pay attention to your lighting and the “rule of thirds”, your video should look great.

Here’s a list of free video editing software you can use.

Online Small Groups & Bible Studies

My church has continued doing small groups and smaller Bible studies on line and people have been really loving it!

To do this, you’re going to want to use some video conferencing software.

My top recommendation is Zoom.

I’d recommend that your church get a pro account or two ($15 per month) and it is really easy to setup and invite people to connect through video.

Other alternatives are Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

While these are not as advanced, you could also do video calls through Facebook messenger and Facetime. To be honest, while our church is using Zoom for most things, some people prefer using these other options and that’s okay!

Ultimately the goal is to keep your people connected to God and each other, and video conferencing software can really help with that.

Online Church Fellowship

This is something I think all churches need to start doing:

Utilize Facebook “groups”.

We’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback from people telling us how thankful they are for our “prayer and encouragement” Facebook group.

In our group we encourage people to ask for prayer requests and share how God has worked in their lives.

Additionally, it’s a great way for the pastors to send encouragement to their people.

While there are probably people in your church who don’t use Facebook, I would suggest that there are just as many (if not more) who don’t really use email.

Our prayer and encouragement group on Facebook has 120 members and 111 of them were active in the group in the last 7 days.

Meanwhile, only 40% of our people open the emails we send them.

I’m not suggesting you replace email with Facebook, but what I am saying is that your people are on Facebook and are more than willing to interact with the church in a group!

Here are 3 pieces of advice to using your Facebook group well.

  1. Make sure it’s a “private” group so that people have to request to join.
  2. Make sure you have a few trustworthy Admins or Moderators who can remove any posts that may be gossip or harmful in any way.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people with information, rather encourage interaction among the church. Ask how you can pray for people, or what they are thankful for. Get a conversation going.

Online Giving

My church took a hit when we had to cancel our services, but we still had an encouraging amount come in through our online giving platform.

I’ve spoken with a few churches this past week who said they have not received anything.

I know some churches have been hesitant to use online giving, but I think in this situation of quarantines and social distancing, utilizing online giving is a way to love your people.

Believe it or not there are a ton of giving platforms out there designed for churches.

If you currently use any sort of church database which stores your members’ contact information, they might have an online giving platform already.

Using your current database as a giving platform conveniently syncs your information automatically.

However, if you are starting from scratch, begin by looking at the fees involved.

Givingfees.com has compiled the pricing of the most popular online giving platforms for churches and you can weigh for yourself which option will be best for your church.

The Church Will Stand

In times like these it is important to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

These are hard times for churches, but it is in the darkest times that the church will shine brightest.

Utilize the gift of technology to the best of your ability and you can continue to see your church grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Use technology for the glory of God, until we can all meet again.

 

 

 

Ministry Technology

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

At some point in your life you will experience sickness (you might get a cold, the flu, cancer, or the coronavirus). And since sickness is a part of our existence, having a biblical view of it is of great importance. Therefore, in this article I will examine what the Bible teaches about illness. Here are six truths about sickness.

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die.  Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence, the presence of sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam. It is one of the effects of original sin. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no more sickness because there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:4).

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14–15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g., bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context affliction comes to us from God’s loving hand. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin but a test from God. Job is an example of this truth (Job 2:4–7). Sickness became an instrument in God’s hand to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of David’s sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. At another instance, the nation of Israel suffered a pestilence because David’s sin (2 Sam. 24). It is thus possible that a person or even a nation suffers the consequence of the sins of others.

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1–3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God was simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. He was simply displaying his sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” (whatever it might be) in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you a certain kind of illness (like the coronavirus) in order to keep you from pride and teach you to depend more on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9), so that at the end you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

Affliction

10 Ways in which this Coronavirus Pandemic Can Be for Our Good

I am a Christian and therefore I want to look at this coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, particularly of Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

This text teaches us that for us, believers in Christ, all things, without exception including the coronavirus, work together for good. Although sometimes in time of great trial we feel what Jacob felt, “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36).  But later, once we look back we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways in which this virus can be for our good.

1. It can unite us in prayer globally, since the virus is now pandemic. And let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

2. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

3. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

4. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God but sometimes we depend more on these gifts than on the Giver.

5. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

6. It can serve as an occasion for us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of life in which we live now is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

7. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

8. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. Usually a pestilence is a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

9. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

10. It is certain that God will only use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. So the coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Affliction

Michigan is now under a State of Emergency because of Coronavirus

I live in Michigan and yesterday our Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the first cases of coronavirus (we have two cases as of now: one in Oakland county and one in Wayne county).

And “to harness our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus,” Governor Whitmer has put Michigan under a state of emergency. She said, “We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe. I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in order to maximize our efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread. It’s crucial that Michiganders continue to take preventative measures.”

Although I’m a Christian, I confess my fear, especially as I have four small children (seven years old and under). But as David confesses, too, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).

I know I should not worry, yet I admit my tendency to worry. Oh, but why worry, when I can pray! Paul says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7).

Because this coronavirus is new, we have many uncertainties such as when the vaccine for this virus will be available and if this virus will be seasonal like the flu. Yet, in the midst of all these uncertainties, we can trust our sovereign God. We know for sure that nothing happens without a purpose and that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for the glory of God. As Romans 8:28–29 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things [without exception, including this virus] work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

With this passage in mind, we can be certain that God will only use this coronavirus as an instrument in His hand to conform His people more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that this virus is for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. Let’s trust God even if sometimes we don’t always understand how all things (including this virus) could be for our good. As one song says,

“All things work for our good/ Though sometimes we don’t see/ How they could/ Struggles that break our hearts in two/ Sometimes blind us to the truth./ God is too wise to be mistaken/ God is too good to be unkind/ So when you don’t understand/ When don’t see His plan/ When you can’t trace His hand/ Trust His Heart.”

So let’s not panic but pray. It is during a crisis such as this that God causes mankind to pause, to stop and remember that He is in control and that we are but dust. And as Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “Our biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. By all means, let’s do all we can to limit the spread of physical disease. But our precautions against vice should be even more than our precautions against a virus.”

coronavirus

image source: wxyz.com (Detroit)

Affliction Uncategorized

A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout

A few weeks ago, Reformation Heritage Books published my father-in-law’s translation of the biography of his father, Rev. Arie Elshout (1923–1991), entitled A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout.
To give you some background information, let me quote part of the Translator’s Preface:
It has been an extraordinary and unforgettable privilege for me to translate this biography of my father (and mother!). For obvious reasons, it was a task in which I was also engaged emotionally. My intense and extended interaction with the text of this biography have only reaffirmed what my siblings and I have known since we were children: the life story of our parents is the story of God’s remarkable and gracious dealings with two sinners.
When our parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in 1985, we asked our father to commit to writing—also for the benefit of our children and grandchildren—the many stories our parents had told us. Our father agreed to do that, and during the six remaining years of his life, he faithfully recorded his memoirs for us—memoirs written strictly for the benefit of our extended family. All of this changed, however, when our mother was approached by the author of this biography, Adriaan Van Toor, informing her of his desire to publish the story of the pilgrim’s journey of our beloved parents. After careful and prayerful consideration, our mother agreed to fully cooperate with this proposed publishing venture.
When Mr. Van Toor approached our mother, he had no knowledge of the existence of our father’s written memoirs. How astonished and pleased he was when our mother handed him these memoirs! This provided him at once with the complete framework of the life story of our parents. With this valuable documentation in hand, he then engaged in his own independent research of every aspect of this story. And thus the moment arrived in 2008 that this biography was published in the Netherlands, having as its title Aan Armen uit Genâ (for poor sinners, merely of grace). These words, taken from the rhymed rendition of Psalm 72:12,2 were graven upon his heart by the Holy Spirit as the message he would be called to proclaim as a minister of the gospel. Since, however, an exact translation of this phrase is difficult to achieve, we have opted for A Word in Season (Isa. 50:4), a title that accurately summarizes our father’s ministry as well—especially in light of the context in which these words are found. God gave him a special gift to speak a word in season to the weary, and to comfort the feeble-minded (1 Thess. 5:14).
Not only was this gift evident in every aspect of his pastoral ministry, but also in the three books he has written—books that have been, and continue to be, a “word in season” for many. It never occurred to our father that his life story would be published. In his own words, he viewed himself as one of God’s sparrows rather than an eloquent nightingale. Yet, God’s sovereign purpose was otherwise! It has been a humbling and encouraging experience for our late mother, and our family, that this biography has been so well received in the Netherlands.
Since our father served two North American congregations (1967-1974), it was our late mother’s express desire that our father’s biography be made available in English as well. We are hopeful that many in the English-speaking world will be edified by the account of God’s remarkable dealings in the lives of our parents.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the story of our parents is ultimately not about them, but rather, about a faithful, covenant-keeping God who, for Christ’s sake, was (is!) also their God. Therefore, to Him alone be all the glory!

Contents:

Preface – Rev. C. Harinck
Translator’s Preface
Introduction

Chapter 1: Peculiar Folk
Chapter 2: A Change of Direction
Chapter 3: In Exile
Chapter 4: Anxiety and Stress
Chapter 5: Destined for Each Other
Chapter 6: Number 742
Chapter 7: How Can This Be?
Chapter 8: He Hears the Needy When They Cry
Chapter 9: This Is the Lord’s Doing!
Chapter 10: “I Shall Go There…”
Chapter 11: Love and Tact
Chapter 12: Trusting in His Sender
Chapter 13: The Ends of the Earth
Chapter 14: “Be It unto Thee Even as Thou Wilt”
Chapter 15: The Long Road to Recovery
Chapter 16: The LORD Made Room
Chapter 17: The Spirit’s Work Encompasses All Kindred and Nations
Chapter 18: Covenant Faithfulness toward Zoetermeer
Chapter 19: A Step Back
Chapter 20: The End of the Journey
Chapter 21: And He Was Not, for God Took Him

Appendices—Two Sermons by Rev. A. Elshout

Sermon 1: Jesus or Barabbas (Luke 23:13–25)
Sermon 2: The Slaying of the Children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–18)

 

To purchase a copy, click here.
A Word in Season
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