23 03 2020

Conoravurus Hits home
I was about to begin our Saturday Night Service which like many churches, we are providing online these days, when my brother Robert called. I couldn’t answer the phone as I knew I wouldn’t have the time to talk so it went right to voice mail. Not more than a minute or two later, my phone buzzed again and this time it was my sister Mary Claire. I knew something was up, so while my daughter Abbie was leading worship, I answered my phone and the first words I heard were, “Mom was tested and the results came back today. She has the coronavirus.” I felt suddenly socked in the gut as I knew in just a few moments I was about to bring a message of faith and hope to onlookers who needed their Pastor to encourage them at such a time as this.

Mom is 82 years old and she lives in Florida where the majority of my family resides. My siblings down there take very good care of her as she is a strong Italian woman of abiding faith who still exudes lots of life and energy with no signs of slowing down until this past week. This unwelcome virus that has altered the lifestyles of us all was suddenly draining my Mom of her get up and go and she doesn’t give in easily. I did get to talk to her Saturday night and I didn’t recognize her voice at first, I did share the truth of how much I loved her and would be enlisting an army of believers to be praying for her.

I actually preached two different messages this past weekend. One for Saturday night and one for Sunday morning. Preaching and pastoring are not my job; they are extensions of my soul. If I didn’t believe that the Bible was true and that Jesus was my Savior and Lord, I would have a different job. I believe I wouldn’t have survived the trials and tribulations of life on earth at all. On Saturday night, I looked at Nehemiah and how he refused to believe that God had abandoned His people. When Nehemiah, who was in Persia as the king’s cupbearer, got the bad news of how awful things were going in Jerusalem, he mourned, fasted and prayed. Nehemiah got still before the Lord and before he acted, he sought God’s plan for him in the midst of such chaotic times.

I believe that we have become too mechanical in our worship of the Lord here in America. One of the things that we might learn as we all try to adapt to a quarantined culture is rather than stamp God’s names on our events and programs, perhaps we might wait for the Lord to direct before we begin to act on His behalf! Look how life here in Cape May County has been altered in such a short time. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have encouraged Christians to look for Jesus daily and how He is still very present and at work among us even though we are experiencing a whole new now. Americans have a tendency to get bogged down in the past or overwhelmed by the future to the point that they can become blind to the life happening right before their very eyes. None of us can truly deal with the, “What Ifs.” What we do have control over is how we will handle, “What Is.” We are here on this planet to shine our light bright even in the darkest times. But the only way we will keep our wick lit is if we run consistently to the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame.

On Sunday, I shared with our congregation, that rather than seeking presents from Jesus, we choose to become more dependent upon His Presence. Too often we get greedy for God to give us this and that when what we really need is just Him. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I don’t need another thing.” If I cling to the truth that He will never leave me or forsake me, then I won’t get out of sorts when things don’t go my way. I don’t follow Jesus because bad things don’t happen to me. I follow Him because I know the journey this side of heaven is filled with bumps, bruises and lots of battering rams. More than the miracles that God has done for me, it is His accompanying me that allows me to press on when my heart feels like it is going to burst. I was able to preach passionately only minutes after getting the news about my Mom because I know whom I have believed in and I am thoroughly persuaded that He is able to guard what matters most no matter what may happen here on earth.

God’s people will get the coronavirus. It doesn’t make it any more palatable but it does give us purpose in the pain. Jesus took on much worse than a virus to set us free from sin and death. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that things like this sickness could only mess with the body but had no grip on the soul. I gave up my self-reliance long ago. I know my abilities are severely limited. I gave my life to Jesus no matter what others might think because I knew He was the One who could lead me to the only paradise worth having. Many think I’m crazy but I’m not taking a poll to see whether a life of faith is worth the blood, sweat and tears. God said it and that settles it for me. I have come to the place where I believe that God is big enough to back up His promises. In this world we will all have to face the results of a sin torn planet, but I can be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world. Because He lives, not only can I face tomorrow, I can even find seeds of life growing in the concrete of today.

I love my Mom and I believe God only needs to say the word and she will be healed. But I also know that she longs to join her Savior in glory. It’s been 20 years since my Dad graduated to be with Jesus. The other night, I dreamt that I heard the trumpet and I was experiencing the return of our Lord. It was so real; I could actually feel the release and wind in my face as I soared towards the sky. I was even holding my wife’s hand. When I woke up, I was so disappointed that I was still in my bed. It took me only a few moments before I realized that if I had a pulse, I still had a purpose. Another day to walk by faith and not by sight!

I don’t know where you stand with the Lord. Unfortunately, for far too many, faith plays a far too tiny role in the big picture of life. God loves you. We all have sinned and fallen far short of trying to impress the Lord with our petty petitions and egotistical good works. God made the move when Jesus took the punishment that we deserved on our behalf. Whoever believes in Him will be rescued. Whoever trusts in Him will have eternal life. This gift doesn’t begin after we die. It is initiated the moment we surrender all to God. It is by grace through faith that we can know beyond a doubt that we belong to Jesus. Have you made that decision? I wish you would.

I have much to live for. My daughter, Leah, just had twins. My son, Joel, hasn’t even graduated high school yet. My daughter, Abbie, needs me to walk her down the aisle someday. I have many more messages to say, articles to write and music to play on the radio. But if I caught this virus and it took my earthly life away, you wouldn’t have to weep for me because like my Mom, I can’t lose. I win either way. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Let’s walk by faith and not be driven by fear. God holds my future. How about you?



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