“Thank goodness 2020 is over”


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Last year at this time, about the most oft-repeated phrase was something along the lines of how we all were thankful that the “awful pandemic year” was finally over. Well, there was also the “awful politics year” people, so all in all most Americans were embracing 2021 as if it was a rescue dog.

Surprise! The 2021 year was worse than the first. More covid variants. More covid deaths. More upheaval in every aspect of our “new” political regime.

Now we have inflation we haven’t seen in nearly a half century. We have record high gas prices. We are again energy buyers, not sellers. And for all those who are “green conscious,” the oil we are bringing in from OPEC and from Russia, has not been produced in a clean way as US energy had been produced.

We’ve also seen record illegal immigration. We have broken faith with Afghans and had a Vietnam-like departure that stranded Americans and allies alike. We are not responding to the global threats from North Korea and their super rocket that can deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world. China is making all kinds of steps toward Taiwan without our response. Russia is making threatening moves toward Ukraine and all we’ve done is issue a “strong warning” that we’ll respond with sanctions if they don’t settle down and leave Ukraine alone. In other words, all the nations opposed to democracy are stronger and bolder and less responsive to what the US government says.

Then there is the failed promises of a united country here at home. Besides the political divide, we are divided over mask mandates and vaccine mandates. People are threatened with losing their jobs or being kicked out of the military—in contradiction to candidate Biden’s own words that he would not insist on such mandates.

Schools have opened, closed, had teachers vote not to return after the holidays. I could go on, but the point of this post, believe it or not, is not to decry how bad things were in 2021.

Rather, as I see it, the real problem is that we Americans seemed convinced that a new year would automatically be a better year. That we had “reached bottom” with the first covid surge. We actually aren’t near “the bottom.”

The real bottom will come when God again judges the human race because we are a sinful people. He judged the world once and He has said in His word, that there will be a final judgment. That was true for Israel in a limited way. They turned away from God and He sent drought or war or disease to call them back to Himself. He sent them prophets to call them to repentance. Many prophets. And finally He sent His Son to give all the people of the world, then and now, a way of rescue from the coming judgment.

Today, I see things like the pandemic and “climate change” and racial tension and international upheaval as the same kinds of warnings God sent Israel. He wants us to bow the knee and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He has come and will come again. That we too can repent and be saved.

The question is, what are we going to do with God’s warnings? Are we going to ignore them and dive into 2022 with the assumption it will be a better year, just because? Are we going to wring our hands and worry ourselves into the grave because so many things are “out of control.”

In truth nothing is out of control. God, not we humans, has it all under control. Here in California a favorite covid saying was, “We’ve got this.” Like, all we have to do is mask up and get vaccinated, and we will be on top of covid. It will not defeat us! And then the Delta variant hit, followed by the Omocron surge. And boosters and new mandates and regulations and closures.

All of this, God knew from eternity past, before the foundation of the world. He has His purposes. I don’t pretend to know them all, but since He sent warnings to Israel through wars and famine and disease, and since Jesus Himself enumerated warnings about His final judgment in Matt. 24, I’m of the mindset that one of God’s reasons for allowing the covid years is to call us to repentance.

He said in Ezekiel,

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he would turn from his ways and live?” (18:23)

Then a few verses later He again states

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live!” (18:32)

No, our faith should not be in 2022, a better year. It should not be in our ability to over come, or in following mask mandates or in vaccine boosters, or in converting our savings to gold or in any of the other plans a number of people have for overcoming the problems that seem to be tearing our country, and even the world, apart.

Our hope is in the sure and finished work of Jesus Christ. It has never been in affordable gas prices or democracy or a government that isn’t as corrupt as others might be. When we understand that persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia and Vietnam and North Korea have just as much hope as American Christians can have, we will understand that our hope is not dependent upon our material conditions. Not on our safety; the approval of our family, neighbors, community, friends; the abundance of goods; the easy of services.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand:
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

Published in: on January 5, 2022 at 1:01 pm  Comments (7)  
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Missing A Year


Since March of last year, I have felt sorry for high school and college students, especially those who were seniors.

It started when the NCAA—the governing body of college sports, canceled “March Madness,” the basketball tournament any number of players had worked hard all season to reach. If fact, some of those players had counted on performing well in the tournament in order to get a toe-hold into playing professional basketball. After all, how else did a player from a smaller school have a chance to be noticed by NBA scouts?

Of course, March Madness wasn’t the extent of what kids lost. Graduation would be another big zero, though kids had worked four long years in order to walk across a stage and receive their diploma, either as a high school graduate or a college graduate. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in SoCal, there was no graduation. In fairness, the schools tried. At least some did. The one near me hung a big Congratulations banner across the street leading to the school. They held some sort of car ceremony, which I think gave the kids their diplomas. Later they had a students only graduation in their large football stadium. Not, I imagine, what these kids had dreamed about.

Well, actually, I don’t “imagine.” I know. The summer before I was to enter my senior year of high school, my family moved to Tanzania, East Africa. The school system was based on the British system, not American, with the various subjects I needed to graduate, and more so, to meet the requirements for entrance into college; and all the classes were in Swahili. There was no way I could finish high school there unless I took correspondence courses. This method of instruction from a distance was a lot like homeschooling, which had not yet become a thing, and a bit like remote learning, except I didn’t have a computer, which was also not yet a thing—at least not the home computers we know today.

Picture by Michael Jacobson

I had one advantage—my parents were both educators, so I had people I could ask if I needed help. But I didn’t have classmates, football games to attend, school clubs to be a part of, senior days or ditch days or graduation. I know what it feels like to look forward to something for years—I mean, I’d gone to my brother’s graduation, my sister’s graduation. and I had imagined my own. Which I never participated in.

For me, there was so much more that I gained, however. I mean, I was living in a different culture, experiencing a whole different world. I can’t begin to explain what all I learned, how my whole worldview changed because of that “not in school” year.

I hope the students of today will some time in their future look back and say that the Corid year was actually a good thing for them.

Here in California, if nothing else, it has removed them from the pressure of curriculum that many don’t subscribe to. The whole “critical race theory” instruction that is taking over schools is one example

Parents are also more aware of the course work their kids are being exposed to. They are more involved with their children and their learning. Families are closer and have shared experiences. I’ve heard of families instituting game nights when once they all scattered in their many different directions. In other words, the “missing year” doesn’t actually have to be missing. There might be a lot more benefits that we just haven’t uncovered yet. And one thing seems apparent: we probably aren’t going to take “going to school” for granted for some time. And that’s a good thing.

God has a way of turning tough things into purposeful things that can accomplish much.

Sort of like the events leading up to the first Easter. Things looked pretty dark for the people who believed Jesus was their Messiah. I mean, can it get any darker than to see the man you believe would save your nation, dying as a criminal on a Roman cross? Maybe they were thinking they had lost, not just a year, but three years, and all their hopes and dreams. But then Easter. And the days that followed. God took what seemed to be a tragedy and turned it into triumph. He has a way of doing that.

Published in: on March 26, 2021 at 4:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Take Courage. Fear Not.


I’ve discovered in the last ten years or so just how relevant the various books of prophecy are. Some of them seem as if they could have been written about contemporary America. So I was not surprised when I came upon a verse that speaks to many in today’s climate of . . . worry.

I don’t know how else to say it, but there are small businesses that have had to close their doors; people who have lost their jobs; others who are worried about finding the paper products they need, when they need them; people who are concerned about getting sick or wearing masks or getting a vaccine or not getting a vaccine.

Isaiah comes along in chapter 35 and says

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not. (vv 3-4a)

Interestingly, the passage starts out by announcing a reason for nature to be glad and to rejoice: “They will see the glory of the LORD/The majesty of our God.”

Essentially Isaiah is describing how things will be when Messiah comes again. He will set things right—bring His vengeance on those who deserve vengeance, save those who trust in Him, provide a “Highway of Holiness” to the redeemed, to enable gladness and joy to the ransomed of the LORD, to chase away sorrow and sighing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it a relief, refreshing, to hear good news. Not only that, this passage reinforces the fact that God is in control, even when circumstances seem so far from what we imagined or hoped for.

For instance, I grew up in the era which taught that the US is a melting pot. We all have one thing in common: we have come from somewhere else, whether recently or in the distant past, and we have come together, blending our identities into Americans. It’s a wonderful ideal.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would see the day when students are taught “Critical Race Theory,” such that they had to identify which racial, religious, economic, gender, sexual preference oppressed group they belonged to. Those who could not, were part of the oppressors. In other words, these ideas are Marxist and they are the antithesis of the American ideal based on the creed that all people are created equal.

That idea is clearly one embedded in the Bible. God loves the whole world, for instance, and promised a blessing through Abraham for all the world. Paul specifically said all the divisions of ethnicity, gender, economics melted away at the foot of the cross. In the Church, made up of those who are reconciled to God through the sacrifice, the payment for sin, which Jesus provided, there are no distinctions.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24–emphasis mine)

So in the face of the many difficulties in 2020, our hope does not lie in a change in the calendar. I know a lot of people are talking about how they can’t wait to be done with 2020, as if the covid virus will disappear at midnight New Year’s Eve. Or jobs will suddenly come back and restaurants will miraculously open or racial tension will vanish or any number of other problems this year has uncovered, will suddenly be solved.

The change of calendar is not the answer, but the knowledge that Jesus, our Savior, will indeed come to reign as our King eternal, heaping gladness and joy on our heads and driving sorrow and sighing away, gives us a reason to take courage, to fear not.

God will handle the problems. He will set things right. It’s in the bank, a done deal. And we have His word on it.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

So now we can ask—are we in the company of those who have taken refuge in the promise of God? If so, Scripture gives us strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. Which means we can take courage. We can fear not.

Published in: on December 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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God Is In Control. Really, He Is


I just listened to a video from various citizens of Georgia who were witnessing to problems in the 2020 election. Despite so many people who have come forward, despite clear violations of state election laws, despite numerical impossibilities, despite verified anomalies such as more votes than registered voters in some counties, any number of court cases in the “contested states” have been thrown out for one reason or another. Though any number of state representatives seem convinced that there is “something to see” in regards to election fraud, so far no one with the authority to make a difference seems interested in a real study of what happened and how to make it right.

There have been hearings before legislative committees in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, too, all with the same result—some state legislators seem convinced, some people who listen to the testimony, as I have, are convinced that something happened. But no legal body with the authority to do anything has looked at the evidence.

That’s just the election, the latest of the twists and turns in 2020. Of course an ongoing issue in many states is the mandated “lock down” which state governors have implemented because of the increased number of people contracting the Chinese Communist Party Corona Virus.

The fight has become all about whether or not a governor can make these “temporary” mandates that last for nearly a year. The latest in California is that restaurants, which had been allowed to host outdoor dining by following a variety of protocols which required the businesses to buy appropriate equipment, such as outdoor lighting, tents, tables, all located at least six feet apart, suddenly, and without explanation, were no longer allowed outdoor dining. Couple this action with the restrictions on churches, which have now been declared unconstitutional, and government “servants” time and again being exposed as law-breakers of these very onerous laws.

Take, for instance, the incident in November when California Governor Newsom urged us on a Friday to avoid air travel, and if we did so, to self-quarantine. Then the following Monday, he and a dozen or so legislators boarded a plane and flew to Hawaii for a conference. “Rules for thee, and not for me,” is the way one YouTube critic puts it.

And of course all rules about mask wearing and social distancing were out the window during the Black Lives Matter protests and riots. Rules for thee if you don’t agree with me, I guess that one could be called.

But of course, the racial tensions of the summer are just one more area of 2020 madness. People robbing and looting and burning, all in the name of Black Lives Matter? And then the disparaging remarks and even threats against anyone saying all lives matter—as if black lives aren’t included in “all lives.” On the tail of these protests came the “de-fund the police” movement, and in cities that did so, an immediate and steep rise in crime.

But apparently, the message was really “black lives matter more.” That certainly seems to be the message of the critical race theory which seems to have found a foothold in some educational institutions. To the point that a high school boy in Nevada is suing a “tax-payer funded charter school” for “coercive, ideological indoctrination” in regard to this Marxist way of looking at people as either members of the oppressor group or the oppressed group.

And yet, I say, God is in control?

Aren’t the lists of things that tore society apart this year proof that God is NOT in control? It can feel that way. Especially when so many people were dying from the virus early on, when people who are hospitalized or are in a nursing home can have no visitors. Surely God is not behind all this.

Or is He?

Another way to ask the question is this: Is God sovereign? In other words, is He really the supreme ruler, the One ultimately in charge, the final authority? And if not God, then who? Satan? Would we ever say Satan has more authority than God? How about Mankind? You know, free will and all. But do we not have free will only because God gave it to us?

In fact, did He not say to Adam, eat whatever you want, just not this one thing which I’ve determined is not good for you. Because if it was good for him, God would surely have given it. So God, in his infinite wisdom and all knowing power, put one small restriction on Adam’s free will. Meaning, God was and is the ultimate authority, the Sovereign Who is in charge.

The patriarch Job struggled with the idea that God was in charge while terrible things happened to him and his family. Joseph may have struggled in the same way, though we have no record of it. What we do have is his great declaration that though his brothers had truly planned evil against him, and had carried it out, God took their actions and used them as a means to preserve and protect Joseph’s whole family.

James, the writer of the New Testament letter, addresses the issue, saying right from the start that believers should rejoice in trials because something greater than the trial itself would result.

Paul sums up the point in Romans, in a misunderstood verse:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren(8:28-29)

God causes. All things. Covid, riots, election fraud. For good.

The part that too many people miss is that the good God is doing in and through all things is to bring those of us who love Him into conformity to the image of His Son.

In other words, to refine gold, to shape it into a valuable ring, there’s a lot of heat and melting and separating out the impurities and hammering and pressing into the mold so that the ring will be just right.

God does that for us as individuals and He does it for His Church. I know He did so for Israel and other nations in the past, and since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I suspect He still works with nations today in the same way.

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 5:04 pm  Comments (7)  
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