Posts tagged ‘Health’

Keeping Perspective in COVID-19 Times

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Credit: cottonbroPexels

At Concordia in San Antonio where I serve as one of the pastors, we are sending out a weekly “check-in.” People can voluntarily “check-in” with us by answering a few questions about how they’re doing during this pandemic. For a lot of people, just knowing that someone cares and is concerned about them is enough to give them a little boost in their spirits.

This past week, I had an old friend, who is also a pastor, call and check-in with me just to see how I was doing. We caught up on a whole host of ministry triumphs and challenges and talked about how we are navigating a situation the likes of which neither one of us has ever seen. They don’t offer a class on “pandemic response” in seminary. Or, if they did, I missed it.

To keep my spirits up during this time, I have had to fight to keep my perspective. These words from the apostle Paul have become words I’ve turned to again and again when I’ve felt like my spirits were sinking and my perspective was darkening:

We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

There is so much perspective packed into these few verses.

Many of us feel like “we are wasting away.” Whether we have contracted COVID-19, or are just struggling to keep ourselves in shape when gyms are closed, junk food is plentiful, and the sofa is inviting, a lot of our bodies are taking a hit. But even apart from a pandemic, our bodies would waste away anyway. Every body eventually breaks down and falls prey to the wages of sin, which are death. And yet, Paul says, we can be “renewed day by day.” God – one day at a time – can meet us in His Word and refresh us by His Spirit. Our bodily wasting away does not need to result in a deeper spiritual decay.

Paul continues by comparing “our light and momentary troubles” with “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” This little word “far,” in Greek, is a three-word-phrase: hyperbolen eis hyperbolen. We get our word “hyperbole” from this word, which refers to something that is over-the-top. The glory that awaits us in eternity, Paul says, will be over-the-top and so over-the-top that we will look back and scoff at the troubles we are now facing. God’s glory will one day wipe away this pandemic’s gory sicknesses and deaths.

Because we long for this glory, Paul concludes, we should “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” because “what is unseen is eternal.” In other words, instead of fretting over this day’s news, we are to be people who look forward to the day when all things will be made new in Christ Jesus. What we are seeing now is temporary. What remains unseen – but what will one day be seen when Christ reveals it to us – is eternal.

I wish I was better at keeping Paul’s perspective. I, just like anyone else, can get caught up in “our light and momentary troubles.” But when I’m tempted to fall prey to pity, these words call me back. These words give me hope. And because of hope:

We do not lose heart.

April 27, 2020 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Sheltering-In-Place

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Credit: Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

As COVID-19 continues to sweep through our nation, infections are increasing, some hospitals are being overwhelmed, doctors and nurses are working exhaustingly extended shifts, and a good portion of our nation has been ordered to “shelter-in-place” to try to stymie the spread of the virus.

In 1 Samuel 22:1, a young man named David is being pursued by Saul, who is the king of Israel. Saul has become jealous of David who has proven himself a valiant warrior by killing a nemesis of the nation of Israel, a giant named Goliath. When King Saul realizes his own nation respects this young warrior more than they do him, he becomes inflamed with jealousy and makes repeated attempts to kill David, but to no avail. He escapes each time. David, fearing for his life, is eventually reduced to hiding out in a cave called Adullam. While in this cave, David pens the words of Psalm 57, which opens:

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.

David is sheltering-in-place in a cave, trying to avoid the disaster of Saul’s jealousy. It had to be hard. But David knows something. David knows that, ultimately, it is not a cave that is his shelter. It is the Lord. He is David’s refuge. And He will be with David through and beyond his disaster. His disaster will pass. The Lord’s presence, however, will never pass away.

During this disaster of COVID-19, remember that – even as you shelter-in-place and, perhaps, go a little stir crazy because you’re itching to get out – your shelter, ultimately, is not in where you’re sheltering. It is in who your shelter is. Your shelter and your refuge are in the Lord. And He will be with you through and beyond this disaster. This disaster will pass – hopefully, soon. The Lord’s presence, however, will never pass away.

And that’s great news.

March 30, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Coronavirus Comfort

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Credit: Pixabay

It’s been another tough week in our nation. I keep wondering where the peak of the coronavirus’s spread is on the one hand and where the bottom of our economy is on the other. The number of people becoming infected is increasing – exponentially. And the economy is collapsing. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 24% decline in our GDP in the second quarter while J.P. Morgan predicts a more “modest” decline of 14%. Families are trying to stay healthy by sheltering-in-place while businesses are trying to figure out how to stay afloat. And no one seems to know quite how or when all this will end.

At times like these, the words of Martin Luther’s famed hymn seem especially poignant:

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.

This moment in our history is certainly filled with “mortal ills.” And yet, God is stronger than any illness. God is bigger than our own mortality.

This is why Luther concludes his hymn:

Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Even if coronavirus can quarantine a society, it cannot quell God’s presence. And even if coronavirus kills a body, it cannot conquer God’s kingdom. His kingdom is forever. Coronavirus is not.

Let’s try to remember that during these long days.

March 23, 2020 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Sermon Extra – The Good Shepherd’s Voice – John 10:1-11

This past weekend at Concordia, we kicked off a new series titled “Fit for Life” where, for the next few weeks, we are discussing how Jesus can bring health and wholeness to every area of our lives. Indeed, in my sermon this weekend, I began by talking about how the ancient Israelites had a word that they used to describe this kind of holistic health:  shalom. This word, most often translated as “peace,” was used to describe a person’s overall well-being, wholeness, health, and even the promise that God would one day come and set the brokenness of this sinful world right.  And then, one lonely night in Bethlehem, angels appear to a group of shepherds announcing the birth of a Savior named Jesus and singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  In Christ, God had fulfilled his promise to bring shalom to this earth.

As God’s shalom incarnate, Jesus brings health to a broken world.  He gives sight to the blind, he makes the lame walk, he cures those who are sick, he makes the deaf hear, he raises the dead, and he preaches good news (cf. Matthew 11:5).  One such instance of Jesus preaching good news comes in John 10, where Jesus calls himself “the Good Shepherd” (verse 11) who comes “so that we may have life, and have it to the full” (verse 10).  How does the Good Shepherd accomplish such a feat?  By “laying down his life for the sheep” (verse 11).

In my sermon, I spoke of two different words that Jesus uses for “life” in verses 10 and 11 respectively.  When Jesus describes our life in verse 10, he uses the word zoe, describing normal, everyday life.  When Jesus talks about laying down his life in verse 11, however, he uses the word psyche, meaning “soul.”  Thus, Jesus lays down his very soul at Calvary so that we can have not just normal, everyday life, but full, eternal life.  Jesus’ call, then, is to build your zoe on what he did on the cross with his psyche.

One of the things that Jesus promises as our Good Shepherd is this: “His sheep follow him because they know his voice” (verse 4).  I find it interesting that Jesus’ sheep do not just hear his voice, or even listen to his voice.  No.  Instead, they know his voice.  They know its tone and tenor.  Indeed, they know his voice so well that “they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (verse 5).

In our world, there are many voices that clamor for our attention and allegiance.  The voices of politicians try to steer us to vote Republican or Democrat.  The voices of financial gurus try to get us to invest with them, promising exceptional returns on our portfolios.  There are even voices of differing and competing spiritualities, all trying to get us to believe their claims.  “It’s all karma.  You only get what you got coming to you.”  “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  “All roads lead to God.  Just be sincere in what you believe.”  “Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Which of these voices do you believe?

The invitation of our Good Shepherd is to trust in his voice and his voice alone.  For all other voices of this world – be they political or financial or spiritual – lead to an empty life and, finally, to an eternal death.  But listening – and knowing – the Good Shepherd’s voice leads to a life that is full and, finally, to a life that is eternal.

This week, get to now the Good Shepherd’s voice a little better.  Read his sure and certain voice in his Word.  Listen for the whisper and prompting of his Spirit.  Wait for the Good Shepherd to respond to your prayers.  For when you know the Good Shepherd’s voice you also know shalom.  And there is no better thing than shalom for a full life – and for an eternal one.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Zach’s
message or Pastor Nordlie’s ABC!

February 8, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment


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