Garland Of Grace – 08.14.22

Our Unplanned Garden

 “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.” – Genesis 1:11

For the two summers prior to this year, Sarah and I had planted a small garden in our backyard consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and watermelon. This year however, we opted not to plant a garden. We were too busy and knew it would be an especially hectic year. Yet we ended up with a garden after all. In mid-June, a tiny watermelon sprout from last year’s crop had borrowed its way through the soil. Immediately I knew God was about to teach us a gardenful of spiritual lessons. Here are a few of those lessons.

To begin with, it has been said that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  Growing a garden certainly was not part of our summer agenda, yet God took a hidden watermelon seed and grew it  into a massive watermelon vine. The bottom line is this; God’s plans cannot be thwarted. 

Secondly, what is dead, is only brought to life by God. Initially our garden box appeared empty and lifeless. Even though we had decided not to plant a garden, I went ahead and pulled the weeds out of the garden box and broke up the soil, in an effort to make it appear somewhat aesthetically pleasing.  While doing so, I saw no signs of life. But within a few months, this bright green, rogue watermelon sprout came forth. I was reminded that I was once spiritually dead, yet God graciously opened my heart up to the gospel and made in alive in Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

Third, I was remined of the importance of letting go and letting God. As the watermelon vine flourished, it rapidly spread across the ground, growing in every direction. It grew so fast, that what had started out as a small plant had  developed into full blown watermelon patch. In a few short weeks we had six watermelons. Not only did the vines cover the entire 8X10 garden box, but they also grew out into the yard. Cutting the grass had become difficult, so I carefully moved two of the melons with their vines in effort to mow the lawn.  But this was a bad decision; for the they both died within a few days. However, the melons I did not touch continued to thrive. I came to the realization that the melons would be better off if I just left them alone.  I needed to be more hands off and let God the Gardener do His thing. I came to the conclusion that “letting go and letting God” was more than a cliché; it was true.

Finally, Solomon hit the nail on the head when he wrote that there is a time to plant, and there is a time pluck up what is planted (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Some translations read “a time to plant and a time to harvest.” Anyone who has ever planted a garden understands this truth. As our watermelons grew towards maturity, it was important that we did not cut them off the vine prematurely.  Being the “city boy” that I am, I even found myself watching tutorials on “You Tube” on how to determine the proper time to harvest watermelons. Eventually the two largest melons were ready, and so I cut them from the vine, weighed them (each weighing 21.8 lbs.) and then chilled them in the fridge. The next evening, we sliced them up and enjoyed fresh watermelon, sweet to the taste!

Years ago I had a youth pastor on staff with me at my first church.  His name was Andrew. He was a young man, yet he was wise beyond his years. Andrew once said that tending a garden produces more than just fruits and vegetables. A garden will also bring forth a plentiful harvest of spiritual lessons. Certainly that has been our story this summer

Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 05.22.22

Houses and Tents; Taking Up Residence in the Proverbs

“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death” – Proverbs 14:11-12

The pithy statement in our passage above was penned by King Solomon and is surrounded by similar wise words and whimsical sayings that collectively make up the book of Proverbs. It is an intriguing, paradoxical statement to say the least. The Proverb initially seems to be a simple observation about the wicked juxtaposed to the righteous. Solomon says that the house of the wicked will come to ruin while the tent of righteous people will flourish. This initial proclamation of detriment to the wicked and success to the righteous should not surprise us; for this type of life comparison is penned throughout the Proverbs; passages such as, “No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble” (Ch 12 v 21), or “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness” (Ch 15 v 9) and “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Ch 28 v 1) to name a few.

But as we peel back the layers to get to the core message of the proverb, we find what stands out is not some standard proverbial reference to the wicked and righteous, but rather the two different places of residence. There is a stark contrast between a house and a tent. A house is permanent, stable and firm while a tent is mobile, temporary, and easily impacted by the wind. But why would Solomon pair the sturdy house with the wicked and the unstable tent with the righteous? He did so to addresses two misguided notions; the false sense of security of the wicked and a presumed but incorrect vulnerability of the righteous. This is clearly highlighted when we see the first half of the proverb through the lenses of the second half of the proverb where Solomon says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death.” Old Testament Scholar and theologian Duanne Garrett points out that these two verses, “contrast the apparent but misleading security of the wicked ( the “house” of the wicked will perish) with the apparent but misleading vulnerability of the righteous (but the “tent” of the righteous will flourish) and assert that the way that seems right can be totally wrong (12). The way that seems to lead to wealth and security in reality leads to disaster, whereas the marginal existence of the tent-dweller is absolutely secure if one lives rightly before God.

I believe Dr. Garrett hits the nail on the head. Society likes to portray the wicked in a positive light, with lives marked by prosperity and notoriety. Because of this, the ways of the wicked appear to be the path to take, yet it is just the opposite. They may appear to abide in stable house-like dwellings, but in reality their “life house” is unstable. On the other hand, the righteous stake their tent into solid ground and their tent does not fold.

The takeaway is simply this; even when the wicked seem secure, they are not; for in the end, they will perish.  On the other hand, the righteous will eternally flourish. It was the prophet Jeremiah who once asked, “Why do the wicked prosper?” (Jeremiah 12:1-2). We certainly can’t blame him for posing the question. But we must also remember that any appearance of the wicked prospering is only temporal. In the end, they will perish and face eternal destruction.

And so the tent of the righteous is more stable than the house of the wicked. Spiritually speaking, I will take a tent over a house any day. Let is dwell together with the righteous for God’s glory!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 12.19.21

The Belly Worshiper

Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. – Philippians 3:19

In our passage above, we read a curious yet intriguing statement from the Apostle Paul. His words describe the actions of the carnal man who has an unbridled lust to satisfy every fleshy craving that comes his way. Paul’s description of this destructive behavior are words of warning to the believers at Phillippi. But his words raise a question; what does it really mean to make your belly your god?

There are many layers to this question. To begin with, in biblical times the belly referred to the appetite, but not in the way we might think of today; for it did not refer to a person’s consumption of food and drink. Instead, the idea carried a broader meaning. If one had “made their belly their god” it meant that they lived a life of self-gratification and self-indulgence. It was used to describe the person who lived to satisfy every desire that entered their heart, with no concern whatsoever of repercussions or consequences. 

Though an ancient term, we understand Paul’s description and see people today who fit this description. It is the person who gives in to every whim that hits his/her fancy and never denies himself/herself in any way.  They live for the moment, satisfying any and every desire of the heart. Maybe their appetite is for power, position, prominence, or possessions – or all of the above. But whatever they crave, their appetite is their deity. They do not practice self-discipline, nor do they set personal boundaries or moral parameters. They narcissistically  hold to the mantra that “if it feels good, then I’m going to go ahead and do it. I will not deny myself! If it makes me happy then it can’t be bad.”

But Paul says that the one who “makes their belly their god”  is guilty of setting their mind “on earthly things.”  This is in direct contrast to how the believer should live. Paul instructed the believers at Colossae to “set their minds that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-4). Yet the belly worshiper’s focus is on earthly things. Material possessions take precedence as they demonstrate an unbridled consumer-like mentality for the things of the world – and the more they feed their appetite on the world, the hungrier for the world they become.  But Paul makes it very clear that the one who fits this grave description lives a doomed life headed for permanent destruction. The belly worshiper is guilty of idol worship and (unless they repent) will perpetually burn in hell for rejecting the one true God.

Paul also says that the belly worshiper celebrates in their actions by finding “glory in their shame.” Even though their insatiable appetite for self-gratification is shameful in light of God’s Word, they still find joy in their carnality. What should be loathed is loved. What should be shunned is embraced. They are not ashamed of their shameful insatiable appetite to perpetually please themselves. 

Obviously such behavior does not mark the life of God’s people. Yet even though the believer’s life will not coincide with such carnality, Christians must still be aware of the enemy’s tactics and guard against the slippery slope of self-indulgence and self-gratification. The truth is, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian; for the one who falls headfirst into worshiping their appetite and end up “making their belly a god” was never a believer in the first place. 

With this stark warning before us, may we daily set our mind on the things above, and practice the spiritual discipline of “denying ourselves.” Oh that we would heed the words of our Lord when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 09.12.21

Busting Teeth and Breaking Limbs; Thoughts on the Vengeance Prayers within the Psalter

“Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” – Psalm 137:9

Positioned throughout the Psalter are prayers described as “imprecatory prayers.” Imprecatory prayers are known for being very raw as the Psalmists cry out the Lord, wishing ill upon their enemies and asking God to execute judgement. These prayers are marked with a very blatant, vindictive tone. Some of these prayers include requests for God to bust out the teeth of enemies (Psalm 58:6), wishing that the wicked would experience broken limbs (Psalm 10:15), praying that their adversaries would be trapped in their own pride (Psalm 59:12), and ensnared by their own nets (Psalm 141:10). In the imprecatory prayer above, the Psalmist desires for the heads of his enemies’ children be dashed upon the rocks! 

But how do we see these prayers through the lenses of morality? Are they acceptable prayers to God? Can they be prayed in the right spirit and with a clean heart? Is God glorified when violent vindictive prayers are uttered by His people? And if a man after God’s own heart like David prayed this way, can we do the same? To be sure, these are questions that have been asked throughout the history of Christendom. 

But before we answer if we can pray imprecatory prayers, let’s consider why they are prayed in the first place. In imprecatory prayers the psalmists yearn for three primary things. First, they emphasize a strong desire to defend God’s name and character. The common thread is a sincere passion for God’s glory.  No matter the circumstance or situation, they are always zealously prayed for the sole purpose of making God’s name known among the nations. Closely tied into this truth is a second common thread within imprecatory prayers; they are always a call for God to execute righteousness and judgment.  Righteousness and judgment are both attributes of God, and God’s people should yearn for his attributes to always be manifested, even if it calls for their enemies to suffer. The Old Testament makes it very clear that anyone who opposes the people of God are opposed to God himself. And so imprecatory prayers express a desire to see the enemies of God’s people suffer as they have made the people of God suffer. Third and finally, they express a desire for God the defend his people. When praying these prayers, the writers never attempted to take matters into their own hands by trying to bring vengeance upon their adversaries. Rather, they knew and understood that vengeance was the Lord’s doing. Centuries later, the apostle Paul would express this truth as he wrote to the church at Rome and said, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).

So do believers today have permission to pray imprecatory prayers? The answer is yes, as long as our ultimate desire is for God’s glory and God’s will.  Yet, if we pray these prayers with wrong motives and do so in the heat of the moment, we just might miss the point of imprecatory prayers altogether. Dr. John Tweeddale, professor of theology at Reformation Bible college writes, “As Christians, we long for God’s kingdom to come. We yearn for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Praying the imprecatory psalms is not a call to arms but a call to faith. We lift our voices, not our swords, as we pray for God either to convert or curse the enemies of Christ and His kingdom.”

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 08.13.21

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The Beauty of Bread, Beverage and Labor

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

One of the common themes in Ecclesiastes is the importance of “seizing the day,” or what we might describe as “making the most of every opportunity.” Ecclesiastes was penned by King Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live.  And so in our verse above, how does Solomon suggest one might seize the day?

In effort to magnify the value of “seizing the day,” Solomon stresses the importance of enjoying the simple things of life such as eating and drinking. But to fully grasp what he is saying, we must understand that the term “eating and drinking” in ancient culture was frequently used as a general reference to daily life and was not limited only to the acts of eating and drinking (although it included these actions). In essence, Solomon is saying that since life is short, one would be wise to slow down and enjoy each and every daily activity.

But with that said, let’s do reflect upon actual food and beverage for just a moment. God in His sovereignty could have only given man bread and water for sustenance. But out of His providential care, God graciously created a buffet of food options for mankind to enjoy. He has also given man a wellspring of options to quench thirst; for every drop of water, wine, and milk is a satisfying drink from the fountain of God’s grace. These things should be enjoyed while there is time before the sun sets upon life. Since the mysteries of life are beyond man’s understanding, and since nothing is gained from worry, the daily gifts of food and drink from God should be enjoyed in the present. Yet man cannot eat and drink with joy until the food and drink he consumes is seen as a gift from God.

Solomon then refers to joyous labor. He says that pleasure should be found in work. This might be somewhat surprising considering the other themes surrounding labor within the book. After all, in other portions of Ecclesiastes, he paints labor in the bleakest of terms. Man’s labor under the sun is described as vain, monotonous, useless, continuous, tedious, restless, strenuous, unrewarding, undone and even completely forgotten. Man labors in effort to obtain wealth, leave a name, leave an inheritance, and have a sense of security. Man even toils for gain and profit – Yet Solomon says that all of it is in vain since everyone eventually dies. So why would here in our text refer the pleasure of work?  He did so because he understood that from an earthly viewpoint of life under the sun, the labors of man do seem tedious, mundane, and fruitless. Yet a life lived rich towards God and for God’s glory would see life beyond the sun – from the horizontal to the vertical, from temporal to the eternal. This is why he gave this exhortation to find joy in toil. Labor is to be rejoiced over, and enjoyment and pleasure should be found in it.

The idea of joy in our labor was echoed centuries later by the Apostle Paul when he gave instructions to the believers at Colossae “Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24). Paul also encouraged the Corinthians in a similar fashion when he said that they should be abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58). For Paul, labor was to be seen through the lenses of the gospel, and Christ made all the difference. And so both King Solomon and Paul addressed the beauty of joyous labor.

Oh that we would find joy in our daily living – our eating and drinking so to speak – even finding joy in our labor.  Ponder these things today and give God glory in all things!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 07.09.21

An Attitude of Gratitude

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:12-14

With a heart overflowing with thanksgiving, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Colossae, reminding them of all the rich blessings they have in being a child of God.  In his opening prayer for the Colossian church, he specifically mentions four things they should celebrate pertaining to their salvation; four things that should cause every believer to be filled with an attitude of gratitude.    

First, God has qualified us.  – Prior to conversion, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and in an unqualified position with God. Our sins separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and we were spiritually bankrupt. We were “in the red” so to speak. But Christ paid our sin debt, bringing our spiritual bank account in right standing (Colossians 2:13-14), thus qualifying us and giving us direct access to God the Father. Because of this, we are able “to share in the inheritance of the saint so light.”  And so by being qualified, we are now made acceptable before God. To be sure, we are in no way worthy of such qualification; for there is nothing pertaining to our own merit or standing that qualifies us to share in this gift of spiritual inheritance (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are unworthy, but by the grace of God we are qualified by the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, God has delivered us.  – The child of God has been graciously rescued from the domain of darkness and has been set free from the bondage of sin. Just as God delivered the nation of Israel from the heavy and oppressing hand of the Egyptians (Exodus 12-14), he has provided the way of escape for us from our adversary the devil through his Son Jesus. We need deliverance, and we cannot save ourselves.  Jesus came to rescue the perishing, and He is the only means of escape (Hebrews 2:3). 

Third, God has transferred us.  – We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:1-7) but are now children of God. It is by his grace, the That He has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son.  This transfer moved us from darkness to light (John 8:12). To transfer means to move from one place to another. A monetary transfer involves a move from one account to another. A college athlete who enters the transfer portal is looking to make a move to another team. And so when Paul says that God has, “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” he is saying that our allegiance and citizenship has gone from the kingdom of darkness and the devil to the kingdom of light and the Son of God (Philippians 3:20).  

Fourth, God has redeemed us.  – We have been purchased, bought with a price. And thus God has redeemed us, providing the beautiful blessing of forgiveness of sins. Redemption is a precious word within the vocabulary of the Christian faith. Because God has redeemed us, we are no longer slaves but sons (Galatians 4:7); we are no longer strangers and aliens but part of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19); we are no longer dead in our sins but alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Through this redemption, God has reconciled himself to us (Romans 5:10), and we enjoy the rich benefits of being his child.

Ponder these theological truths today, and be thankful for the wonderful blessings of being a child of God!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 02.21.21

Total Depravity and a Tomato; A Story from Halloween 1985

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

I clearly remember an event that took place on Halloween night when I was nine. I snuck over to a neighbor’s house for the sole purpose of doing something wrong. It was the home of a boy in the neighborhood; the neighborhood bully. I wanted to get back at him by pegging his house with a tomato. After all, it was Halloween night;  the perfect night for such an act. Thinking about it now after all these years, it seems juvenile; and it was. But what sticks out to me is the wellspring of thoughts and emotions I had as I committed the act. To this day, I clearly remember grabbing a tomato out of the refrigerator and  sneaking out of my house to complete the mission. I recall the path I took to his house, eventually hiding behind some shrubbery in his side yard. It was a thrill to sneak around the neighborhood when I should have been at home getting ready for bed. I quietly walked closer to his front door making sure I did not get too close. With a rush of adrenaline, I hurled the tomato at the door.  I was so nervous, that I did not even linger around to see where the tomato landed. Instead, I ran back to my house, not stopping until I was back in my own yard. To be sure, it was an intense moment. I felt I had been with Jem and Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird” harassing the family of Boo Radley.  But really sticks out to me is how liberating it felt to be bad. I enjoyed sinning. I also felt as if I had had the last laugh when I came to the neighborhood bully. For me, this snapshot from my childhood reveals two truths about the human heart.

The heart of man finds pleasure in sin. When thinking back on the event, I am struck with how much enjoyment I found in committing the crime. I relished in the act, and though my behavior was dark and stained with sin, I found my actions to be as delicious to me as the tomato itself. This says much about the human condition; for it is in our nature to go against the grain of what is right, pure and holy.  When we are born, we are naturally at odds with God because we are born with a sin nature (Romans 8:7-8). This is why people are naturally drawn to sin. You do not have to teach an infant to fuss or a child misbehave. The blueprint for sin is imbedded within our hearts since birth, as we inherited our sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). It felt good to not be where I was supposed to be (2 Samuel 11:1-2). In that moment I found pleasure in the sin of throwing the tomato (Hebrews 11:25) and it felt good to act in such a way that was inappropriate. And why Halloween night? Would I have done the same thing if it had any other night? Was there something about Halloween that made my actions more permissible? And what about the revenge in my heart towards my neighbor and the pride I felt in thinking that somehow I got the last laugh? John Calvin was right when he described the human heart as a factory of idols. 

The heart of man can only be changed by God. This story from my life took place before my personal conversion to Christ. Seven years later, God saved me as He opened up my heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14) This is not to suggest that the wrestling match with sin had ended. But the difference after conversion was my response to sin. Prior to conversion, I loved sin. After conversion, I loathe sin. When God saves, He reorients our hearts to Him, transforming us into His likeness. We have been reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18) and are no longer enemies of God and lovers of evil (2 Timothy 3:2). 

Has God changed your heart? If not, call upon him today with a sincere heart and He will save you (Romans 6:23).

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 11.22.20

Be Still and Don’t Waste Your Quarantine

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and challenged the believers to “redeem the time” because the days were evil. But what did he mean by “redeeming the time?” Well, if something is redeemed, it is purchased or bought back. This is what the Lord Jesus did for his people through his sacrificial death on the cross; he purchased them by paying the price for their sins. And so when Paul says to redeem the time, it is as if he is saying “Buy your time back and take hold of it. Seize every minute God has given you and do so by his grace and for his glory.”

In recent days, I have been pondering this exhortation from our friend Paul. As many of you know, I have been in quarantine after exposure to COVID 19 (I am tremendously thankful that I have yet to show any symptoms). The situation is not ideal or preferred, but it is a situation permitted by God. And so while in this season quarantine, how can I “redeem the time?”

Be Still and Listen – It would have been easy for me to spend much of my quarantine distracted by the endless noise of social media, news networks and radio podcasts. But there are seasons to simply be quiet, and for me, this has been one of those seasons. Quarantine has been an opportune time to turn down the noise and redeem the time for His glory. Dear child of God, you can be rest assured that the roaring silence of God’s presence will overwhelm you if  you are willing to listen. Just ask the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Be Still and See –  This year we have all asked ourselves, “What in the world is God doing?” I have asked this question throughout the entire year, especially during quarantine. And it’s certainly a valid question; for no one has ever experienced a year like 2020. From a global pandemic to social upheaval and political unrest, it has been a year for the history books. With all of the chaos swirling around us, it is easy to feel as if the world is falling apart. Yet we must find comfort in knowing God is sovereignly in control. Instead of complaining about current events, we must rest in his providential care and look for his fingerprints upon this particular chapter of human history. To be sure, God is up to something; but it just might be that he is orchestrating world events beyond our scope of reasoning. Moses told the people of God at the Red Sea to simply be still and see what the Lord was about to do (Exodus 14:13). Oh that we would heed the same advice!

Be Still and Know – Finally, I have redeemed the time by diving into the book of Isaiah, and quietly gleaning wisdom from the writings of John Flavel (1627–1691) and Jeremiah Burroughs (1600–1646). The hot chocolate has been sweet, the ink in my journal has been fresh, and the flicker of the flame has been comforting. I have also saturated myself in the Greek New Testament by studying vocabulary, grammatical rules, and aorist indicative paradigms. Why do I spend my quarantine doing these things?  I do so to know God in a greater and deeper way. God has ordained this study routine in my life for such a time as this (Esther 4:14) and it has been the perfect time for me to simply be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). 

I pray God protects you from COVID 19. But it just might be that God does permit a season of quarantine in your life, whether in sickness or in health. If that is the case, be still before God and don’t waste your quarantine!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 04.25.20

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Coronavirus Reflections

COVID 19 has been a learning experience to say the least.  I want to briefly share with you a few life observations that have come to my mind.

To begin with, we have all been reminded of our fragility. People have a tendency to see themselves as invincible. The coronavirus has been a reality check, reminding people of all seasons and walks of life that the human body is frail and is continually susceptible to sickness and disease.

Secondly, we have a lot less control over life’s situations than we think we do.  Whether we admit it or not, we often live our lives as if we are steering the ship.  Obviously we are not, and God will permit speed bumps on the road of life to help us face reality.  We are truly helpless people dependent on the one true sovereign God who controls all things.

Third, sickness is not a respecter of persons.  The COVID 19 pandemic is a worldwide global event effecting all races and nationalities.  This truth reminds us of our equality.

Fourth, the church is not a building.  I know this is somewhat cliché, yet it is true. Even though churches have dismissed organized gatherings  during COVID 19, they have stayed connected though various means of social media and technology. Church buildings may be empty but the heart of the church has been full.

Fifth, the coronavirus has been a priority check. It has helped us see what really matters.  Sure; jobs can be lost, the stock market can be in shambles, and social gatherings can be cancelled. But what really matters are the people around us; people who we love, cherish and value.  Who can put a price tag on our loved ones?

Sixth, we really have it pretty good.  Because of technological advances in the medical field, the severity of the coronavirus has paled in comparison to the Spanish flu of 1918 or the Black Plague of the 14th century.   To be sure, other countries have had it worse than we have here in the United States, and in no way do I want to diminish the difficulties our global neighbors have faced. But the truth is, to have faced COVID 19 where and when we have has been a tremendous blessing.

Seventh, we must not waste the time we have time in isolation. If you are like me, you have seen very few people in person in recent weeks. But use this time of social distancing by drawing closer to God. Silence and solitude is a spiritual discipline that ought to be woven into the  fabric of the believers life.

Finally, COVID 19 has taught us the value of preparation. People have physically prepared for the coronavirus by stocking up on groceries and sundry items.  And rightly so.  There is something to be said about storing up and being prepared for difficult times that lie ahead (Genesis 41:35).  But physical preparation should cause us to think about spiritual preparation. Oh that people would spiritually prepare for eternity with the same level of concern, for the bridegroom cometh (Matthew 25:1-13).

As strange as it may sound, I am thankful for the last couple of months.  Ponder these truths, and may the Lord have preeminence in all things!

Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 03.22.20

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Prosperity or Pestilence; Fitting Coronavirus into a Biblical Worldview

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” – Ecclesiastes 7:14

In recent weeks, it has been overwhelming to witness the pandemonium surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. To be sure, COVID 19 must be taken seriously, and people are understandably filled with fear and uncertainty. But in these tumultuous times, how should the coronavirus fit into the believer’s Biblical worldview?  Here are a few thoughts gleaned from Ecclesiastes 7:14.

First, every day is handcrafted by God. Solomon describes God as the Creator of each day, whether it is a day marked with joy or a day stained with adversity. We should find rest in knowing the sovereign hand of God weaves both bright threads (days of prosperity) and dark threads (days of adversity) into our life tapestry. God creatively crafts every day with purpose, no matter the events that make up each day. This means God is in control even when the world seems out of control. And the world seems out of control does it not? Life as we know it has been drastically altered. Restaurants and businesses have closed their doors. Sporting events have postponed their seasons or cancelled altogether. Schools and colleges have cancelled the current semester. Airports and bus stations are empty. City streets look like a Hollywood depiction of a zombie apocalypse. State governors have ordered citizens to stay home while countries across the globe have closed borders. Churches have dismissed services. The stock market continues to fall as the death toll from COVID 19 continues to rise. People are encouraged to practice social distancing in effort to curtail the spread of the virus. It all seems surreal. But none of these events have taken God by surprise. We rest in God’s sovereignty knowing He has the whole world in His hands even when everything around us seems to be out of hand. And so in desperate times such as these, God’s people must live out the gospel of God motivated by faith rather than fear.

Secondly, seasons of adversity should bring our thoughts to God all the more. Solomon says days of adversity should orient our thoughts toward God. This is not to suggest that during seasons of joy our thoughts on God can be dialed down. Solomon is simply reminding us that life’s obstacles can be used as opportunities to draw us into deeper contemplation on the things of God.

Thirdly, our eternal security should overshadow the insecurity of the moment. Solomon says “so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” It is a perplexing statement, but it was his poetic way of saying we do not know what each day will bring. Tomorrow might be a day of joy or it might be a day of catastrophe. We just do not know. The insecurity of the moment has been the primary thrust behind the panic surrounding COVID 19 pandemic. Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare as hordes of people have crammed their cupboards with items seen as essential for survival. Why; because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. True, we cannot know what will happen in light of the current circumstances, but as God’s people, we can have assurance of our eternal destiny. As we live out the gospel and point others to Christ during these unprecedented times, pray that people would spiritually prepare for eternity and put stock in the promises of God with the same sense of urgency as they have in physically preparing for the moment by stocking up on toilet paper!

Dear Christian friend, don’t waste the chapter of your life infected by the coronavirus.  See the virus in light of Scripture. Treasure each day (whether good or bad) as a gift from God, and dwell upon Him all the more during this season of adversity. Finally, though the insecurity of the moment can be overwhelming, find rest in your eternal security.

 – Pastor Eric