Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 7

Wednesday March 25, 2020

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)

When I was 15 years old, God showed me in a profound way that my life had meaning and that I had a purpose.

I went with a friend’s youth group to a beach retreat that spanned a full weekend in the summer of 2007. It was an exciting thing for me because I had only been to the beach once before, and they were going to be camping near the beach in tents. On that saturday, we packed our beach gear and headed to the shore.

Our charismatic leader made it easy for all of us to have a lot of fun that day, but one thing that I didn’t know about before that day was how to swim if you get caught in a riptide. As my friend and I were out in the water, we started to notice the water looking rough near the jetty, and we saw two people about our age by the jetty who looked scared. We called out to ask if they needed help, and when they said yes, we swam over and attempted to get them to safety.

But I didn’t know how to swim in a riptide…I was able to pull one of the them away from the jetty, but I quickly got swept up in the riptide myself as I lost my grip. I remember trying to swim straight towards shore, but every time I made a little progress, it was instantly taken away as I got pulled back in the other direction.

Eventually, as I continued to gasp for air and got some saltwater in return, I looked up to the sky, thinking I was going to drown, and told God that I was ready to Go – that God could take me then (A bit dramatic, I admit, but when you are 15 years old, thats par for the course). Immediately after that, and I can’t stress that enough, I was actually able to swim to shore when I had not been able to do so previously. I walked on shore with only a few scratches on my ankle, and a story that would define my life from that point on.

When I was on the boardwalk that night, I bought a cross necklace that I still wear today to always remind me of that instance when God told me that my life had a meaning and a purpose. After that day, the faith that I always knew and believed in became real and tangible, and I was committed to following Christ in a whole new way.

But to other people, that story could be explained by coincidence – the riptide could have just happened to stop immediately after my prayer. Likewise, as we are all struggling with what this COVID-19 crisis will mean for the health and finances of ourselves, our families and friends, and nation, some may say that believing in God is foolish optimism.

This faith seems especially foolish if that belief includes believing that our God died on a torture device at the hands of a human government over 2000 years ago. For if you or I were going to make up a religion, a God who suffered and died is not a logically good start.

But I believe that it is precisely that reason why Christianity is relevant for us today – Jesus came to earth, lived a life of righteousness, performed miracles, and healed and defended the lowest members of society, and STILL died on a cross and rose again in order to show us that sin can be forgiven and that an earthly death is not the end of our core existence.

Christianity provides the world with a God who understands the suffering and pain that we go through in the most empathetic way, and it also shows the world that there is HOPE beyond what is right in front of us.

Pray to the Lord today for help and guidance; knowing that God understands you at your weakest moment, and has cleared the path before you, through the cross, that leads to Hope and Peace.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:

“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The Passionate Kingdom – Reflections for Holy Week (Part 4)

After being sealed in the tomb, along with all of our questions and concerns for our world, Jesus rose again, and the stone was rolled away from His grave.

Our God Lives.

Everything that he had said before about His Father in heaven, the Kingdom of God, the temple being rebuilt, and all of his teachings were completely confirmed in his Resurrection.  He is who he said he was.


So where does that leave our largest looming question from Part 3 – How did the Crucifixion and the Resurrection change our world for the better?

The crucifixion was God, The Son, going to the logical end of our suffering, which is death.  This was the day that the “Revolution Began” as N.T. Wright says. Christ’s initial followers were in mourning over the great loss of losing a God that was also a friend.

The Resurrection was God overcoming all of the suffering, evil, sin, and death in the world in order to breathe life into His people.  The initial followers of Jesus, who were mourning his death, rejoice to see that Christ, their King, is Alive!

The crippling bondage of our suffering is gone through the listening and guiding of a friend who’s been there, and through the decree of a King that there WILL BE a resurrection from our earthly calamity. 

In these things, we realize that we are not alone in our suffering and that there is hope for the future, even in the moments when we can only see darkness.

a9567b09e071dba7053c224794ce804b.jpgWhen we go through trials:

  • It is liberating to have someone to talk to who has experienced something similar to you. That is Jesus.
  • It is empowering to hear the words of an authoritative figure saying, “this too shall pass; this is not the end”, when we can’t see the end of our affliction. That is Jesus.

When others go through trials:

  • The bondage of Humanity’s suffering loosens when followers of Jesus live in this world as citizens in a Kingdom that washes the feet of those that the world rejects.
    • The Church has a real message of understanding, empowerment, and hope to provide, and that message is made tangible through the love, care, service that we show others, and in the words we teach.

But Christians are not always perfect. In fact, we never are perfect.

Terrible things have been done in the name of Christ on a grand scale.

Shameful things have been done by Christ followers when they believe the doors are shut.

Hypocrisy is an unavoidable side-effect of a religion that calls flawed people to follow a flawless God. And more than that, human sins have a way of replacing our devotion to God by convincing us that what we are doing is okay – greed, pride, anger, and other things can all be justified in some way.



“God [is] with us”


That is why when we look back in human history, (which is cataloged by war, victory, and loss more than achievement, art, and compassionate acts) we find hypocrisy…

Hypocrisy makes it hard to see the good, and harder to see the Holy.

But Jesus Christ, through his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, shows us a consistency of character that is unparalleled; a character that is so completely devoted to the “other” that hypocrisy could have never been a charge made against Him.

We can’t be Jesus…but we can try to be more like Him each day, and part of this is through viewing the overlooked positive things about the past; it’s seeing the Christians fighting against Hitler and deciding, THEY are following the ways of Christ…the Nazis are just using the name. 

And we can also become more like Jesus when we begin to realize that a speck in another person’s eye doesn’t matter when we have a plank in our own…It’s harder to accuse others of sin when we realize our own sinfulness.

But when we view ourselves and others as equally in need of a God who redeems and restores, we are more willing to take part in that restoration by washing the feet of another.


Theological Rabbit-Trail – Christians do not all agree as to what Christ dying actually accomplished:
  1. Some believe that Christ was the perfect sacrifice to the righteous Father for humanity’s sin (Penal Substitutionary Theory)
  2. Some believe that a payment had to be made to the powers of evil in order to free humanity from its grip which started after the Fall of Adam and Eve (Ransom Theory)
  3. Some believe his death and resurrection defeated the bondage of evil [sin, death, earthly governments, satan, demons] on the people of God (Christus Victor Theory)
  4. Some believe that Christ lived and died on this earth in order to restore humanity, and his death and resurrection are meant to be an inspiration for others to follow the ways of God (Moral Influence Theory)
The above popular theories of WHY Christ had to die, and WHAT that accomplished are called “Atonement Theories”, and not all of the atonement theories are present here.
I do not believe that ONE atonement theory, by itself, is completely satisfactory – I believe there is more nuance in the Bible than that in regards to these thoughts. Instead, I think that we should view the death and resurrection of Jesus with multiple theories in mind.
What do you think?


The Passionate Kingdom – Reflections for Holy Week (Part 3)

Betrayal is something that many can never get over.

As Jesus prayed in the garden for his suffering to be over, his friend Judas was orchestrating for his suffering to increase.

After Christ was arrested, the same people who shouted Hosanna before, we’re now shouting “Crucify him!”.


His own disciples, when asked if they were a friend or follower of Jesus, denied their connection to him out of fear.

Jesus was alone in captivity, alone is his torment, and the only ones calling him a King now were Roman soldiers as they portrayed him as a lunatic with a ragtag sceptre, and a painful crown…

He carried his cross to the place where he would die. He watched as nails were driven into his hands.

87674682.jpgAs he was lifted up, not on a throne, but on an execution device for criminals, he saw soldiers gambling over his clothes…he heard the mocking of the crowds…he heard the taunts of one of the other criminals on one side, and the confessions of another on the his other side.

Some saw him as a King of the World…some saw him as the scum of the earth.

On that day, the Jesus that rules over the Passionate Kingdom, died.

Before he died, he proclaimed, “IT IS FINISHED!”.

His life, ministry, and death ALL meant something for this world – every Christian will agree to this.

But what did it do that made the world quantitatively different?

Why do we still experience evil, torment, betrayal, and blood-thirsty crowds?

Jesus knew our pain, our sorrow…our hopeless and endless longing for something to change.

He knew the hurt from betrayal.

But He became a King at a Table amongst friends and a King on a cross amongst enemies.

And he died for both audiences.

But what was finished?

In this time of reflection upon the death of Christ, our questions linger inside of a sealed off tomb.jesus-sealed-tomb.jpg

Subscribe for part 4 after Easter

Sackcloth and Ashes

Within the last eight weeks, two of my friends, both in their 20s, have passed away.

One of them was named Zach.

Zach was not just a friend, he was my wife’s cousin who was just six months or so younger than her.  Zach welcomed me into the family with open arms, useless facts, and sarcasm. He always knew how to rile up the uncles at family gatherings to discuss politics, how to get along with the younger kids, and how to make a newcomer feel as though they were always a part of his life.

Zach was also a man who would be there for anyone in need.  He would drive an hour away after a full shift to help Courtney and I move our things into our house, and he even drove two or three hours to spend some time with the family as we fished off a pier in New Jersey.  Family was important to Zach.  Courtney was important to Zach.  I was important to Zach….

Unfortunately, Zach passed away in an accident while coming home from work.  The accident was not his fault as far as we know.  The whole family slowly found out through getting calls late in the night.  I held my wife as she shook, and it was the worst pain that I have ever felt for another human being.

His funeral was PACKED.

As the minister, who knew Zach personally, led us all in processing the loss of someone who made such large of an impact on our lives, something hit home: “Zach kept a journal by his bedside, and one of the last entries was him writing his goals in life: to ‘be a godly man, have a godly family'”.  Zach was FULLY committed to Jesus Christ, and his last message for us all was of his own commitment to Christ…and you knew that in that funeral room, Zach would have wanted for all who were present to join him someday in the presence of God.

I haven’t allowed myself to process his death in the fullest sense, I don’t think.  I always feel odd when there are others who need to grieve before I begin to let myself fully grieve. But that message of Zach’s hit home….

The second friend who passed away, I will leave out of this post out of respect for his family and his close friends who need time to mourn. His funeral was packed as well as a testament to how much of an impact he had on others.

And Here we are.

When you are in your teens, and your twenties, you feel invincible.  You expect your life to extend to your 80s, at least.  But I lost two friends in the last 8 weeks who were both under 30, and who both stayed away from drugs, and other harmful choices.

It makes you think….

Am I leading a life that is blessing others?

Am I leading a life that is remaining faithful to my God?

Will my funeral be a source of encouragement, oddly, to those gathered?

I hope so.

And I’ll see my two friends again.

A Poem – Based on Psalm 42

Oh, life was full of light and then
The Clouds became my smokey lens
Images became silhouettes
And hope, a lost memory
When all that is, is but despair
I doubt the very truth of prayer
Images become silhouettes
And hope, a lost memory
Oh, My soul… Awake!
Why are you in turmoil…Awake!
You once were soaring high enough
But now I’m calling on your bluff
Oh, My Soul… Awake!
I try to think on blessed times
On grace shown then, despite my crimes
On love displayed for all to see
Of hearts filled with great empathy
But now my heart has turned to cold
My apathy becomes more bold
And I am left down on my knees
With folded hands and desperate plees
Oh, My soul… Awake!
Why are you in turmoil…Awake!
You once were soaring high enough
But now I’m calling on your bluff
Oh, My Soul… Awake!
I will recall those blessed times
And thirst for Truth, wade past the lies
For I will again find the light
For this I am willing to fight
Oh, My soul… Awake!
Why are you in turmoil…Awake!
Hope in God for I shall sing
Praises to the blessed King
Oh, My Soul… Awake!
The Psalms are full of the ups and downs of life and faith, and sometimes life is so full of apathy, and anguish.  The Scriptures tell us that expressing ourselves with these feelings is okay, and in fact, it is in scripture where we find comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our turmoil.
Christ calls us to follow him, but sometimes we lack the strength to stand. It is then that we are perplexed by our own slumbering Soul that seems to lack the passion it once contained.  We need help that extends past what we can accomplish ourselves because the fight of faith and life is worth fighting.