How are you doing? I’m sitting in my sunroom here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, looking at the white blossoms on our ornamental pear trees which beautifully contrast with the richly green lawn. I breathe deeply. And there are a cluster of blooming daffodils prospering along the patio’s edge, waving their happy yellow at me. A lovely sight. Looking up from my studies I’ve viewed several squirrels and a little chipmunk scampering across our expansive yard. The tree blossoms, the scampering critters, and the yellow daffodils ignore our viral enemy and economic insecurity.
Nature is a gift to us, offering clues from His Kingdom, right here in our “Coronaville” (as Dr. Fred Chay has dubbed this time; maybe you’ve heard this name, but it was new to me!). I am reminded (aren’t you?) of Jesus’ perspective-correcting words in Matthew 6: 28-34. (You’ll find this passage below.)
This is the fifth post in this current series that I’m writing during this Coronavirus pandemic. I began the series on March 19 and posted weekly until recently. The last post was enough to simmer on for a few weeks. Today’s will be a Kingdom patchwork of pass-alongs from three, godly people I highly respect.
First, I’m going to pass on a paragraph from Dr. Chay’s recent email devotional commentary. Second, we’ve been using a prayer liturgy from our current pastor, Rev. Tony Garbarino here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I want to pass that on to you. Third, I was blessed by a weekly email devotional from our previous pastor in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Rev. Tom Petro. Take your pick or choose them all. Good stuff.
I wish to thank all three men for their wisdom and godly examples and for the use of this material!
Kingdom Patchwork Square #1
Dr. Fred Chay is a Bible professor and local church teacher. I met him at Phoenix Seminary (where I did research in its library for a number of years) back in 2014, I believe. He has written a book entitled Suffering Successfully. That title always makes me smile. The subtitle is A Biblical Perspective. There you go! I am on his email list to receive his “Friday with Fred,” insightful communique. Today, his email concluded with this challenge.
Dr. Chay wrote “as I live in ‘Post Coronaville,’ I want to pray more for my governmental leaders for wisdom, courage and integrity (Romans 13:1; I Tim. 2 1-2; I Peter 2:17). I want to pray more for the people who live in Communist China, who do not know Christ and live under deplorable conditions – some physical, some psychological, and some spiritual. I want to pray more for my brothers and sisters in Christ who live in China under various forms of persecution, that the Lord Jesus would provide to them courage, conviction and comfort as they live out the music of the gospel and present the message of the gospel.”
We need to pray like this. And I pray that his “Post Coronaville” optimism is correct (and in Texas, which is where he now lives, it may be), but when thinking world wide, I think it will be a while. And I pray for long-term memories: that people will not forget how fragile life is, how mortal they are, and how they need Jesus! I think that the economic fallout will slow the recovery and keep us from forgetting. God is working through every detail.
About Dr. Chay: Professor of Theology at Phoenix Seminary and Director of Doctoral Studies for 21 years; he is now Professor of Theology and Doctoral Studies at Grace School of Theology in Texas. You can connect with his ministries here: https://graceline.net/ .
Kingdom Patchwork Square #2
This is the prayer liturgy that Pastor Tony Garbarino, our pastor, emailed to his flock after the pandemic closed down our church meetings. Pastor Tony did not write this liturgy, although I think he modified it some. I copied it from his email into this Word document and spaced things a bit more. However, it is presented in the landscape layout, so it is a horizontal document. Print it out for easy use. Or you may want to re-arrange it and adapt it as you wish.
Kingdom Patchwork Square # 3
Pastor Tom Petro sent the following devotional to his congregational email list on April 8, since the people could not gather together that night to study and pray. Pastor Tom was our pastor in Arizona for ten years. Hearing him online makes us miss him and the people. Pastor Tom loves to study and teach the Word. I hope this tender devotional from a humble and kind pastor nourishes your soul. He gave me permission to share it with you!
This email devotional began with a picture of a clock with a poster of John 3:16 below it, but I could not copy it. You will need to keep that in mind.
Pastor Tom’s Devotional
Every photograph of a clock shows the second-hand standing still. Pictures capture a moment in time, or perhaps more accurately, 1/400th of a second in time. The attached photo is no different; however, I could have taken hundreds of pictures of that clock during the last week and it would have showed the same time. Due to a dead battery, the clock in Cooley Hall here at the church stopped. And oddly enough, it stopped on Tuesday, March 31, at 9:43 AM—a little over an hour before the beginning of our final in-church ministry for a while—the Ladies’ Bible Study.
It kind of seems like time is standing still. So little seems to be happening. Many people aren’t working, or at least not as much. Kids don’t head out of the door in the morning to go to school. Televised sports are reruns. People who never miss church are forced to miss at least a month. We can’t invite our friends over for coffee or dinner. Weekly trips to a restaurant are on hold. We rarely leave the house.
In an Andy Griffith Show episode, tipsy Otis Campbell has to be incarcerated at Andy’s house because the two jail cells are full. Aunt Bee is the “warden,” and she makes Otis’ life miserable! When his sentence finally ends and Otis walks out of the Taylor house, he looks up to the blue sky, takes a deep breath, and says: “Freedom! Oh it smells good!” That’s similar to how I feel now when I walk to the mailbox each afternoon. How long will it be until life returns to normal? When will I no longer feel like a prisoner at home? As routine as life used to be, I can’t wait for those old routines to return!
But time isn’t standing still, of course. The second-hand is still moving; and while it may seem to be moving a lot slower, it still ticks 60 times per minute. Time marches on.
Moses, who is believed to have authored the first five books of the Bible, is also the writer of one of the psalms. Psalm 90 has quite a bit to say about time. It is there that we read the familiar words, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” (v. 10). The same verse describes the end of life as the time “we fly away.” Long before the invention of wrist watches and wall clocks, Moses prayed this: “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (v. 12). Life is a series of days, one attached to another … to another. On and on it goes. And like additional stitches in a tapestry, that collection of days forms a lifetime. The “number” of our days adds up to “the days of our years.” We need to live wisely; believe it or not, those days are still adding up quickly!
Do you know how Psalm 90 begins? Very beautifully, it says this: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Another time reference; only this time, it spans many lifetimes. Moses says that God has been as close as the front door to every generation! As Paul said, “He is not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Out of necessity, we are currently somewhat confined to our homes, our “dwelling places.” But how beautiful it is to say, “The Lord is my dwelling place;” He is my home! I am surrounded by Him! Instead of thinking that you are confined to your home, realize that you are in the very presence of God! Rejoice in the closeness of your Lord! Spend moments of sweet fellowship with Him! Let a hymn of praise roll out of your heart and off your tongue! Open up your Bible today and read what God has spoken to you! Spend extra time during these moments and days with the Lord!
As I finish, please take another look at the clock in that picture. Then move your eyes toward the bottom of the picture, to the Bible verse posted on the wall. Notice the “time” words in John 3:16—”everlasting life!” Quite a contrast: from a clock that doesn’t move to time that never ends! Through faith in the Lord Jesus, we will be in His presence forever! What a day that will be, when we enter into the mansion Jesus has prepared for us! I can’t wait for that day! But remember: we can have that same joy now, as we recognize that He is our “dwelling place.” Let’s enjoy the Lord’s company day by day!
“In Thy presence is fullness of joy!” ~ Psalm 16:11
“But Seek First the Kingdom of God”
Jesus is speaking: “…See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6: 28b-34).
I’ve enjoyed reading you blog emails. Very interesting. I’ve been doing a little more decorating here in the house since I haven’t been going to work or church or anywhere. . . . Thanks again for your blog emails. I am glad to be able to hear how you are doing. Love Brenda Sent from my iPhone