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Dear Cindy,

Your friend Diane called asking us to pray for you because you were sick. She didn’t know any of the details, but with our world in the midst of this pandemic, such a prayer request is always of great concern.

Of course we gave her request to our church prayer chain right away. We were so glad to receive your email and the photos, saying that you were feeling much better and able to continue your internship at the clinic.

We have lifted you up to our Lord ever since you left the U.S., traveled thousands of miles from home to learn and to do what you could to help some of God’s people, very different from yourself and in a place so unfamiliar. God had given you the desire to help others. Then this clinic opportunity came up. “Out of the blue,” we might say. It was nothing you had thought of or planned before hand, but it was a place where you could learn, grow in the skills God had given you, and maybe help others see a little of God’s love through you.

You are only 22 or 23. I lose track of the years. You’ve probably had people ask: With your talent, energy, and great personality there is so much more you could have here. Your career would advance with much better pay and benefits. You could have a comfortable home. You have many friends here, and what about that young man who caught your eye recently? There are many ways you could help people at home without giving up so much you like. Why would you want to go so far away, to give up so much for people you didn’t even know? It makes no logical sense.

Some people, very sadly, reject the Lord because they can’t fit Him into their human reason. They never seem to bother to ask why they should be able to? People are always trying to play God rather than trust themselves to the God who created them, loves them deeply, and wants them to share with Him and with one another in perfect harmony now and forever. Yet with all of the abundance, perfection, beauty, and freedom given them freely they fell to the temptation of believing they could do better than their Loving Creator. Sound familiar? Mankind has been trying to improve on God’s plan ever since.

All of God’s good will for the people He created is written in the first three chapters of Genesis. Then brought to its perfect and glorious completion through the following 65 Biblical books until we see the “New Heaven and New Earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Both liberal and conservative readers of those three Genesis chapters, as well as Christian and non-Christian readers alike, have felt it necessary to argue the factuality of the text. In doing so they often miss a truth about our Lord’s loving purpose that is confirmed many times throughout those following 65 books. ...

It is the truth of this extreme act of God’s love in shedding the blood of one of His perfect animals to provide skins replacing the inadequate efforts of our first parents. The necessity of the sacrificial death of a perfect unblemished lamb to atone for sin was shown through all of Israel’s history until the sinless Son of God made atonement for the sins of all mankind by shedding His blood on that Roman cross. It was once and for all time atonement, never needing to be repeated. It was the greatest possible act of our Lord’s sacrificial love for all mankind. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by shedding His blood died the death we justly deserve. By Jesus’ act of self-sacrificing love He defeated the power of sin, death, and the devil to enslave us. We have been delivered from our bondage by the blood of the Perfect Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ, placed over the doorposts of our hearts.Dear Cindy, this is an old preacher writing to you. I’ve loved, believed, and taught the Bible, God’s revealed truth for many years. There is much I don’t understand about the way God works, but I really don’t have to. I am content to trust my life to His love and guidance visible in so many crossroads of my life, even some taken by my own stubbornness. God just keeps doing things we never expect, but if we are willing to trust and follow Him we begin to see His good purpose.

Isn’t that what you have seen, God’s work in your life over this last year? I certainly have in mine. There were many unplanned, unexpected, and sometimes painful and unwanted, but He is still at work in us. God promises us His presence, love and care. He doesn’t promise us an easy pain free life.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t use the different skills, talents, and understanding God has give each one in different ways. We use the tools of science, technology, and medicine. God has provided these, His gifts for our well being, but we do not set them up as our Idols of supreme trust above Him. We approach all things in this life with prayer, guided by His Word, knowing His promise of never leaving or forsaking us, and firmly understanding that our true citizenship is in Christ’s Kingdom.

Now all the world is facing the sudden unexpected onset of a deadly virus that will ultimately change all of our lives for many years to come. What we hear reported has all of us fearful and making sacrifices that touch many aspects of daily life.

Five months ago most of us had never heard of COVID-19. But think of the season in which it came. The first reported identification of this virus was mid-November 2019. The first recorded death in early January of 2020. The Season the Christian world prepares to celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. The birth of Jesus, God coming in human flesh. The Epiphany, gentile Magi seeking the King of the Jews, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that his blessing would spread to all people.

The virus has now continued its presence through all of the events we celebrate, and trust for our very life, hope, and deliverance from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Christ made atonement for the sins of all mankind, promised the indwelling presence of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus followers spread the Good News throughout the world, often at the cost of their lives. Almighty God declared this astounding, redeeming, self-giving love of God for all people.

A Coincidence? It cannot be! But what does it mean?

Some Pastors say this is the Judgment of God on all sinners. I do not believe that. That’s too easy and it sets me (a good redeemed believer) above all those others who have not accepted the Lord. I do not believe that COVID-19 is God’s judgment on our sinful world. Then if not, what?

Cindy, do you remember the Confirmation class we had at church? You all did pretty well when we studied the Ten Commandments. I would ask the class, what was the First Commandment? You all rightly answered, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me.” I would follow this by asking, Is that all of it? Most of you would dutifully repeat the explanation from our Lutheran Catechism. All quite correct, but does the Lord give any reason why they shouldn’t make graven images?

You probably remember where I am going with this. … The full command God put on the stone tablet read, “I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt our of the house of slavery.” Only then did He command not to put any other gods before Him. Our loving Creator knew that if people made wealth, or power, or anything else before Him they would miss the full goodness, beauty, and joy of the life He created us for.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. It was just days before the horrible suffering He knew He must endure to make atonement for all of our sins. Jesus looked over the city and wept. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” He wept because He wanted to give them so much in the depth of God’s love, but they didn’t believe it was possible, and only trusted in their kinds of idols.

The kind of trust in Christ’s love only comes from a heart changed by the Holy Spirit and seeing self sacrificing love freely given to them unconditionally. That’s the kind of love that is willing to wash someone’s dirty feet, pray for their enemy, and even to forgive people who have caused them suffering. The kind of love Jesus gave to us, and asked us to give to our world. That kind of love makes no logical sense.

We thank you, our dear sister in Christ, for showing us that kind of love through your life. We will continue to hold you up before the Throne of Grace.

Sincerely in Christ’s love,

Pastor Irv

Irvin Stapf is a retired Lutheran pastor having served two churches in the Damascus/Germantown area for over 48 years.

(1) comment

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“Some people, very sadly, reject the Lord because they can’t fit Him into their human reason.“

Just remember that you have rejected tens of thousands, if not millions, of other Lords. Perhaps throwing stones in your glass house isn’t the best idea.

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