The Heartbeat
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

It is interesting how there are different sides in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here is some history of previous Christian responses to pandemics over the past 2,000 years. These times of plague also helped spread the Gospel.

The Plague of Cyprian, during the middle of the 3rd century A.D., was a lethal pandemic that, at its height, caused upwards of 5,000 deaths a day in Rome. During the plague, Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, wrote that the Romans "pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt ... " During the same time...

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generation. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." – Psalm 90:1-2 (ESV)

Recently I have been reading The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, written in the mid-1700s. The writing style is old; Edwards is extremely verbose; I highly doubt a publisher would print the book if presented to him today by an otherwise unknown writer. Yet the book continues to be printed and read because…well, because it was Edwards who wrote it. Cornelius VanTil spoke of trees that bear fruit that only giraffes can reach. The rest of humanity waits for the overripe fruit to finally drop to the ground. Edwards offers fruit that is high…way up high. And for those who are willing to try and get it while it is still ripe, the benefits are great. But boy is it hard!

The story of Marie Antoinette's aloofness from and callousness towards the starving masses of France, just prior to the French Revolution, is well known. Informed that that many were starving for lack of bread she infamously said, "Qu'ils mangent du gateau." That is, "Let them eat cake!"

It was this story that came to my mind when I recently was talking on the phone with the wife of a millionaire (they live in the southwest). She was highlighting how wonderful life has become since the advent of the coronavirus. She mentioned seeing more of her neighbors out for walks, having additional time to work on house projects, and more time to play tennis or lounge around the pool. She said that she had seen a survey in which the vast majority of those from England said they had no desire to return to their former lives. She took this to mean they were enjoying the lockdown and the personal benefits that have come from it.

The following are random thoughts/reflections on life at this time due to the coronavirus…

1. Like some of you, I have been keeping an eye on the stock market. In this time when some families are truly broke, the stock market continues to be very active – reflecting the investments of many. It is a reminder that while the coronavirus has been called the great equalizer (showing no partiality as to who may be stricken with it), the stock market is a sign of very observable inequality.

2. While Burning Hearts has continued to pay both Nate and me our salaries, I have wondered what is happening in large churches. Sure, the senior pastor may be doing broadcasts (online) and communicating to the body, and the one overseeing praise may be working out ways to creatively lead the church in family praise to God, but what about all the other staff? What is an assistant youth worker, an administrative assistant or the head of small group development doing? Will churches continue to pay them? And pity the churches that have huge mortgages to pay. I saw an article how it is estimated that the coronavirus will result in at least 5% of all churches closing their doors (because of financial hardship).

"Greet one another with a holy kiss" – Romans 16:16

I violated our governor's order on social distancing this past week. Indeed, I violated it not once, but twice.

Lenny Torres and I go way back…back to the late 90s when his wife was killed in a car accident. Lenny and his wife had begun attending LEFC (in Lititz) where I was pastoring and though I had not come to know them before the accident, once the accident occurred I came to know Lenny fairly well. Lenny had been driving the car at the time that he was taking his wife to work and hit the patch of ice that resulted in the car going off the road. Lenny suffered severe injuries – to the point that he was not even conscious when his wife's funeral took place. His road to recovery was a long one due to terrible bone fractures. Eventually Lenny recovered to the point that he could walk and with that he made plans to return to his native Puerto Rico.

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" – Hebrews 9:27 (KJV)

When I was growing up we had two televisions in the house: one upstairs and one in the basement. Both were black and white sets and, as I recall, we received about 5 stations. My parents, at that time, were opposed to attending the movie theater but they seemed to have no qualms about watching movies (that had previously been released at the movie theaters!) on television. On occasion we would, as a family, watch a movie together and if it was a particularly old movie – say, something from the 1930s – I can recall my dad making the comment, "Everyone you see in that film is now dead." He made that comment many times through the years. It stuck with me and these many decades later I find myself having the same thought when I see an old film.

"…Be subject to the governing authorities…" – Romans 13:1

You have likely read of the pastors and churches that have refused to close down during this national emergency. Supposedly one or more of these pastors have been arrested and threats have been made to permanently shut down the churches. Like most of you I wonder what is really going on here. Is it a pastor and church attempting to preserve their "God given right to worship" or is it a case of trying to bring attention to themselves…of becoming the talk of the country? One article described the church as a "mega church" but then went on to suggest about 500 attend the church. That alone may have made that pastor's day: "Wow! We're now a mega church!" (Usually a figure of 2,500 or more is used to define a mega church, not 500.)

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." – Ecclesiastes 1:8

In his novel Brave New World Aldous Huxley envisioned a world in which people are produced in hatcheries and conditioned to belong to one of five castes. It was to be a world unlike the world we have known – this world of freedom and choice. Huxley's novel was of a world we will never completely know but which includes parts that are already becoming reality.

With the advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus we have, globally, taken a giant step in the direction of a new world. There is coming a day when we all will be back to work, but for some industries (cruise lines, entertainment, sporting events) there may never be a return to what they had prior to 2020. Indeed, do you know of anyone now desiring to go on a 10-day cruise with 5,000 strangers? The cruise lines are doomed.

"After two whole years…" – Genesis 41:1

That line – "after two whole years" – comes from the story of Joseph, Jacob's 11th son who was unjustly sold into Egyptian slavery and then, again unjustly, thrown into prison in Egypt. Joseph spent YEARS in prison – more than two years. It was two whole years between Joseph's interpreting of a royal cupbearer's dream and his interpreting of Pharaoh's dream. But just how much time he had spent in prison before the cupbearer had his dream we do not know. Can you imagine spending YEARS locked up?

As of today, we are two weeks into what might be called a "lock down." But now we have been told that the limits on social gatherings is being extended to April 30 – nearly 5 weeks away. Assuming this new date does not change, that means we are about 30% of the way there. If you are like me, I think in percentages all the time.

"…but the God in whose hand is your breath…" – from Daniel 5:23 (ESV)

As I understand it, those who die from the COVID-19 virus usually die as a result of organ failure. The coronavirus causes the coughing and shortness of breath – both pulmonary issues – but that in turn causes the liver and kidneys to fail. Septic shock often sets in. The use of a mechanical ventilator is an attempt to force more oxygen into the ailing person's body and bloodstream. The ventilator gives the ailing person possibly just enough time for their body's immune system to better fight off the virus. They say that in New York City, right now, one person is dying from the coronavirus every 17 minutes. This underscores the seriousness of the situation.

"…what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” - Micah 6:8

The Chinese have a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly, the times today could be said to be “interesting” or “accursed”. The times were not much better in Micah’s day either, with evil kings in Israel and Judah, Micah described as cannibals:

“…you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people…” - Micah 3:2-3

Devoured by their own government, with worse still waiting in the wings; the Assyrian Empire deported Israel in 722 BC and the Babylonians carried Judah off into captivity in 586 BC. It is so like people then and now to contemplate the misfortune of their neighbors without considering we live together in that same neighborhood.

Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly. – Proverbs 13:16 (NIV)

I was texting with a friend this past week and he informed me of the near record sales the company he works for has been having online. This is good news for my friend (good for job security) but is reflective of something that may not be so good.

Back in 2008 our country experienced an economic recession. Many people lost their jobs. I recall, during that time, meeting regularly with men who were unemployed. I also recall reading an article back then on how to best manage such difficult times. In that article the author pointed out that most people are slow to make economic changes within their homes quickly. That is to say, the main bread earner in the home may suddenly become unemployed but it generally takes months for the family to slow down their regular spending habits. The family should immediately change their ways but that seldom happens.

It was some 18 months or more ago when among the songs selected by the church member on one of our "favorite songs" Sundays the church member selected a hymn that I literally had not sung since the time I was a young boy. It was "Will Your Anchor Hold?" Since singing it that Sunday I'm not sure we have sung it since, though I am asking Nate if he might lead us in it (over YouTube) one of the next two Sundays. Ever since singing it 18 months or so back it has been on my mind. And now, with this coronavirus, it has been on my mind all the more. Here are some of the words…

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. CEASE YOUR EVICTIONS OF MY PEOPLE, declares the Lord GOD. – Ezekiel 45:9

So I was having my early morning devotional time, pretty much finishing up my going through the book of Ezekiel. I have been in Ezekiel for many, many weeks and, in my opinion, sort of finished with the “good stuff” and now working through the lengthy description of the measuring of Jerusalem, the temple, the holy of holies and so forth. It is generally thought that what Ezekiel is doing with all that is laying out the plans for the rebuilding of Jerusalem once the people of God, following a period of post-war enslavement, return to Jerusalem. But, anyway, in the midst of all that, Ezekiel defines the land boundaries for “the prince,” i.e., the government. His main concern has been things like the temple and how the priests are to be taken care of. Then, quite suddenly, he starts speaking about “the prince.”

…That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those WHO THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH were subject to lifelong slavery. – Hebrews 2:14b-15

Back in early January, Ruth and I put a "New Year Letter" – a report of sorts, looking back on 2019 and ahead to 2020. That was just two months ago but at that time there wasn't even a hint that this year was about to go awry in a major way.

As we previously suggested, "perception IS reality." So whether or not the coronavirus should be feared as the great killer of our age, or not, is immaterial. People are seeing it as such. The United States government is taking many actions to try and prevent the spread of this potential killer. And it is a potential killer…no question about that.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness… – 2 Timothy 4:6-8a

I walked into Home Depot looking for wallpaper glue (they no longer carry it but they knew where to send me to buy it) and I saw John behind the paint counter. I've known John for more than 35 years. Back when I was a real estate agent I was the best man in John's wedding to Sharon. Sharon died about 10 years ago from melanoma and John has, at least to this point, remained unmarried. John has had a long string of physical challenges (knee replacement, hip replacement, heart surgery, etc) yet he remains active, putting many hundreds, if not thousands of miles on his bicycle each year.

It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear. – Amos 5:19 (NIV)

Ruth and I have, for many years, used the little line that "perception is reality." That is, how we are perceived or how a situation is perceived – whether correct or incorrect – outweighs what may be the real situation. Thus if a politician is perceived as a racial bigot, it matters little what that politician does or says to counter that perception. The perception will, most often, stick. That is why, in political contests, if one's opponent can be portrayed as a bigot, a misogynist, a communist or a crook that may be all that is needed to win the election.

And now we have this coronavirus COVID-19 scare. In Japan schools have been closed; in Sweden, events are limited to 1,000 attenders. Little does it matter that one's getting the flu or even dying from the flu is VASTLY more likely than what might come from the coronavirus. What matters is the perception. The toilet paper in Japan and Hawaii is now gone from the shelves and in Washington State it is much the same. People are afraid. Franklin Roosevelt, at the height of the Great Depression said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. – Ecclesiastes 12:12b

I recently repainted our living room, which is no great feat. What IS amazing about it all is that this is the first time that I have repainted that room in 36 years. And THAT, in my opinion, is a testimony to the superior quality of M.A.B. (now Sherwin Williams) paint, particularly their oil-based gloss trim paint.

But as this job entailed removing all of the books (from some 24 book shelves) it seemed like the appropriate time to also go through those books and dispense with those that either have not been touched in a long while or will not be touched for years to come. Back when I was a seminary student the purchase and ownership of many books was considered somewhat of a badge of honor. And if one happened to have so many books in one's dorm room that there was barely room for a bed that was considered worthy of double honor.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. – Genesis 12:2c

It was a couple years ago that I presented to the Board of Elders the idea of Burning Hearts offering to The Seed of Abraham Fellowship (a Messianic fellowship that was meeting in Lititz) the use of our building on Saturday mornings. I had heard that the building that "The Seed" was meeting in was going to be sold and that they would likely need to move. The elders unanimously voted to extend a welcome to them, and so I wrote them a letter with our offer.

Recently, the "chief rabbi" of that group asked to come and tour our facility. Some of you know him: Lloyd Scalyer. Lloyd was very impressed with what we have done with the building and after asking many questions and talking about various details he took the information back to "The Seed" for a vote. They voted to accept our offer. I was overjoyed at their decision.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' – 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Even if you have not seen it, you have likely heard that the film, Parasite, won this year's Academy Award for Best Picture. Produced and filmed in South Korea this was the first year that a non-English subtitled film has won this prize.

Parasite is a film about class warfare: those who have and those who do not. Actually is more about the "have nots" conniving in such a was as to get more of what the "haves" already have. Those who "have" remain clueless as to the scheming of the "have nots." Indeed it is their lack of awareness as to the schemes of the "have nots" that results in their own downfall.

As iron sharpens iron, so one…sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

For the past 20 years or so, Ruth and I have been taking a full day (Friday evening until Saturday late afternoon) to have an annual Prayer Retreat. We had such a retreat just this past Friday into Saturday. I am writing about this in the hope that it may trigger an interest in some of you to do the same. So here is what we do…

Location: Years ago, when the children were in the home, we went to the Blackrock Retreat Center (near Quarryville) and there rented a cabin for the night. This worked well in that it gave us a quiet place to be alone uninterrupted. This, of course, required us to find homes to take the children (usually homes of friends, so they didn't mind). A couple times I seem to recall us having someone come to our house and watch the children. Once the kids grew up and left the house we were able to start having these times at our own house.

Upcoming Events

Young Adults Sunday School
01 Aug 2021 - 09:00AM
Older Adults Sunday School
01 Aug 2021 - 09:00AM
Worship Service
01 Aug 2021 - 10:30AM
INEVITABLE Musical
01 Aug 2021 - 07:00PM
INEVITABLE Musical
02 Aug 2021 - 07:00PM