I have a couple of confessions to make. The first, is a first for this blog, to talk about something current and personal, but not a big deal. I have had my first taste of the quarantine this last week. Until one of my co-workers fell ill and got tested for COVID, twenty-four of us had been operating as usual. My work schedule had not changed, I am considered an “essential” employee, all the while our supervisors were giving us the warm invitation to let them know if any of us are feeling sick. Of course, running a fever is the sign everyone is looking for early on, that and the shortness of breath. Well, last Thursday my coworker decided to get checked out and the examining doctor was concerned enough to run a test for COVID-19. Suddenly we were all called in and told we were being sent home on a few-days quarantine pending the results of that test, which if came back positive would be an extra two-weeks of lock-down at home. I have had three extra days at home. What did I do with all this extra time? Well, that is where the confessions come into play. And it makes me wonder, how much of us out there are just squandering this opportunity.
This blog, these devotions, are something I came up with last minute. I’m not doing this for myself, I am doing this because I felt it was a calling from God. I would love to piece all the devotions together and have them available for anyone in the world to have to study and follow a reading plan to get more people to read the Bible cover-to-cover within one year. I started out strong, writing half-way through March before the first of the year, then my professional job had me so busy I barely made any headway until I caught up to my devotional bank and exhausted my resources. A few weekends ago I finally put everything on hold and got ahead again, writing entries through most of this month. I say all this as an example of how I failed myself the last four days. I could have easily focused my energy on tackling at least another month’s worth of devotions, but instead of getting up at my regular time early in the morning, I slept in. I caught up on some well needed sleep, but gave myself no time to myself before my kids were up and fighting for my attention away from this laptop. Then there were the worldly distractions: we finally finished the Marvel Universe saga in binge-mode. Going against all I have written about not letting distractions consume you, we did exactly that and lost a full day to Marvel movies. After binge watching three church sermons Sunday, my family and I watched Infinity War, Ant-man and Wasp, and Endgame back-to-back. This capped over three weeks of watching a Marvel Universe movie every night when we unexpectedly opened “Pandora’s Box” after we let our oldest watch Captain Marvel and she has become a Marvel Maniac ever since. Now this may all seem harmless, like what’s the big deal, but that’s the problem with where I think many are at around the world right now.
Around us, many are suffering. This virus is a killer; a fast, brutal sickness that takes a life in days. Healthcare professionals are working tirelessly to save as many lives as possible, local and state governments are doing all they can to attend to this global emergency, National Guard members have been deployed around the nation to help where they can. All these people are away from their families, away from their loved ones. For the rest of us, we’re told to stay at home. We are being told to spend time with our loved ones, quality time. We are being forced to see each other every morning when we wake up, make breakfast together, exercise together, pray together. What an incredible opportunity most of us have to grow closer to each other and, most importantly, lean in and grow closer to God. Ah, yes, God. Did you notice that this is the first time I have mentioned Him in all of this? That’s where the problem lies. You see, there is not any harm with us binge watching three Marvel movies. But my wife and I lost an afternoon where we could have talked to our kids about the three church services we had just watched and what they meant to all of us, because, let’s be honest, our 8 and 3-year-olds were not really watching the church services. Sure I caught up on sleep, but when I say I am doing this project for God, and I just hit the snooze for four days in a row, what kind of devotion am I showing to the One who could save us from the mess we are in. I pray for the world and ask you all to pray for a crazy-faith miracle to happen just two days from now, and I don’t give God any second thought for the last four days. I write my devotion, say my prayers, and don’t really spend time with God, am I doing what I plead for so many to do by turning their lives to Jesus? I say this because I beg all of you, do not waste this opportunity. There has never been a time where the world is telling you to stay home and do nothing! But don’t do nothing, do something that will change your life forever! READ THE BIBLE! Start a blog! Start a good news channel like my favorite John Krasinski has. Do something that will make you proud, would make your parents proud, would make your best friends proud, or, most importantly, would make Jesus proud.
35Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” John 12:35-36)
Jesus closes the conversation with “some Greeks” with the verses above. Jesus is giving the crowd their final warning, this is their last chance to walk with Jesus before He physically leaves them. Jesus advises them to “believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” John never brings up these Greeks any more in his gospel, so I wonder if they listened to Jesus’ instructions and walked with Jesus anymore during this crucial week. It can be easy to assume that they did not, since the Last Supper, which is just a few days away, does not include anyone new, just Jesus and His most beloved. Our reading plan for the New Testament is several chapters behind where we are drawing our verses from today, which is usually not a big deal, but since this week is the most important in our Christian faith, I invite you to read John 12 in its entirety. Chapter 12 follows Jesus from His anointing at Bethany to the conversations recorded by John above. There are references to prophecies of Isaiah that help explain why many Jews did not believe in Jesus. But John also includes little “Easter eggs,” those hidden treasures that, if you are not paying close attention to, you look right over. For example, John writes in verse 42,
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue”
Here were Jewish religious leaders that believed Jesus was who He was, secretly walking with Him to become “children of light.” These religious leaders would most likely become the first converts from Judaism to Christianity as it became the Way. The controversy of Christ is the most epic story line in mankind’s history: hidden believers that would soon be tasked to spread the truth and love of their leader, who in a few days would be nailed to a cross.
Jesus has physically been gone from humanity since He ascended to Heaven, but His presence is still felt throughout the world. Walk with Him today, believe in Him today. Become a child of the light, and set your light on top of the hill, for all the world to see.
Continue to pray for God to use this pandemic to open the eyes of the world and bring everyone’s focus back to God and allow them to fix their eyes on Jesus. Maudy Thursday, just two days from today, will be the day COVID stops spreading and Good Friday will see the first day of recovery. And Easter Sunday will be the day of resurrection for this country. Pray this prayer with me every day.
Reading plan: John 5
Deeper reading plan: 1 Kings 18, 19, 20
Prayer and meditation: Pray for all medical personnel around the world, that God wraps them in heavenly protection to keep them healthy and keep their families protected. Pray for everyone involved in the supply chain industry that is working tirelessly to keep food in our grocery stores. Pray for those working in food and grocery industries, still working, putting their health in jeopardy every single day. Pray for those that have lost jobs or income during this uncertain time. Pray for protection for your loved ones and that God will continue to keep them safe and healthy. Pray for all those personally affected by COVID infections.
Fitness challenge: Sprints for Jesus. This week, more than any other, get out and train to keep your body strong and at its fittest. We’re in week 2 of 200 meter sprints, after a half-mile warm up and stretch, we’re up to 6×200 meters.