Where Are You Going?

Where we are going is more about the journey than the destinations, and the journey is about who we are becoming.

I read recently in the book, Gospel Justice, about the parable of the good Samaritan. The book focused on the priest who failed to cross the road to help an injured man. Bruce Strom offers a few possibilities about where the priest was going and why he was in too big of a hurry to help the injured man.

As I reflect back on what Bruce wrote, I can imagine God asking the question to the priest that hangs in the air: where are you going?

Where are you going?

God might ask that question not because He doesn’t know. God knows our every move and the words we are about to speak even before we say them. God might ask that question because He wants us to stop and think about it.

Where are you going?

Most people would have an answer of course. My 20-year-old might say that she is going to take a semester off of college to work, not knowing what college will look like in the fall with the virus outbreak still ongoing. My 25-year-old might say he is taking a year off before starting grad school. My 27-year-old might say that he is working, saving enough money for a security deposit, and the first and last months of rent for an apartment that he will need if he gets the job as a grad assistant that he has applied for.

My 30-year-old might say he is going into his second year of seminary. My 33-year-old might say he is going to keep mulching and working from home until the stay-at-home order is lifted and he can go back to work. My 34-year-old might say that he is going to patent a UV light that kills the coronavirus.

We might have longer term answers, too. I joke that I am going to work until I am 80 to pay off the college debt I incurred for my kids. I think about the possibility of retirement, as remote as it seems.

The priest in the parable might have been going home or going to church or going to visit a friend. He might have even being going to help someone in need. The priest might have had a good destination in mind, but the parable is clearly meant to contrast the priest to the “Good Samaritan”.

Of course, “good” and “Samaritan” were two words that Jews in first century Judea would not have put together. Samaritans were heretics and second-class citizens in the Jewish world at that time.

And of course, Jesus chose a Samaritan to drive home the point that the Good Samaritan, not the priest, did the “right” thing in that parable. He did the better thing. He stopped to help the injured man on the side of the road.

It didn’t matter where the priest was going, ultimately; he passed up the divine opportunity to help the man right in front of him.

If God was asking the priest, “Where are you going?” I don’t think he would be looking for the immediate answer. If the priest said he was going to the temple to perform his priestly duties, I think God might have asked him again, “Where are you going?”

We all have places to go, things to do, people to see. We all have goals and aspirations. I imagine God asking this question, not about the destinations, goals and aspirations we have planned, but about the journey: what direction are you moving in?

When two of my sons were wrestling, I would sometimes say to them (and myself): “It’s not about the winning and losing; it’s about the journey.”

The ultimate question about the journey of life is this: Who are you becoming?

Continue reading “Where Are You Going?”

God and the Impossibility of Goodness

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to be good enough for God.

The story of the rich young ruler resonates with me today in the seeming impossibility of living without sin. I suspect that I am not alone in the experience of certain sinful inclinations that I just can’t seem to shake. Try as I might, I fall into the same traps of temptation over and over again. I get angry at myself. I ask for forgiveness. I renew my resolve, but I inevitably trip and fall. And sometimes I despair.

God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life….” (Gal. 6:7-8)

I know this, but it doesn’t seem to help. My sinful flesh often overcomes the spirit within me. While the spirit is often willing, the flesh is weak; and sometimes, let’s be honest, my spirit isn’t as willing as it should be.

I think, “If I could just resist more and try harder and find just the right combination of thoughts and habits and resolve, I could lick this thing.” But, days come and go. Things change: busyness, or worry, or distraction, or boredom, or some dryness in my spiritual life, or difficulty, or disappointment or any number of things (or a combination of them) sets in, and when my guard is down, temptation comes and catches me off guard in a moment of weakness.

I truly believe it is possible to overcome the sin within me. Scripture seems to require it of me. What I reap I will sow. Yet I fail. I fully identify with Paul, who said:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:15-19)

Continue reading “God and the Impossibility of Goodness”

King David’s Secret

All of David’s life was lived in relation to and orientation toward God.

King David statue outside his tomb in Mount Zion Jerusalem, Israel. 

I am reading through the Old Testament in my daily devotions on a plan that will take me through the Bible chronologically throughout the year. I have been reading through the books of Samuel and Chronicles that chronicle David’s life, among other things, and I am reading some of the Psalms David penned. Today, I read Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 is a song David sang to the Lord “when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” In the plan I am reading, it comes toward the end of his life, though I don’t know if, in fact, that is the timing. If it was, however, the things that strike me about it are all the more… well… striking.

The most striking thing about the Psalm (and David’s life) is that he implicitly and intimately trusted God. We see this in the first five verses:

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

David always turned to God. When he was overwhelmed, as expressed in this Psalm, he turned to God. When he was victorious, he turned to God. When he failed to live up to God’s standards, he turned to God, and when tragedy struck, he turned to God. In everything David did, he was intimately mindful of God. Here David said, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to God for help.” (Ps. 18:6) All of David’s life was lived in relation to and orientation toward God.

Continue reading “King David’s Secret”

Of Dreams and What May Come

Imagine for a moment that you are dreaming.

For some reason, dreams are a current theme in my life. I have never been one who remembers (most of) my dreams, so this theme comes a bit as a stranger to me. Not that what I write today has anything to do with a dream I have had.


This period of sheltering in place from the corona virus threat that has spanned virtually the entire world gives us time to pause and reflect, if we will use the time that way. I think that is a good use of this time, and I have been trying to spend more time, myself, reading, reflecting, praying, writing and re-calibrating. It seems from the increase in the number of people reading this blog that others are doing the same thing.

Today’s content comes not from me, but from a friend. Brian Asimor is a man of many talents. He is an artist who has spent his career doing art and illustrations, including technical patent drawings and portraits of people and animals. He is also a writer and thinker. I will let his writing speak for itself today:

Imagine for a moment that you are dreaming. Imagine in this dream you are witnessing a world like the one you know to be Earth. A planet that revolves around a star like our Sun. A planet populated with countless life forms from microscopic to the largest, vegetation, mammals, fowl and marine creatures.
Delve deeper in your imagination, into the very life experiences of each of these creatures as they interact with each other living out their lifespans and replicating their progeny to project and continue their purpose.
We as mankind see ourselves as the masters of our world. We see our advances in technology and science as amazing unto themselves. We credit ourselves with innovation and invention.
Imagine now as our dream flows on, we see God as a concept rather than the origin of all things. We see those who believe in God as ignorant and unsophisticated. We see trends as the cadence of the future. We see changing weather as our doing and think we can start or stop weather patterns by regulation of groups behavior.

We awaken to reality as we grasp our chest in pain and drop to our knees. This is no longer a dream. We find ourselves calling out to God to help us and save us from what is happening to our body. We are experiencing a heart attack and it is the one we feared all along. At that moment we realize that God is in charge and we are not. We are but one of God’s creatures that he loves and cares for. God has placed us here in this body, in this gender, in this bloodline, in this geographic locale at this moment of Earth time, all for a reason. That reason is to  exchange our talents and faculties with each other in harmony, pursuing wisdom, understanding and happiness as a family, the family of mankind!

Life is the highest school there is. It is a school of time, senses and experiences. It is the opportunity to advance our spirituality and shed the tethers of want. It is God’s Will for us! Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In God I Trust we all will awaken to the importance we are to God and his plan. I pray you awaken this Saturday to Gods favor and blessing for you in your pursuits of the day.

Postscript:

I am reminder of CS Lewis who explored the idea in his book, The Great Divorce, that the lives we live in this world are dreamlike in quality compared to living with God in the life hereafter. In the book he portrays hell is an ethereal, ghostly world in which people are forever fading away from each other and reality. Heaven, by contrast, is so real that the grass doesn’t bend under the feet of the people emerging for the first time from the dreamlike world in which they lived. Heaven is more real then the people are as they emerge.

Continuing to Love Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak

Originally posted on Navigating by Faith:
via Loving Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak

Man in mask . Protection against coronavirus, infection.Over a month has passed since I wrote and published Loving Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak on March 17, 2020. Washington was the first state in the US to declare a state of emergency (in February) followed by a handful of States in the next couple of weeks. Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 16th. By March 17th, the day I published the article, 48 states had officially declared a State of Emergency.[1]

When I began tracking the global number of cases, deaths and recovered patients on the Johns Hopkins site[2] as of 2:50 PM on March 16th, only 4,200 cases and 73 deaths were reported. A Business Insider article the following day reported 4,600 cases[3]. As of 1:10 PM on March 17th, the number of cases had risen to 5,702. There were only 94 deaths reported in US as of that time, but anyone could see that the numbers were going to rise exponentially.

Most of us, I believe, had been only vaguely paying attention to the reports from China. We perked up a little more as the first scary reports began to come out of Italy. Still, we were largely nonplussed by the news, going about our daily business until maybe the second week in March, after a growing murmur of the impending threat, when President Trump declared a national emergency. 

Many of us were skeptical, me included. We wanted to believe the President when he said it was “under control”, and we didn’t have to worry here in the US. Others (primarily of the other political stripe) were becoming shriller by the day in their complaining that we/the President should be doing more. Many political inbetweeners, like myself (not that there are many of us), were skeptical of both sides, but there was enough credible reporting from hard hit areas of the world that it seemed to make sense to take the threat seriously.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to participate in a Zoom conference on March 14th with a virologist who researched the SARS-1 virus for the National Institute of Health in the early 2000’s that I realized this was no typical flu virus. I began tracking the numbers on March 16th, and I wrote the article the next day.

One month to the day later (at 11:56 AM), on April 17th, Johns Hopkins reported 641,166 cases in the US and 31,590 deaths – the most confirmed (and reported) cases and deaths of any country in the world.

While these numbers may rival a bad flu season, we need to keep in mind that these are the numbers after we have lived under stay-at-home orders for a month or more in most places in the country. What would the numbers be like if we had not done that? No one knows.

The flu typically infects more people each year, but the death rate of the flu is a little over .01%. As of the date of this writing (April 21, 2020, at 12:47 PM), COVID-19 has resulted in a death rate of 6.89% worldwide, a 13.40% death rate in Italy (which has been particularly hard hit) and a 5.37% death rate in the US. That is over 50 times the death rate of the flu (in the US) .

As of the today, the numbers are all still climbing in the US. We haven’t peaked yet, though we hope the peak is right around the corner, maybe even by next week.

The numbers are flattening out, like we hoped, but they are still climbing. We aren’t out of these woods yet.

If the numbers flatten out soon, the number of cases and deaths will continue to rise, though the percentage of new cases will start to level out or come down. The death rate will also level off and might come down as the number of people recovering will begin to pace and then outpace the number of new cases.

But here’s the thing: no one expects for the virus to go away.

Flattening out just means that the numbers will stop increasing exponentially. When we flatten out, we will still experience a certain number of new cases and deaths every day. Every day.

The world as we knew it isn’t going to be the same for quite a while.

We are seeing quite a tension lately between continuing the stay-at-home orders and opening the country back up for business. Some people are even protesting in the streets, and others are calling them ignorant, potential killers of vulnerable people in our society.

As Christians, I submit that we should be focused on loving our neighbors through this pandemic. We should be sensitive to the vulnerable people in our midst. While most people will recover, we know that COVID-19 hits certain people very hard – the elderly and people with certain conditions, like diabetes. The death rate for those over 60 is much higher than the death rate for people under 60, and the death rate for people over 80 is double the death rate of people over 60.

As I type this, I am very aware of the devastating economic toll the State of Emergency is taking on our economy – especially small businesses and people who work (or no longer work) for them. We haven’t experienced unemployment at this level since the Great Depression. I own a small business myself and squirm at night wondering how we are going to hold on. What are we to do?

The Federal government has pumped billions and billions of dollars into the economy to try to prop it up (at no small cost to the future taxpayers), and it isn’t enough. More small businesses have been turned down for the Paycheck Protection Program loans than received them. Many of those small businesses won’t survive another thirty days of lock down.

While people that don’t own businesses may not feel particularly bad about the business owners who are suffering, those small businesses employ hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Every business that can’t open back up when the stay-at-home order is lifted represents an exponential number of people who will not return to work.

How do we balance between keeping people physically safe from the virus and keeping people employed and self-supporting? That’s the challenge.

Where is the right tipping point when people can open their doors for business again? What does that look like? Do we open up immediately, or should we do it gradually? What does that even look like?

We have to rely on the experts for that.

I have seen no end of the articles and videos on social media by self-proclaimed experts. Some of them have degrees (not always in the relevant areas), and many of them don’t. We all gravitate toward what we are inclined to believe. My “friends” on social media are a diverse mix, so I see nearly equal numbers of articles pushing to both extremes.

They can’t all be true!

I have read a fair number of them. I am smarter than the average bear (if you go by IQ, college and law school performance), but I can’t sort it out. I don’t have the right background, education or experience to be able to decipher which “experts” I should be listening to, and neither do 95% (or more) of the people reading those articles.

We do have some experts that are chosen to provide guidance on these issues with the right kind of backgrounds, education and experience. If we believe that God puts governing authorities in place to which we should submit[4], then we Christians should honor those authorities, right?

We often think we know better (and maybe some of us do, though I submit we don’t know it at the time), but subjecting ourselves to governing authorities, as Paul says we should in Romans 13, means that we don’t substitute our judgment for those in authority above us – even when we disagree.

Of course, we can all think of examples of things governing authorities might order us to do, like renouncing God, that we should not follow. Stay-at-home orders don’t fall into that category.

A stay-at-home order is not clearly against any Scriptural mandate.

Though we may think that we know where that tipping point lies between saving lives and saving people from economic disaster, we are not in positions of authority to call those shots, and we need to honor those who are. It doesn’t matter if your governor is Republican or Democrat, God has established them in authority (if we are going to be consistent in our reading of Scripture).

David honored Saul even when God had spoken through the prophet Samuel that God would be taking the kingdom away from Saul and giving it to David. Even when Saul was seeking to kill David in paranoia and jealousy, still David honored him. David refused to take Saul’s life multiple times when he had the opportunity, and David even honored him in his death – because God had established him as King.

If you are Christian and disagree with the continuation of the stay-at -home orders, you certainly have a right to your opinion, but God expects you to honor the authority He has established. You can speak your mind, but do it (as Peter urges) with “gentleness and respect”. (1 Peter 3:5) When you think about your constitutional rights, take some time to consider the well-being of others, including the threat to people who are vulnerable to the virus. 

I should point out that the COVID-19 outbreak has affected certain areas of the country more acutely than others. The president declared a national emergency before most states did. The President may lift the national state of emergency before some state governors do. Because emergencies and disasters affect some areas harder than others, control of the state of emergency for states falls on the shoulders of state Governors primarily. Not the President. 

Whenever the stay-at-home orders are lifted, though, we need to continue to love our neighbors, including the vulnerable people among us. The virus isn’t going to go away overnight. Experts are warning that it is likely to “bounce back”.

Wash your hands. Wear masks. Keep your distance from people. Use care in making sure you aren’t spreading the virus.

Don’t do it just because you might contract the virus. Do it because you might give it to others. Chances are that you will survive it, especially if you are young, healthy or both, but you could be someone else’s death sentence. Loving your neighbor means treating them as you would want to be treated. Conduct yourself as if you were vulnerable and the virus would be deadly to you, and you will be loving your neighbor as yourself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] See Almost all US states have declared states of emergency to fight coronavirus — here’s what it means for them, by Rosei Perper, Ellen Cranley and Sarah Al-Arshani for the Business Insider March 17, 2020.

[2] See the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center home page.

[3] See the Perper, Cranley and Al-Arshani article above.

[4] See Romans 13:1-2 (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”)

Navigating by Faith

View original post