Praying God's Will For COVID-19

Audio of “Praying God’s Will For COVID-19” (14 min, 52 sec)

Pray God’s Will

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy [God’s] will be done,” (Matt. 6:6).

We are promised: “if we ask anything according to his [God’s] will…we have the requests that we have asked of him,” (1 John 5:14-15).

Thus, effective prayer does not pray your will, nor try to change God’s will (God forbid!).

Instead, we need to, “understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Eph. 5:17), then pray that. And pray that boldly…expectantly…humbly.

What is God’s Will in COVID-19?

Thus, effective prayer for COVID-19 must consider God’s desires with this pandemic.

In addition to 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (as shared in my previous post), 3 other Scriptures have stirred me in prayer along these lines, and I humbly ask you to consider them in your prayers, too…

Passage 1: David’s Census (2 Samuel 24:1-17)

For issuing a sinful census, King David had to choose between 3 punishments: (1) famine, (2) enemy defeats, or (3) a plague.

He chose (3) a plague, saying:

Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great

2 Sam. 24:14

Notice first that he preferred sickness because He knew God was overtly in control of such a thing. Thus, He could depend on God’s supernatural mercy if sickness came.

Sadly, it did come. And 70,000 people died. It was just, but surely God’s heart simultaneously broke (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).

This time of sickness had a measured duration:

  • “the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated” (2 Sam. 24:15)
  • “When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.'” (2 Sam. 24:16)

See, the sickness had a designated end, based on God’s mercy. It had to run it’s full course, but after that, God could interpose and say, “ENOUGH!”

Lesson 1:

  • Sickness is within God’s oversight, and God is filled with mercy.
  • God predetermined an ending to this plague.

Passage 2: Lazarus (John 11:1-44)

When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, He said:

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

John 11:4

Immediately after saying this, we read how much Jesus loved Lazarus and his family.

Yet, curiously, after saying the sickness wouldn’t lead to death, and after we read of Jesus’ great love for Lazarus…

We read that Jesus “stayed two days longer in the place where he was,” (John 11:6). And during this time, Lazarus dies!

What?!?

Now many will know the rest of the story. Jesus resurrects Lazarus, and proclaims Himself, “The resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25). It truly is an awesome ending.

Nevertheless, in the middle of it, out of love, Jesus waited longer than they wanted to do something. He waited so long that Lazarus actually died (even after Jesus said the sickness wouldn’t lead to death!). The point, of course, is that it didn’t lead to ultimate death.

In fact, that is true for all who believe in Jesus, no matter what sickness they get.

Lesson 2:

  • COVID-19 does not lead to ultimate, eternal death. In fact, I think the Lord may be speaking to me that it isn’t meant to ultimately be a destructive agent, but, instead, something that Jesus will receive glory from.
  • Jesus had a determined time to heal Lazarus, for the ultimate glory of God, even if it lasted longer than people wanted.
  • Christ used sickness to point people to eternal life and resurrection through Him.

Passage 3: God’s Spirit Isn’t Fear (2 Tim. 1:7-8)

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Tim. 1:7

Christians may experience fear. Even Paul the apostle admits he had “fears within,” (2 Cor. 7:5). But this is our humanness, and is not part of God’s Spirit.

God does not want us to fear anything except Him. And He has given us the means to counter fear with power, love, and self-control: The Holy Spirit!

Further, this power from God’s spirit was to lead Timothy to share, obey, and suffer for THE GOSPEL (2 Tim. 1:8ff).

Lesson 3:

  • God doesn’t want us to live with fear
  • God has given us the means to conquer fear: His Spirit
  • This is ultimately for the sake of spreading the gospel

How to Pray for COVID-19

In Daniel 9, when Daniel discovered from the Bible that God had decreed the 70 years of captivity he just lived through (and therefore the time had come for Israel to be set free), he wrote:

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession

Daniel 9:3-4

Notice that he:

  1. prayed,
  2. humbled himself,
  3. repented

This is equivalent to the 2 Chron. 7:13-15 response shared in my previous post.

But notice something further: he did all this in response to what God had spoken in His Scripture. He prayed for things already determined by God in the Bible. And guess what? They came to pass.

So…with the exact same heart I appeal to you Christian brothers and sisters, that you would pray with me according to the various biblical principles shown above on behalf of COVID-19:

  1. God would show his mercy in COVID-19 (2 Sam. 24)
  2. It would last the entire duration God has set for it (no more, no less), achieving the full effect God has for it (2 Sam. 24; John 11)
  3. It would not destroy people, but instead be used for God’s glory, pointing people to Jesus and eternal life (John 11)
  4. Christians would be filled with God’s power, love, and sound-mind instead of fear (2 Tim. 1)
  5. Christians would be eager to serve, obey, and share the gospel during this difficult time (2 Tim. 1)

The Unique Duty of Christians amidst COVID-19

Audio of “The Unique Duty of Christians amidst COVID-19” (7 min, 50 sec)

Calling all Christians!

  • We, Christians, alone, have God’s ear, so to speak, on the basis of Jesus’ blood (see Heb. 10:19-22).
  • God alone has ultimate power over what we are seeing in the land.
  • Thus, we Christians have a duty and obligation that no other people group has: We alone can petition God in such a way that He would hear and be moved to change things.

Now consider this duty/honor/privilege in light of 2 Chronicles 7:13-15:

When I [God] shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…

(2 Chron. 7:13)

According to 2 Chron. 7:13, God sends these things. And we live in a time where all 3 have reached abnormal levels in this world.

Do I have your attention so far? More importantly, does God have your attention?

Now read on to see what our duty is:

if my people, who are called by my name, will HUMBLE THEMSELVES and PRAY and SEEK MY FACE and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place [i.e. the place of God’s presence, which was the temple at that time, and today is wherever believers dwell].

(2 Chron. 7:14-15)

Specifically, God has enlisted you to:

  • humble yourself – ultimately, this is a posture of your heart, so I really hesitate to show external ways to do this and have anyone miss the most important thing to be humbled: you and your heart. Saying that, the Bible does show things like kneeling (2 Chron. 6:13) and fasting (Psalm 35:13) as ways to externally humble ourselves
  • pray / seek God’s face – please, do this on your own and with your family and whoever lives in your house
  • repent (“turn from your wicked ways”) – you are not the exception. You have areas you need to repent of. Even those private, “secret” sins can cause public, open pain (for a sobering example of this, see Josh. 7).

Free Biblical Scholarship: The Tyndale Bulletin Archives!

TLDR: Freely enjoy the world-renowned (and biblically faithful) The Tyndale House Bulletin Archives

The Bad News of Bible Scholarship

For any who have delved a bit in the academic world of biblical scholarship, it can be a bit depressing to see so many “scholars” reject the Bible as God’s word.

Not that this should surprise us, since God Himself has warned in 1 Cor. 1:18-25 (and elsewhere) that He (God!) turns human wisdom into blindness when people trust in their own reasoning instead of humbly receiving Christ.

In the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him

1 Corinthians 1:21

The Good News of Bible Scholarship

Understanding that many trusting exclusively on their own reasoning abilities (instead of on God the Revealer) have been blinded to truth should not make us distrust God-given intelligence and wisdom altogether. God forbid!

For, in fact, God loves using people rich in intelligence. Consider, for instance, that the educated Paul and Luke wrote the majority of the New Testament.

I’ve heard that ~50% of Biblical scholars (in a strict definition of this word) maintain convictions that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. But it honestly (and sadly) feels to me more like about 10%. Either way, God still would get at least a “tithe” of faithfulness. And those who do remain faithful shine like stars (in my humble opinion).

Introducing Tyndale Bulletin

Top on that list of faithful biblical scholarship for me is the work that is being done (and has been done) at the Tyndale House (in Cambridge). I especially love the Tyndale Bulletin (a biblical studies journal by world-class scholars in their respective fields that remains faithful to the conviction that the Bible = God’s Word).

Thus, you can imagine my joy to recently find out that the entire bulletin (minus the last 2 years) is completely free to browse and read! I couldn’t hold this in, so without further ado, please search and read:

The Tyndale House Bulletin Archives

Sincerely,

Brian Holda

11 Strengths of Chinese House Churches

In China: The Church’s Long March (1985), David Adeney documents strengths of the Chinese house churches. Later, Paul Hattaway, in Back To Jerusalem (2003, pp. 14-15), listed, “some of the most important of these [Adeney’s documented] strengths.” The following text is taken verbatim from Hattaway’s list (may the Lord teach us through this):

  1. The house churches are indigenous.

They have cast off the trappings of the West and have developed their own forms of ministry. The dynamics flow from their freedom from institutional and traditional bondage.

  1. The house churches are rooted in family units.

They have become part of the Chinese social structure. The believing community is built up of little clusters of Christian families.

  1. The house churches are stripped of nonessentials.

Much that we associate with Christianity is not found in Chinese house churches today. Thus they are extremely flexible. One believer remarked, “In the past we blew trumpets and had large evangelistic campaigns. Some believed, but not great numbers. Now we have very little equipment…and many are coming to the Lord.”

  1. The house churches emphasize the lordship of Christ.

Because Jesus is the head of his body, the church must place obedience to him above every other loyalty; it cannot accept control by any outside organization. The word of God is obeyed and every attempt to force unscriptural practices on the church is resisted.

  1. The house churches have confidence in the sovereignty of God.

When there was no hope from a human point of view, Christians in China saw God revealing his power and overruling in the history of their day.

  1. The house churches love the word of God.

They appreciate the value of the Scriptures and have sacrificed in order to obtain copies of the Bible. Their knowledge of the Lord has deepened as they have memorized and copied the word of God.

  1. The house churches are praying churches.

With no human support and surrounded by those seeking to destroy them, Christians were cast on God, and in simple faith expected God to hear their cry. Prayer was not only communion with God but also a way to share in the spiritual conflict.

  1. The house churches are caring and sharing churches.

A house church is a caring community in which Christians show love for one another and for their fellow countrymen. Such love creates a tremendous force for spontaneous evangelism.

  1. The house churches depend on lay leadership.

Because so many Chinese pastors were put into prison or labor camps, the house churches have had to depend on lay leaders. The leadership consists of people from various walks of life who spend much time going from church to church teaching and building up the faith of others.

  1. The house churches have been purified by suffering.

The church in China has learned firsthand that suffering is part of God’s purpose in building his church. Suffering in the church has worked to purify it. Nominal Christianity could not have survived the tests of the Cultural Revolution. Because those who joined the church were aware that it was likely to mean suffering, their motivation was a genuine desire to know Jesus Christ.

  1. The house churches are zealous in evangelism.

No public preaching was allowed. People came to know Christ through the humble service of believers and through intimate contact between friends and family members. The main method of witness in China today is the personal lifestyle and behavior of Christains, accompanied by their proclamation of the gospel, often at great personal risk.

Jesus’ Genealogy: Matthew 1 & Luke 3

As Christmas nears, you might find yourself reading the accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke. However, if you compare Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 with that of Luke 3, you will quickly see some discrepancy.

Luke 3 traces Jesus’ lineage backwards, all the way to Adam. Matthew 1 traces it ahead, starting with Abraham.

They both agree quite nicely from Abraham until David. But after David they seem to go different trajectories, only later coming back around to Joseph (Jesus’ adoptive father) and then to Jesus.

At first glance this may seem an irreconcilable contradiction. But if we allow that, at times, people could be listed in the genealogy in the place of biological ancestors, then the problem seems less daunting (for instance, even today if someone adopts a child, it is not always so clear who you’d list as the father). And, in truth, all must concede this at least with Joseph, for Matthew and Luke both list Joseph as Jesus’ father in their genealogies while simultaneously maintaining that Joseph was not his biological father elsewhere in their gospels.

Now, though multiple plausible harmonizations exist for this particular problem, the one I find the most compelling is the notion that Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage from his father (Joseph), while Luke traces it from his mother (Mary).

I favor the Matthew-Joseph and Luke-Mary explanation because:

  • It is simple, and according to Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation often is the true one.
  • Luke 3:23 says, “Jesus…being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli”. Calling Jesus the “as was supposed,” son of Joseph has a tone that seems a bit clunky and may suggest this lineage is not traced through Joseph’s line. Even more, genealogies written during that time period may have had to attribute Joseph’s name, even if it was going through Mary, and thus the “as was supposed” may suggest that the line is not being traced through Joseph.
  • Matthew uses the Greek word “gennao” (meaning: to procreate; fig. to regenerate:- bear, beget, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of), that is translated “begot” in the New King James Version, for the lineage. This word means to physically procreate (to have sex and produce), and seems less likely to be attributed to an adopted son or daughter. Whereas, Luke uses the word, “son” (Greek: “huios”) in “Joseph, the son of Heli”. “Huios” does not need to mean a biological descendant, and in fact would be in the correct context if Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli (who was the biological father of Mary).
  • Adding on to the above point, Joseph would have gained the right to become Heli’s pronounced son through his marriage with Mary.
  • Luke’s narrative is focused on Mary leading into the lineage, and thus, it would be very natural for him to provide Mary’s lineage, instead of Joseph’s.
  • THE BEST REASON OF ALL: The genealogy given in Matthew (presumably Joseph’s lineage) is traced through the Davidic king’s line (of which Jesus had to descend from): “David the king begot Solomon…” (Matt. 1:6). This kingship traces from David to Jeconiah, but according to Jeremiah 22:30, all of Jeconiah’s physical descendants could not become king. Therefore, if this was Mary’s lineage, Jesus (as a biological ancestor of Jeconiah) would be disqualified from inheriting the Davidic kingship, and thus, could not be the Christ. But, if Matthew recorded Joseph’s lineage, this would prove that Jesus had the legal right to the Davidic throne, as the eldest son of Joseph – a descendant of the kingly line of Jeconiah (the cursed king). Jesus’ birth from a virgin who was not part of Jeconiah’s line made it so he did not have the curse of Jeconiah, yet since he was the adopted son of Joseph, he gained the rights to the throne of David. If Matthew recorded Joseph’s lineage (which seems probable), it shows that Joseph, the father of Jesus, was one of a relatively small group of people who Jesus could have come through as an adopted (but not biological) son in order to inherit David’s throne!
  • Along with the evidence stated above, numerous prophecies in the Old Testament tell us that Jesus must be the biological descendant of different ancestors, and thus Mary’s ancestry would match with Judah and David, for instance, as listed in Luke 3 (see Gen. 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 11:1ff for evidence that Messiah would be a descendant of Judah and David).
  • Further, Luke indicates elsewhere that both Joseph (Luke 1:27) and Mary (Luke 1:32) descended from David, even as both genealogies find commonality at David.

These reasons do not prove that Matthew recorded Joseph’s lineage while Luke recorded Mary’s, but they show that such a proposition is possible, nicely fits what we see predicted in the Old Testament of Messiah, and maintains the integrity of the entirety of God’s word (including Matthew 1 and Luke 3).

Brian

Should Bible Believers Kill Sinners?

If you pick up your Bible and open to the Old Testament, you’ll read things like:

  • “For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:9)
  • “That [false] prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God” (Deut. 13:5)

And so forth. Definitely not light reading.

Rightly Interpreting

I do hold that such verses are truly God’s word, and so should any who claim to follow Christ (for He taught that the whole Bible, including such passages, are part of God’s word).

What I see is this in such Old Testament passages:

  1. Someone offends God (i.e. sins)
  2. They must be fairly judged
  3. If charged as guilty, they were killed

Now open your Bibles to the New Testament (the part that was written after Jesus died on the cross, taking on God’s judgment for sins [hint, hint]). And go to Romans 1 (or similar passages). What do you read?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness…they are full of…deceit…they disobey their parents…Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death

Romans 1:18-32

This passage lists a litany of sins (and, sadly, every human can identify with at least one of them, and likely many more than one). However, I just pulled out 2 sins: (1) deceit, (2) disobeying parents. Simply because those are the 2 Old Testament verses listed above as deserving of death.

But if you look at the Old Testament passages deserving death, I’m pretty sure you can find it listed in Romans 1.

And, in fact, at the end of Romans 1 we read that, indeed, these sins do deserve death.

This passage tells us:

  • people offend God for such things as dishonoring parents and deceiving others
  • they will be judged by God
  • When found guilty, they will be killed [and, even more alarming, die eternally in their sins]

So far, there is no difference between what the Old Testament says and the New Testament.

Jesus’ Sacrifice

However, something happens between God’s wrath bringing death to sinners in Romans 1, and God saying: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (in Romans 8:1).

Between the wrath of God on sinners in Romans 1 and the forgiveness to sinners later in Romans, we have the sacrifice of Christ spelled out. Namely, Jesus as righteous died in place of us sinners. So God’s decree was fulfilled: our sins deserved death (as shown in O.T. and N.T.) and Christ paid that death. Everything spelled out in the Old Testament as deserving of death was paid at the cross by Christ.

However, for those who refuse to repent and believe Christ and his sacrifice as paying for their sins, they will (in the future) receive death and eternal death (suffering in hell) for their disobedience (as the Old Testament spells out should happen).

Essentially, you get to choose:

  1. Repent and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection as paying for your sins
  2. Face God on your own and receive eternal death for your sins

Passover Feast

Let’s illustrate this in another way. In Exodus 12 we read about the Passover feast. In this feast, all those in Egypt would be judged at midnight for sin. If you killed a spotless lamb, then presented the blood of this lamb at your door, the judgment was finished for your house. However, sadly, if you were not covered by the death of the spotless lamb, then your firstborn would die instead. So come midnight, every house had death in it. Sin always ends in death, and every house had death. Either you had:

  1. A dead lamb
  2. A dead human

As you may already realize, Jesus is the conclusion and fulfillment of that spotless lamb (see 1 Cor. 5:7). He died for our sins, so on judgment day, if we plead His death on our behalf, God won’t kill us for our sins. The death penalty was already paid. If we don’t, we must incur the judgment of death we deserve.

The Point

The point of all this is that God has never changed his mind on what our sins deserve. In the Old Testament they deserve death. And in the New Testament they deserve death.

The main difference in the New Testament is:

Jesus paid the full penalty of death for our sins, so we now point people to Jesus’ sacrifice to bring sinners to death; we don’t kill them with our hands.

What if they don’t repent and believe the gospel?

So far, this is all well and good for the sinner who repents and believes the gospel. But what about those who don’t? Is there a place for Old Testament type of judgment where there is unrepentance this side of Jesus’ cross?

There are a couple other differences this side of the cross in thinking through this:

  1. Some of the prescribed judgment in the Old Testament is meant for Israel-as-government, and not for individuals to take on themselves. In Romans 13 (and 1 Peter 2), similarly, we are told the government is a delegated authority of God and they don’t bear the sword in vain. In other words, there may be arguments for capital punishment in gross delinquencies, but this is at the discretion of the government, not the church or individual Christian.
  2. Further, Christians are told in 1 Cor. 5 that they are “not to judge” the unbeliever – God Himself will judge them. We preach Christ to the unbeliever and lovingly explain God’s judgment to come, but we are not to mete out any judgment to them who continue resisting Christ in this life. This is no different than the Old Testament where Israel was to judge the sins of fellow Israelites, and not those of other nations.
  3. For professing Christians who persist in disobedience, however, the church is commanded to “judge” in the sense of confront the sin. In fact, one passage that spells this out is 1 Corinthians 5. And at the very end of that chapter, in making the case that the church is to judge Christians who live in sin (i.e. deal with and discipline the offender), Paul writes: “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?…’Purge the evil person from among you.'” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Here he is quoting from the Old Testament. If you take your Bibles and go to Deuteronomy 17:6-7 you’ll see that it uses the same phrase in reference to judging and killing offenders in the Old Testament. Paul is clearly showing that the principle of judging unrighteousness remains, but the application of actually killing them is no longer active in light of Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, in 1 Peter 2, Christians are called “living stones”, so there is a different sort of stoning that happens when Christians confront sin in their midst. This sort of confrontation is meant to put to death the sinful self (i.e. the “flesh” and “old nature”), and certainly not bring the physical death prescribed in the Old Testament. As it says in 1 Cor. 15, “first the natural, then the spiritual”. In other words, God set forth a natural example of killing sin in the Old Testament that is ultimately fulfilled spiritually by Christians confronting (and putting to death) sin (but not the sinner) today.

Christ already took care of putting the sinner to death when He was crucified. And that includes all of us being spared that penalty.

Glory be to God!

Brian