April 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

Anyone else having a hard time trying to figure out what’s coming next?

Last week, the Governor of New York declared “the worst is over” when it comes to the coronavirus.

This week, the Director General of the World Health Organization said “the worst is yet ahead of us.”

The Governor of Georgia will this week lift restrictions in his state to attempt to begin restarting the economy.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Michigan has tightened things down in her state.

Researchers at Stanford University released details of a study last week that says the infection rate for COVID19 is 50 to 85 times higher than has been reported, and that most people who get the virus are asymptomatic and able to fight it off without ever having symptoms.

Almost as soon as the report was published, there was pushback from statisticians who say the Stanford methodology was sloppy, biased and an example of “how not to do statistics.”

The Director of the Centers for Disease Control said this week that we need to brace ourselves for next winter. The second wave of the virus, combined with a normal flu season, he says, could make things worse than what we’ve been through this spring.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci says we will be much better prepared to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 this fall that we were this spring.

Will there be any Major League Baseball in 2020? Any college football or NFL games this fall? Are you ready to buy a ticket and squeeze into your seat at the stadium?

Experts tell us that a vaccine is still a year away. Meanwhile, people are starting to pause and consider whether they will want to a hastily developed, somewhat untested and unproven vaccine.

What about treating COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin? Is it the silver bullet? Or an unproven treatment option with serious health risks?

And once you have had the virus, can you get it again? Will new strains emerge that are more virulent or more deadly?

It’s no wonder we’re confused and exhausted. My wife said this week that her biggest waste of money last year was buying a 2020 Planner.

We’re used to being able to look ahead and reliably anticipate most of what’s coming at us. Now we find ourselves ping ponging back and forth from one hopeful headline to the next depressing forecast.

Here’s what I know about what’s ahead for us with this pandemic.

No one knows.

No one.

Scientists don’t agree about what’s coming. Pundits don’t take into account how their own biases or personalities factor into their forecasts. Some of us are prone to look hard for whatever silver linings we can find. Others of us are more like Fred Paxford, C.S. Lewis’s gardener, who was described by Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ stepson, as a “cheerful, eternal pessimist.” If someone said “good morning” to him, Gresham said, Paxford might smile and say “Ah, looks like rain before lunch though, if it doesn’t snow or hail that is.” Paxford was Lewis’s prototype for the character Puddleglum, the Marsh-wiggle in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Proverbs 27:1 says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

It’s a good reminder the next time you hear someone confidently telling you what the stock market is going to do. Or what the virus is going to do.

There were plenty of leaders who two months ago said the coronavirus was nothing to be alarmed about. And there were others who told us that even if we responded almost perfectly, we should expect the death toll in the US to be more than 200,000.

The book of James warns us against any boasting that we know what the future holds. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring,” James says (James 4:14). To boast that we can know what is coming is both arrogant and evil.

God knows what’s ahead for us because, as the Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us, He “from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” He knows the future because He is the author of the future. He is carrying out today His perfect and wise plan for each one of us and for all humanity.

Our confidence is not in what the experts are forecasting. Our confidence is in the God who holds the future in His hands. As the old song reminds us:

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

So the next time someone sends you a link to the latest prognostication about what we can expect will happen over the next year, guard yourself against unfettered optimism or another wave of crippling anxiety. Instead, remember that whatever is ahead for us, God has promised He will be with us.
Our weekly on line worship service continues to be an opportunity for us to join together as a body of believers throughout central Arkansas and all over the world to refocus and re-center our lives on God and His word. This week I received a note from someone from another state who shared with me how much he looks forward to being part of our service each Sunday. Don’t forget to invite your friends or family members to join us each week.

In fact, let’s make this simple for all of us. Here’s an invitation you can cut and paste into an email, modify as you choose, and forward to whomever:

I wanted to let you know that, like a lot of other churches are doing right now, the church I attend is live streaming our Sunday morning worship services each week. The live video stream opens at 9:45AM central time. The service begins at 10:00AM. If you’d like to check it out, you can view the service on the church website (www.redeemerlr.org/livestream), on Facebook live, or by using the BoxCast channel on your Roku, Fire TV, or Apple TV device (Find out how to use Boxcast here). If you decide to check it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the sermon or about the service in general.

Take a minute right now and ask God if there is someone He would want you to forward a message like that to.

This week, as we continue our study of the life of Jesus in the book of John, we’ll learn from Jesus’ encounter with a man who had lived with paralysis for 38 years. We’ll see what made this man an unlikely recipient of divine grace.

See you (on line) Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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