One Nation Under God

by Thomas Yerman

Our Declaration of Independence for the United States along with our Pledge of Allegiance certainly make the case that this nation was and is influenced by Christianity. Our history and documents provide strong evidence that testifies to our being a nation that holds to the truth of worshiping God, the Creator—in whose image people are made, by whose authority we have a system of government, and under whose power we live.

We live in a nation and world that is constantly changing. And because we believers are those who truly trust in God, and therefore his Word, whenever these changes come to challenge our lives and ministries, we take a stand in faith. Our faith is not merely an intellectual belief but a down-to-the-core heart belief that is acted upon no matter what changes might come. Faith changes lives. Our faith not only impacts our lives, but the lives of those around us.

I understand that it is only human to be anxious about what might lie ahead, particularly in uncertain times. Growing anxious is a human trait—what I call our “default mode.” It’s been around for a long time. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, while being held as a prisoner “in chains,” gave the people of Philippi a message they needed to hear in their sufferings. They lived in an age of frequent disease, war, and famine—times that caused their future to look questionable and uncertain.

Paul wanted them to take their eyes off their troubles, which were like an immovable mountain, and look instead to the One who could move it. They were more focused on their troubles than on their God who could help them. He wanted them to know that their lives were in the hands of a loving God who would give them peace. He didn’t tell them that all the bad stuff would go away, but instead gave them direction with a promise:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6-7)

Paul promised believers in Jesus Christ that God would calm their fear and comfort their spirits. He encouraged them to put their worries in the hands of Someone bigger than themselves and more powerful than the troubles they were facing. It was a reminder to trust God.

We are also living in a challenging time, one that is calling believers to trust in God and shine in an hour of darkness and doubt.

We are being moved out of our comfort zone, called to put our faith over fear—in a God we can trust: The God who is the Everlasting-God, the Great-God, the Living-God, the Merciful-God, the Faithful-God, and the Mighty-God. The God who loves you! Our Refuge, Fortress, and Shield. He renews the strength of those who trust in him. So in anxious times, we should be able to display such a peace that those around us will bathe in the overflow. Faith not only changes a life; it changes the way a person looks at life.

Holding to the right perspective equips us with the divine power that will enable us to persevere the storm or “war” (as the battle with COVID-19 is being called). The Body of Christ must have no doubt that God is in control and that he cares and comforts those whose hearts are open to receive him. Only then will we be able to effectively reach out to the world. This is a time for the Church to be seen at its best. There is power in the name of Jesus!

“For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Our attitude must be one of acting wisely and responsibly in what we do and in confidence leave the rest with God.

As individuals, now is the time to live out our faith and find out what we are made of. Our U.S. currency states, “In God We Trust.”  Now is the time to show that we actually do. As a nation, this is a time providing an opportunity to turn back to God and be united. We give our pledge as “One Nation Under God.” Are we?

Now is the time to show that trust even as we advance this “unity under God”! We are equipped to see this world (beyond what we perceive with our physical eyes and senses) through the Holy Spirit and knowledge of God’s Word. We can see into a “spiritual realm.”  Because we know God is in control of all creation and active in this world, we must also be aware that God is saying something in what he is allowing to impact our nation and the world by this coronavirus pandemic.

I believe God is allowing things to be shaken up to get the attention of the world—including his Church. In the distress of the day God is calling all of us back to himself. He is calling us to look to him with submitted hearts that will restore a relationship with him, the way he wants it.

It starts with his Church and particularly from the pulpit. As God’s spokesman and Priests of God to the people, we must speak and teach God’s Word plainly and clearly. We should hold back from saying what we think or what feels good to the people. It’s time to avoid the popular, not wanting to offend people. We should not fear or mistake people being offended by God’s Word with the Holy Spirit bringing conviction. It’s what should and must happen.

As we are learning to see things as God sees them, we must also speak things in line with what God feels—on every topic. Everything that God says is right and good.

Yes, there is a battle going on, and it’s spiritual. As a nation, we’ve strayed too far from God. People need to be led back to where they belong, where God wants them. We have what it takes. Now is the time for individuals and a nation to put its faith over its fear. And it starts with us.

Thomas Yerman is an FCA pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.

Why Watching TV News Is Bad for Your Health

by Richard Doebler

Little wonder that a story about a scary virus goes viral.

Sensationalism sells advertising. So it’s easy to understand why media outlets are motivated to tell the most compelling, even shocking stories. Routine stories cannot compete for attention — not in the crowded arena filled with alarming reports and frightening, disturbing events. 

Most reporters (tabloid writers excluded) pride themselves on being “objective, neutral and unbiased,” but it’s no surprise they are inclined to tell stories that grab attention — stories that sell. And if a story “goes viral,” so much the better. 

We might have expected as much. News hounds thrive on the sensational. Just as “rubbernecking” drivers steal a glance at a freeway crash, we can’t help being curious. We want to see what “crashed.”

It turns out a lot has crashed — not because of the virus itself, but because of society’s reaction to it. One observer speculates there will be more bankruptcies in America caused by COVID-19 than deaths. And the resulting frenzy feeds a cycle: reports lead to reactions, leading to more reports. News of cancelled classes, tournaments, churches, and sporting events send a message: “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” 

Public service announcements to stock up on groceries and sanitizer send a message: “This is bad! This is very bad!” The stock market tanks and we get the message: “We tried to tell you. This is the new normal in America.” Every report (people under quarantine; test kits unavailable; overwhelmed hospitals; government inertia) generates more alarm. The growing angst leads to more of the same.

This public fascination with tragic, shocking stories helps news outlets sell their broadcasts and publications. It’s almost addictive: terrible news creates a desire for more — a “snowball” effect. Incessant news of the sensational increases alarm and anxiety, so readers and listeners want more. 

But not everyone. Some people, quite understandably, choose to break the cycle. They opt out of news entirely; they refuse to ingest the negativity. Others find refuge in a caricature of news, relying on late-night talk show monologues as their primary source of information. What they typically get is specious or, at the least, misleading. 

In an old English folk tale, an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little who jumps to a conclusion and then announces to all who will listen that “The sky is falling.” He easily convinces his barnyard friends to believe the news, and they all suffer the consequences of being misled.

Amid all the hysteria, it would be good to pause for a moment and reflect about the consequences: What is true? What is exaggerated? What is a balanced perspective? How should we then live?

As Christians, we can process the flow of information with a biblical view in place. We can do this for any alarming news, including pandemics. How can we do this? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Maintain perspective. Even when global catastrophes or evil tyrants come, events of the day should not determine your well-being. God is still on the throne. Evil comes and evil goes; things improve, things get worse. “The sun comes up, the sun goes down…. The wind blows south, the wind blows north…” (Ecc. 1:5-6, CEV). To everything there is a season (Eccl. 3:1). In times of trouble, remember that better times will come.

Exercise discernment. Learn to separate fact from fiction. Don’t believe everything you hear. Examine everything carefully and only hold on to the good things (1 Thess. 5:21). We need more than a reality check; we need a spirituality check! We need to practice seeing the difference between good and bad (Heb. 5:14). It’s the truth that will “set you free” (John 8:32).

Focus on the good. As you maintain perspective and exercise discernment, you’ll be able to focus more on things that can build you up. Since God is good (all the time), your thoughts and prayers can center on God and his purposes. You’ll be able to take captive (lock up) the thoughts attempting to remove God from his throne (2 Cor. 10:5). You can learn to think straight — guarding your heart (Prov. 4:23) — or as one version puts it: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT).

Give your worries to God. Reduce your anxieties through prayer, petitions, and giving thanks to God for all he has done (Phil. 4:6). The result? The incomprehensible peace of God will guard your heart (so you’ll feel better) and your mind (so you’ll think more clearly) (Phil. 4:7).

Reshape your mental habits. As God takes your worries and your thought life is redeemed, you’ll be more able to overrule fears, negative thinking, and the lies that would normally confuse and disturb. Get rid of negative and destructive thinking even more by filling your head with noble, pure, and praise-worthy ideas (Phil. 4:8).

Be transformed. Work constantly to be thoroughly transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). It’s not enough merely to think the right thing. What’s important is that you do the right thing. Follow through from healthy thoughts to positive action! Allow your renewed mind to reshape your behavior, indeed, your entire life! 

With these steps in mind, how might we process the news about COVID-19? Is there anything we can say that will diminish fear and anxiety?

Start by maintaining perspective. Let’s track down the fuller story. What if we asked ourselves how the severity of the Coronavirus compares to other health threats and diseases. Do we (or did we) react to other threats the same way? Did we panic over measles, for instance? Did we shut down the NBA because of whooping cough?

Consider influenza, for instance. In the five months from October, 2019, through February, 2020, over 34 million Americans contracted the flu (despite a massive 174.5 million immunizations [see here]). More than 350,000 have been hospitalized, and over 20,000 have died (see the CDC website). That’s more than an average 130 deaths per day with about 0.56% of those infected dying. See note below.

Early statistics on the Coronavirus indicate it is more virulent than Influenza A and B. Worldwide numbers (as of March 12, 2020) report 134,488 sickened by the disease. Of those, 4,970 have died [see here]. That means about 3.7% of those who get it have died from it — more than the flu, but still not nearly as dangerous or fatal as other diseases. 

Every day around the world nearly four times as many people die from measles as are dying from COVID-19, according to the Information Is Beautiful website. Differences are even more dramatic when comparing deaths due to tuberculosis: 48 times more people die from TB (3,014 each day compared to 62 from Coronavirus). Keep in mind also that 99% of those under 60 who catch Coronavirus will recover. (Of course, numbers and comparisons may change as more data becomes available.)

We should take normal precautions in dealing with Coronavirus, of course. Like we would for any contagious disease. Practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, using disinfectant, covering our cough or sneeze — all of that. The saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” though not in Scripture, is still a good maxim to follow.

For the believer, however, our trust is ultimately in God. We focus on his goodness and give him our worries. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Paul said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Phil. 1:21, NLT).

First-century Roman citizens were impressed by the early believers’ actions when plagues and pestilence ravaged Rome. While senators and aristocrats fled the city with their families to avoid sickness and death, believers waded into the chaos, caring for the sick and dying. Their fearless response to human suffering caused many to rethink their own world views. [See Christian History magazine, Issue #101.] Mother Teresa made a similar impression on the world with her compassionate care for the poor and dying in the gutters of Calcutta. 

The question remains: what can the church today do to help in the current epidemic of fear?

As Christians we can live each day for Christ, looking for ways to be light to the world (Matt. 5:14). We can dare to stay in our place, steady and confident, helping others in need, fulfilling our call, and trusting God with the outcome. 

As citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we need not fear sickness or death. Our goal and destiny is to one day live eternally in God’s presence where tears are wiped away and death is no more.

Richard Doebler is FCA Media editor. He was formerly an FCA pastor in several churches and an associate editor of Leadership published by Christianity Today.

Other resources:
Dealing with a Virus by John Sprecher, US FCA Lead Elder. Click HERE.
NW FCA — and Coronavirus by Dan Eide, FCA pastor. Click HERE.

Note: Because many cases of influenza go unreported, the CDC reports an estimated range of impact. Numbers cited reflect the low end. The upper end numbers are: 49 million cases; 23 million medical visits; 620,000 hospitalizations; 52,000 deaths.

Heal Our Land, O Lord!

by Roger Armbruster

[Editor’s note: This plea from Canadian pastor and elder, Roger Armbruster, speaks not only to Canadian concerns but also to matters pertaining to all people—wherever reconciliation and healing of relationships are needed.]

I think it is time for me to speak up. I do not pretend to have the final word on what is the way forward for the pathway to reconciliation between the First Peoples of the Land and other People Groups in Canada, but it is clear to me that the present-day crisis requires that Canadians can no longer ignore the First Nations issues. The issues revolve squarely around the entitlement to land and its development or non-development of natural resources in either a responsible or an irresponsible manner.

Where is the prophetic voice of the church in all of this? Sadly, too many in the church have been waiting to go to heaven and meanwhile have little to nothing to say now about land issues, about who owns the land, or about the healing of the land from a biblical perspective. The one empirically proven fact is that the world of Nature is incapable of being God and is in need of healing. Hence the need to look beyond the natural and into the supernatural realm for answers.

My perspective is that no man or woman has ownership of the land. Rather, the Creator of heaven and earth is the Owner and Possessor of heaven and earth and has placed human beings in different parts of the earth as stewards and managers of his property, his good earth, and his natural resources. (Genesis 1:1; 14:19; Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:11, 12; Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26, 28.)

Deuteronomy 32:8 and Acts 17:24-29 make clear that the Creator of heaven and earth placed different nations in different parts of the earth. He established their boundaries so men and women would seek his face from within those boundaries and find him, because he is not far from each and every one of us, and because it is in him that we live and move and have our breath.

Therefore, the Indigenous peoples of every piece of land and property on planet earth were entrusted with the task of stewarding the earth on his behalf and finding him within their own territory so that (after the Tower of Babel), they would also reconnect with other nations from whom they had become alienated and estranged and find God, so that true reconciliation between all people groups could take place.

This coming together of the nations who had been confused and scattered at Babel was reversed at Pentecost (Acts 2:7-12) and will culminate at the end of time when the people of every tribe and nation will be of one accord, each worshiping the Creator in their own ethnicity and their own heart language. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 7:9, 10.)

Healing the Land in Salluit

Within the context of the nation-state of Canada (now comprised of many nations, languages, and ethnicities), the Inuit, First Nations, and Metis have a critical role to play in the healing of the land. They have giftings and graces we all need in order to be healed, but before the reconciliation can happen, there needs to be unity between indigenous churches to speak with one prophetic voice. That voice will draw a clear distinction between the biblical healing of the land with the worship of the Creator and the promotion of environmentalism as a religion, and the worship of the creation.

The early missionaries taught us to receive Christ in order to go to heaven after we die, but they did not teach us to redeem the land or to see the healing of the land, rooted in the healing of human relationships. People and land are inseparably connected.

If you wonder how to differentiate between the biblical healing of the land vs. environmentalism as a religion, please take a look at the comparison below which I prepared some 10 years ago after doing a number of “healing the land” processes in Canada’s far North.

I would appreciate any comment or feedback you might have, whether you are Inuit, First Nations, Metis, or Caucasion—or any other people group. This is the time for the Church, the Ekklesia, the House of Prayer for all nations to arise!

Roger Armbruster is pastor of Maranatha in Niverville, Manitoba.

NOTE: An academic analysis of Armbruster’s “Canada Awakening Ministries” was done in 2010 by two university professors (Frédéric Laugrand and Jarich Oosten) recognized the relevance of healing the land as it relates much better to indigenous peoples than secular scientists lacking a spiritual dimension. You may review the study HERE.

A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

By Thomas Yerman

Meditating on these two dynamic verses of Scripture caused me to reflect on Abraham  when God tested his faith and asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, whom he loved. This Old Testament story from Genesis 22 gives us a picture of Abraham’s faith and obedience — and to some extent, Isaac’s trust and willingness to submit to his father’s instructions.

Testing Faith

Scripture does not specifically reveal any type of resistance or struggle from either Abraham, asked to sacrifice his only son, or from Isaac, who was bound and put upon the wood on the altar. Yet the first two verses of the chapter reveal a surprising and shocking request. I believe they were meant to help us understand the inward struggle Abraham must have been fighting, despite his faith in God to provide.

Isaac carried the wood on his back while Abraham carried the fire and the knife. In the end, God intervened, interrupting the action and stopping the test. Abraham’s faith shone along with God’s faithful provision.

After reflecting on this, you cannot help but be reminded of another Father/Son sacrificial story. The New Testament tells the story of God the Father sending his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die upon the cross of Calvary. The story of Abraham and Isaac truly points us to this future event.

A Sacrificed Life

With Jesus Christ, we see the ultimate sacrifice. We see the willing sacrifice of an obedient and trusting Son who carried his stack of wood (the cross) to the place where he sacrificially gave his life for the sake of others. Jesus died to provide the forgiveness of sin to those who put their trust in him, believing that his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven made their salvation possible.

Jesus’ death paid the price of our sin. He died so we would not only escape death eternally, but he also died for us so we would live for him. In the end, God honors Christ’s intercession for our lives forever. Believers are relationally heaven-bound, but until then, we are called to be living sacrifices.

This is where Romans 12:1-2 comes in.

Uncommon Life

As Paul finished speaking doctrinally in the previous chapters of Romans, he now appeals to doctrinal application. It’s where the truth being taught is applied to life — where the rubber meets the road. Those who believe, putting their faith and trust in Jesus, are strongly encouraged to become a “living sacrifice.” Believers are to live an uncommon life. We are called to offer up a life that is alive, holy, and pleasing to God.

With Jesus conquering death, defeating Satan, and overcoming the world, believers are, however, left with a problem — basically only one problem. Living sacrifices can crawl off the altar. Because we are faced with that temptation every day, we must stay focused on keeping the proper mindset to win that battle. We are no ordinary people. We have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit helping us be transformed to become a pure spiritual offering to God, knowing and enjoying his perfect will. We are a chosen people called to worship God. Becoming a living sacrifice is both at the heart of worshiping God and obedience.

History tells of a deepening understanding of sacrifices. The Dead Sea Scrolls community believed their holy way of life was a substitution for the temple sacrifices, which they believed to have been corrupted. And in an early church document called, A Plea for the Christians, Athenagoras argued that Christians should not participate in pagan sacrifices but instead “present a bloodless sacrifice, to offer ‘spiritual worship.’”

Just as God led people in earlier centuries to be living sacrifices and to know his will, may his Spirit continue to move forward — in and through us! When believers yet to come look back at us, may they also be encouraged — and see the power of the gospel in our living sacrifice.

History is watching. Stay focused. Keep the proper mindset. You are fully equipped to win!

Tom Yerman is an FCA pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.

Come Apart…or Go to Pieces

By Marco Bianco

As a corporate chaplain I spend a good deal of my time visiting with my corporate employee constituents week in and week out. Personal weekly interactions highlight a plethora of situational and circumstantial challenges, which often intertwine with the perpetual work-and-life balancing act.

Sadly, I meet and speak with many workers who are so often immersed in their present predicaments that they lose sight of the need to step back and displace themselves from ‘the issue.’

An impromptu segue between dialogue provides me the opportunity to ask them, “What about your ‘Me time’?” I’m amazed that many of these sincere and conscientious employees are so spread thin in their commitments with family, work, and social events that they often sacrifice their personal well-being to keep everything else all together.

To a large extent, a healthy corporate culture is dependent on the personal and emotional well-being of each and every employee within the enterprise. “Me time” is a critical component to establishing an essential balance for one’s well-being.

I always encourage my employee constituents to be intentional in their pursuit of personal time as a critical element of dealing with the stressors in life. I want them to connect with and engage their ‘sweet spot’ activity to give them an outlet where they can de-stress and dis-engage from the treadmill of the work-and-life balance.

Ministers and missionaries have the same needs as the employees I work with. To maintain emotional and spiritual balance, you must schedule an intentional “Me time” appointment with yourself! What activities do you enjoy? What helps you unwind? Make it happen.

Is it reading a good book? Taking a walk or jog? Perhaps a hot salt water bath? Whatever it is, make an intentional decision to make that appointment with yourself — at least twice a week. You will be amazed at how it will help your outlook and disposition.

Refuel your passion for life and gain an upper hand in working through your toughest challenges. Be intentional and make some time with yourself this week.

—Marco Bianco works as a
chaplain through Outreach Canada
and serves at a trucking company
in Kitchener, Ontario.