This column is undergoing its fourth full rewrite. So far, the only thing that has remained the same is the title.
Turning into the drive-thru of a local restaurant, my hand reached out the car window to give my credit card to the girl in the window. “Russia has just launched missiles against Ukraine,” she breathes. My wife nodded and replied, “The only thing we can do is pray.
“I prayed non-stop all morning,” she said.
That’s a very concrete example of the Bible — our faith — in life, isn’t it? There wasn’t much else in common between us. There was at least 40 years difference in our ages. Our skin color was different. There were probably dozens of other things we hadn’t shared.
But for some reason, at that time, we both shared the faith. I know what I was thinking at the time. I had been thinking all morning while watching the latest news on television. In all our sophistication and technology, Solomon was right. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Evil still plagues the hearts of many.
I wonder what she had in mind. Did his thoughts remember the words of Jesus, “There will be wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6)? Was she afraid? Was she anxious? Could she have feared that this kind of war could usher in the end of time?
We live in a time when technology and weaponry have the ability to do things that no other war has ever done. We see the effects of sin – and death – at every turn, every day. Such a notion is terrifying, and it’s so understandable that people worry today.
This is where the Bible reenters our lives. The reality for the believer is that God – not armies, governments or discussions around a table of peace – is our refuge and our strength (Psalm 46:1). The comfort of this truth is mentioned over and over again in the scriptures. “Be for me a dwelling rock to which I may continually come; you have commanded me to be saved, for you are my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:3).
Inflation can cause economies to collapse, diseases can spread from continent to continent, and political powers can move tanks and weapons the way some people move pieces on a chessboard. Even if the mountains crumble, God is in the midst of the life of his people. He will be with them to the end, finishing the good work he started (Philippians 1:6).
But today’s culture not only encourages us to doubt that God works, it persuades us to even doubt that he exists. Like Job, we will often wonder why circumstances turn out the way they do, but we must not lose sight. The complex order and structure of creation and of life itself speaks more of a design than an accident. Life cries out, searching for answers beyond today, desperately seeking hope for tomorrow.
And that’s where the Bible comes into life again. God knows we have a bigger problem than wars and rumors of wars, or even if weapons are too readily available. Jesus said, “You have heard the law say, ‘Do not kill,’ but I say to you, ‘Do not be angry even with your brother'” (Matthew 5:21). The problem continues to provide far too many ways for our hearts, minds, and hands to sin.
This coming Wednesday, many denominations are marking the start of the Lenten season with a service for Ash Wednesday. This day recalls the fragility of human life and the need to be reconciled with the God whose standards hold us accountable. The tradition uses the structure of a worship service that culminates in the laying of ashes on the believer’s forehead. Ashes have traditionally served as a symbol of sadness and repentance.
Life goes by at record speed. Someone said, “A person born in 1900 had more in common with Moses than a person born today.” Just think about the changes that have happened in your lifetime. Even if we don’t question the value of tradition, in the hectic pace of life, we don’t have time for tradition.
Some churches are trying to help the Bible keep coming into life. St. Mark’s United Church of Christ in New Albany attempts to bring the traditions of the past into the simple expressions of the present. Instead of getting fries and a drink, people can pass through a drive-thru queue on Ash Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and receive an ash imposition. The line will be accessible from the Third Street side of the building.
Perhaps your church has plans to bring the Bible into the life of the community. Share them with me via my email address at the bottom of the column. Over the next few weeks we will discuss how churches are trying to bring the peace and hope of Scripture into the lives of those who are suffering.
Another Lenten tradition is the idea of sacrifice. Many believers give up tangible items during the season to help their hearts remember the ultimate sacrifice Jesus offered. Some people decide to give up something they love — chocolates, social media, swearing, coffee, soda, eating meat — to keep their perspective and their hearts straight for the season. Often people sacrifice things during Lent, to allow them to return to their lives after Easter.
Over the next few weeks, let’s think about a handful of items we have to sacrifice – not just for the next 40 days, but for the rest of our lives. Let’s see if bringing these Bible truths to life can make a difference in our attitudes and behaviors.