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  • sonnyholmes

2020 has been a year of storms. Storm Central has been the alternating center of following their paths, predicting the waves of their destructive impact, and recommending safe harbor for those endangered by them. In this setting, they are mainly metaphorical in nature, with the exception of the Alpha Omega cyclones and hurricanes sweeping across our oceans and making landfall on our coasts right now. Though four of them are actually cultural and social disturbances they possess the threat of disruption and danger and are, therefore, storms nonetheless. They have made 2020 a unique and in many ways uncertain trip around the sun. Surely, we must learn from them.


The storm Corona is the arrival and destructive force of the Corona virus. There are many scientific and medical origins proposed for the Covid-19 virus and the pandemic it has occasioned on a global scale. Underneath the factual data about the actual virus there are, of course, suggestions of terrorists invasion, political intrigue, and human circumstance to explain it's invasion of the United States. Nevertheless, Corona is a storm that has influenced American life in just about every venue. Worldwide, more than 54.1 million cases have resulted in the death of more than 1.31 million people. In the United States more than a 10.9 million people have been infected with 245,000 deaths. Right now, In November 2020, this deadly storm is finding new energy and affecting more of our citizens by the day. It has been and is a serious storm.


There are learning points for us humans as we contemplate the drastic reality of life under the sun and the destructive force of Corona---


1. The path of life is uncertain.


In the mystery of his ways, God has revealed many things to our species. However, the occasions and moments of life, for the most part, are hidden from us. James wrote, "Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away" (James 4: 14, ESV). Meaning that, life is but a brief span---a vapor or mist, a shadow---and we cannot know with accuracy how life will unfold during our sojourn here.


2. We must remain prepared for the uncertainties of life.


Being prepared isn't always about having food stored, or emergency supplies cached away, or keeping the vehicles gassed and mobile. It is more about being aware of what is happening around us. The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian believers, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16: 13, ESV). Today we live in the information age and should stay plugged into reliable news sources so we can remain aware of that is happening around us.


3. Follow the counsel of those entrusted with our care.


Right now the resurgence of Covid-19 is attributed to our reluctance to follow the advice and guidance of medical, professional, and government officials who have studied this dread virus and advised us regarding its restraint. Many of us won't wear masks, gather in groups with limited potential of spreading the virus, or follow the instruction of the best medical minds regarding the pandemic. The Apostle Paul reminded the Roman Christians, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13: 1, ESV). In my mind the "governing authorities are more than elected officials or the bureaucracy that guides our nation. Medical professionals counsel should guide us as well.


The storm Corona is not over and will continue until we humans learn that we actually don't know everything, and should submit ourselves to those educated and trained to protect us.


Corona, a dangerous storm.


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  • sonnyholmes

So, yesterday morning I thought I'd do something nice for Harriet and sweep our small patio. Yes, it had been raining for a day or so and I learned a lesson that a man my age should have already tucked away in those memory synapses years ago. It is impossible to sweep wet leaves. An hour later I finally threw in the towel. During porch time I pondered why I'm so driven with a desire to complete that nearly impossible task. What is this thing about getting things done, bringing life pursuits to a logical conclusion. Not quitting.


It occurred to me that two possible forces drive this impulse. On the one hand is the OCD that we talk about so much. You know, obsessive compulsive disorder. We laugh about it often and I usually pass it off as my being obsessive compulsive and Harriet being disorder. Ha! Ha! In some ways we can admire people who seek to get it done in the various avenues of life. Still, the experts over in the psychology department label this kind of focus as a disorder. It's really not normal to sweep wet leaves in the rain even as they continue to fall. Disorder indeed.


There is also the personal wiring thing. All of us are equipped for life by personal strengths laced into our fabric while in the womb. They are the talent we're born with that are shaped and matured further by education, experience, and the various learning modules of life. The Achiever strength that shows up in every one of my strength arrays keeps me plugged into my to-do lists, manic time measurement, and probably my bent for stubbornness. I mean, what normal person would stand in the pouring rain to prove mastery over a pile of leaves.


You know what I wish and pray? That this never say die attitude was in fact the spiritual discipline of finishing. Ahhh! That's what I wish was the driving pressure point to get 'er done, strong willed and purposeful to the final stroke. But, alas, while it should be what pushes my personal buttons I'm fearful it isn't. Mr. Stubborn prays for a steadfast spirit instead, the virtue of finishing that was so evident in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples early on that "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4: 34, NIV). And, who among us doesn't know the final words he spoke from the cross, "It is finished!" (John 19: 30, NIV).


Finishing is the product of endurance, perseverance, and the spiritual fruit of patience. They give us mere humans the where-with-all to pursue and fulfill the mission entrusted to us. They are more than natural inclinations or personality disorders. Each is discovered in a consistent personal devotional life and a strong commitment to follow the example of our Master and walk in his steps. We do have limits, us mortals. To live beyond them relies further on the incredible promises God provides for our life mission and purpose, as long as that mission and purpose reflects Scriptural principles consistent with the life of Christ.


And, that's a big deal today if we are to follow Christ in these challenging times. To follow Christ in a world like ours, and to influence it, requires a focus on the finish line to see us through. Sadly we have become a nation of spiritual also-rans with little follow through in our personal spiritual growth and maturity. What is that finish line? For believers it is the day when we will stand before the Lord and hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25: 23). That should be our guide to the discipline of finishing.


Not a disorder or even personal asset. It is the blessing of heaven.


Finishing.


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  • sonnyholmes

Jesus took many steps. The disciples and others in his entourage walked the terrain of ancient Israel often. Bible students and research analysts have estimated that Jesus walked approximately 21,525 miles in his lifetime, maybe 3,125 in his years of earthly ministry. How these were tabulated is somewhat of a mystery to me but may have been measurements of the daily activity recorded in the Gospels. Of a truth, we probably can't really know these statistics and don't really need to. I mean, Bible trivia is as abundant as the stars in the sky. And, in this context the steps of Jesus is more about the people, events, and practices that marked his earthly life rather the the distance he walked.


In study several years ago I noted five very definite steps that marked our Lord's interaction with others, his delicate moments handling controversy, and those times when some unique action identified his mission---you know, to do the will of his Father and finish his work. They are certainly inspiring. At the same time they are challenging, and even convicting. If I am to follow in his steps as noted by Simon Peter, these steps should characterize my personal walk as well. Briefly, they are---


The Step Down: The Step of Humility


Instead, he humbled himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of

men.

Philippians 2: 7


The step down is total submission to Christ and demonstration of the servant mind and heart of Christ in the pursuit of kingdom mission. It is the humility of Christ.


The Step Up: The Step of Leadership


After Jesus was baptized he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly

opened for him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down

on him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is my blessed son; I take delight in

him.

Matthew 3: 16-17


The step up for Christian leaders is the recognition of the high calling of Christ and acceptance of the spiritual leadership inherent in that calling. It is being a leader.


The Step Back: The Step of Perspective


Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, "The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her"

John 8: 6b-7


The step back occurs when we move away from an explosive situation so we can process the scene, evaluate what is actually happening, and determine a best course of action in response to the moment. It is gaining perspective.


The Step Aside: The Step of Discernment


Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

Luke 5: 16


The step aside is the discipline of discerning God's direction in making significant mission decisions and discerning spiritual direction.


The Step Away: The Step of Refreshment


He told them, Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while.

Mark 6: 31


The step away is the discipline of regularly walking away from ministry for renewal, refreshment, relaxation, rest, and recreation.


Several years ago Christians were challenged to ask WWJD, what would Jesus do?, in seeking to fulfill the mission entrusted to us. That is actually an academic, rhetorical means of fulfilling our life purpose. It wasn't a bad trend and did result in many believers clarifying difficult life situations. But, the real question is not what Jesus might do, but rather what did Jesus actually do? These above listed steps are the path Jesus took in real life circumstances. Seeking to emulate them is the stuff of following him and walking in his steps today.


You see, we are all spiritual leaders---pastors, teachers, church staff members, missionaries, professors, fathers, mothers, and the single Christian in the work place. And, these are the steps we should define and balance our lives.

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