Prior to 2020, there was only one stretch of time in my life when people ceased from their normal routines and showed a profound interest in spiritual things.
That, of course, was in the days following Sept. 11, 2001. The response was palpable. It was overwhelmingly patriotic, unifying and somber. People also turned their minds toward eternity. In fact, their reaction was so robust in those early days and weeks after the terrorist attacks that some even pondered if we were witnessing the beginnings of a genuine revival.
In short order, however, people returned to their old routines. To say that any heartfelt response was short-lived would be a severe understatement. Church pews—filled to overflowing for just a few weeks after 9/11—were comfortably empty quickly enough. We said we would “never forget” the lessons we learned on that awful Tuesday morning. But we greatly overestimated our resolve—at least from a spiritual perspective. For the most part, it’s long forgotten.
But this time is so much different. The majority of my service with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry has taken place since the world went into crisis mode, initially in March of 2020. I can testify that the response that people have shown over the last 18 months—while much more subtle than their behavior 20 years ago—is also considerably more profound and thoughtful.
Churchgoers may not be packing the pews these days—in fact, they may even be viewing the services from the comfort of their own homes. But many of them are interested and asking questions as never before.
We’re a week or so into February, so today’s article has a bit of romance for Valentine’s Day and much application (finding happiness in life) for the other days of the year. I came across this true account from Reader’s Digest:
My cell phone quit as I tried to let my wife know that I was caught in freeway gridlock and would be late for our anniversary dinner. I wrote a message on my laptop asking other motorists to call her, printed it on a portable inkjet and taped it to my rear windshield.
When I finally arrived home, my wife gave me the longest kiss ever. “I really think you love me,” she said. “At least 70 people called and told me so.”
In Genesis 29, Jacob initiates what will be one of the great romances of all time; no cell phone message could compare to it. Although this romance had a happy ending (he did marry his beloved Rachel), Jacob’s life was complex, stressful, and messy. Despite great hardships, his life was rich and filled with happiness. How can this paradox be? The answer is no surprise: God.
Jacob had been scared, lonely, probably overcome with guilt, and walking into the unknown. He had stolen both the family birthright and Isaac’s blessing from his brother Esau; Esau was so angry with Jacob for his low-down scheming that he planned to kill him. To preserve his life, Jacob hurriedly exited Canaan and headed toward relatives in Haran (what we now call Iraq).
"If you have had a stable and steady job for 5, 10, or 20 years, it’s easy to get the idea that the job that is what provides for you. No, God provides for you. ...You may say—God has provided a small group for me, a dear friend for me, a healthy church for me, a wonderful ministry for me. These are the means of God’s supply. The way God supplies will change." - Colin Smith