I know you’re thinking, “He misspelled seventy-two.” But I meant it as in “seventy also,” because this is another reflection on turning seventy, and my last. I still feel like fifty, and intend to proceed into the future with that mindset until gravity or revolutions around the sun dictate otherwise.
Do you feel you’re speeding through your life without meaning? Do you think you’re standing still? Are you stuck in the mud in your personal life during difficult times — times that are seemingly getting worse? I can’t speak to those perceived or actual situations, but I can speak to the time standing still part. It doesn’t.
The earth spins counterclockwise 1000 mph at the equator. It travels 67,000 mph around the sun traveling 18 miles per second or 1.6 million miles per day. The sun travels around the center of our Milky Way galaxy at just over 500,000 mph in an almost-circular, clockwise orbit. We won’t even speak to our Milky Way galaxy’s speed and direction or the expanding universe.
Do you feel dizzy? Wonder of wonders, you should feel dizzy and disoriented with all that motion beneath your feet and around your body, but you do not.
Some wise One, a Creator extraordinaire, has so ordered your existence, that you can walk, breathe, observe, live and love on a rock with water and oxygen flying through space for 70 to 80 revolutions around a star called the sun feeling permanency, stability, security, and order.
He’s also gifted us the godlike quality to rule and reign in a garden on this rock hurling through space. He allows us to exercise a choice to have relationships with others and with Him, or not, according to our individual desires and wills.
I would suggest He’s still near and He still helps from behind the veil. History, the Bible, and science would indicate that is so. That said, the space travel paragraphs are also true and utterly astonishing. Selah (Hebrew for “stop and think about that”).
“Thank you Father for 70 revolutions around the sun. Thank You for the gift of the present — today. Thank You for the promise of Your presence in my life in the decade/s to come, then for transport to Your home where there is no time. There is only eternity, and the eternity You’ve placed in my heart. Amen.” A Prayer of Thanksgiving
“Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none” (Isaiah 44:8).
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:24-27).
70 is a special number, and a special time in life. Two Greek words for time come to mind. Chronos means sequential time as in day after day, hour after hour, and week after week. Kairos means a special period of time or an opportune time for action. Beginning a new decade, especially the later decades, brings both kinds of time into clearer and more meaningful focus.
Ecclesiastes also comes to mind: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” And yes, the last part of that verse points out there are some things hidden from us — something mysterious to be puzzled out or revealed. “Yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
My life has been more than 70 revolutions around the sun.The more time you live, the more knowledge, wisdom, and experience you accumulate. You start to see more clearly “the beautiful” and “its time” — also the mystery. The mystery becomes more beautiful because it points to the Eternal.
One should not take our time in this life so seriously because of what we see with our natural eyes. We know everyone dies. We also sense there is more to life. A long chronology or length of years is not to be our only goal or perhaps a goal at all. Besides, much of that is out of our hands (Ecclesiastes 8:8).
In another sense, we should take our time seriously because it is meaningful and prepares us for something meaningful. This could apply to all of our days, but especially the kairos times that seem to set or alter the course for our future. Examples are important exams, career choices, marriage choices, major purchases, or opportunities and calamities that come our way.
Something very special is hidden from our view behind a very thin but impenetrable veil.
The longer and closer you walk with the Holy Spirit, the more you perceive and know it to be true. The more time you read the Bible and look around at your life and world events, the more you know it and smile inside at the reality assured.
In respect and appreciation I vail before the King, bowing my knee and heart to the One just behind the veil.
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17 NIV).
“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away [emphasis added]” (Psalm 90:10).
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’ A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night [emphasis added]” (Psalm 90:1-4). Moses 1500 BC
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever [emphasis added]” (Psalm 23:5-6).
My first interaction with China was in June 2008. I flew a Boeing 777 to Shanghai from Chicago for American Airlines and spent a couple days in the city. I know Shanghai is more western and showy than the rest of China because of its history and interaction with the West. But I will never forget what I saw there; its vibe, its raw economic and technological power.
My second and most recent encounter with China was yesterday. I tested positive for COVID-19.
I had experienced symptoms for a few days of what I was pretty certain was a common cold, an intermittent wet cough and a mild headache. But I was planning to fly today to a Bible conference and visit some friends in Monroe Louisiana, so I thought it prudent to be tested.
And just like that, the trip was canceled, and I began the prescribed 14-day quarantine from the first day of coughing, along with my beautiful bride who now must also assume she’s contagious, although she’s asymptomatic.
I hope it’s not too much togetherness for her! 🙂 We will try to social distance in the house, using different bedrooms and bathrooms, practice excessive hand washing, and wearing masks if we need to be closer than six feet. But our daughter who is a MD says she is likely to get it anyway. I don’t know many people personally who have contracted COVID-19, less than ten I think, but in every case except one where there was a couple involved, they both got it.
I hope and pray if she gets it, her symptoms will be mild like mine. 99% of the cases reportedly are. The mystery and variety of the 1% is what’s troubling.
The biggest pain for us is the restriction of freedom. Not going out to eat, to shop, to run errands, etc. But we will make the best of it. Lots of reading, writing and journaling for me — that’s not a big change. It will be harder for her.
As someone said early in the pandemic, their baseboards have never been so clean. Those of you who know my wife know they’re already clean. I’ll probably have to get them re-painted after this!
Our kids called last night concerned, but also pointing out this could be a good thing and good timing going into the holidays, as we’ll be immune and not worried about getting it or giving it to others! 🙂
A bird just flew into our windows with a thud. Then it flew away in a bit of shock, confusion and with a headache, if birds get headaches?
I guess that’s what having COVID-19 myself means for me spiritually? I feel like I’m awake spiritually, and walking in light, His light. But how does one really know? Deception has the intrinsic quality that if you are deceived — you don’t know it.
But that bird knows it now! Whatever he or she saw enticing or encouraging full speed flight into our window was a mistake. It was caused by an illusion, a wrong perception, not seeing things as they really are.
China — A Piece of the Puzzle
My COVID-19 story has gotten long, so my China musings will be brief. They will serve as an introduction for you possibly of what has recently come onto my personal radar.
A few weeks ago a retired CEO in our 2020 book club and men’s group told us about a secular book he was reading about China. The author is an intellectual, a think tank person, but one who has advised several US presidents on foreign policy and international affairs.
I have not read the book yet, but I will. As our CEO friend shared from his notes and then a summary, it became clear that political China is an enemy of the United States of America. Also that they are probably already the world’s leading economic power, and on a course to be the world’s leading military power. The author, for reasons I won’t go into at this juncture, sees a future war with China as probable if not in inevitable.
I’m coming to see that China may be to us what ancient Babylon was to Judah before 586 BC — on the rise. A tiger. A dragon. Read Habakkuk, as he asks the Lord about what he was seeing in Babylon and Judah, and what would be the outcome of it all?
Ask yourself, “Why did China suspend all flights from Wuhan into China while releasing flights into the rest of the world?”
I’ll build my case later for this. But I see China as a major piece of the puzzle for life in the U.S. and on the planet in the next chapter, even in this present darkness.
They are to us a formidable enemy on the rise like Babylon was to Judah before 586 BC. It depends on the prayers and repentance of the church when and whether they come.
Either way one can read Habakkuk and see the Lord’s discussion with the prophet as how it might play out. And more importantly how a true believer will act and regard these times and those times, if it happens the way I’m describing.
To complicate the matter, although it’s not complicated to the Lord, almost certainly the largest and healthiest church in the world is the underground church in China. Its size is estimated about the same as the US population currently. They are our kingdom brothers and sisters in the true faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So while they are our true friends, their government is our true enemy. The situation merits watching, just like watching Israel .
You may recall Jesus told us to be alert for the signs that point to the end of the age, or the latter days, and his return.
Israel has always been one of those signs and will always be, because of God’s promises to them and to the nations who treat them well or treat them poorly.
I’ve often thought China would loom large and be a major player in the end time events. Now there is much evidence this is the case. And the time could be now, in the coming decades, maybe even in just a few years?
More on this later but let me point you to a few books and publications that point to the truth and evidence of what I’m suggesting.
Also about Christian life in China’s underground church: Bold as a Lamb Ken Anderson The Story of Samuel Lamb
My Advice & My Personal Tact
Stay awake. Stay alert. Stay close.
Abide in the vineyard. Stay close to the Master. Be like Habakkuk at the end of his book. The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord turn his face toward you and be gracious to you. The Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen [Numbers 6:24-26]
“O LORD, I have heard the report of You; I stand in awe, O LORD, of Your deeds. Revive them in these years; make them known in these years. In Your wrath, remember mercy!” Hab 3:3
“Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.” Hab 3:17-19
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you….” Psalm 91:1-3a
Shalom! Translated simply “peace” in English, it’s a much bigger word in Hebrew than that. It’s “greetings, hello, good bye, God’s favor, lack of conflict, God’s blessings, prosperity, health, ….” I think you get the idea.
Today continues the CUFI (Christians United for Israel) national, Washington D.C. conference in support of Israel. Like many events in our COVID stricken world, this year it’s being held on line. This may be a blessing, allowing for many people to have the opportunity to attend, who for time and resource reasons would not have had the opportunity.
I just wanted to make you aware of it. It appears you can watch some of the meetings free on YouTube, Face Book, etc. and the rest for a $25 registration fee. I attended this meeting in person a few years back and it was an inspiring, insightful, and enlightening experience. If you’re interested in Israel, world events, Bible prophecy, Biblical history, political science, etc. I think you will find it worthwhile and personally enriching.
I intend to do a series of blogs on Israel in the future, showing her uniqueness and importance on the world stage and in history. And why it’s important for individuals and nations to support, defend, and befriend her.
This is just a short blurb to make you aware of this opportunity to see this and learn for yourself.
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen 12:3 NIV
“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!“
With the advent of June, the DaySpringcalendar with quotes and Scriptures that lives in our bathroom is speaking about humility.
June 1: “We have the perfect example of humility in Jesus. If He could bow to His Fathers will, and consider others as Himself, then it is our honor to do the same.”
June 2: “Lord, I ask for Your help to truly humble myself, seek Your face, turn from my wicked ways and pray more fervently.”
June 3: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
As someone has wisely said, when you see a “therefore” in the Scripture, you need to stop and ask yourself, “What’s it there for?” Then go back and read above it, or the context. I’ve included those verses below, and the context is humility.
We really can’t make too big a deal about humility, in our life and in our relationship with God.
In Psalm 34:2b we find the phrase, “The humble shall hear …” Evidently, not being prideful or boastful or trusting in oneself, but being humble is integral to hearing the voice or whisper of God.
We know that satan’s biggest issue was pride and boasting that led to self deception. That’s true of secular humanist too, those who disregard God and make themselves out to be their own gods, and masters of their own fates.
But to all this boastfulness and pride the Scripture would say, “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 NKJV
In fact the Scripture and prophets remind us in many places of a proper posture before God, “Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20b NKJV
To Whom did this magnificent, all powerful, all knowing God — the Creator and Sustainer of all, exalt to the highest place? And give the highest name?
His most humble and obedient Son.
Could this be the trait about God Himself He admires most? In Himself, the Trinity — the triune One God?
And in His creation? Especially His sons and daughters? Think about it.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
“My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.” Psalm 34:2 NKJV
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 NKJV
“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” Psalm 11:4
“Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.” Zephaniah 1:7
“Be silent before the LORD, all people, for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13
“I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’ And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn.” Psalm 75:4
“Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.” I Samuel 2:3
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4 NIV
That was 33 AD on this day. Last year on this day I was in Jerusalem with my good friend Joe Carruth. This year with the planet much sequestered by Covid-19, there is a completely different feeling, but then again, not really for the sons and daughters of God. We know He is caring, loving, powerful, and sovereign over creation and the affairs of mankind. So we look to Him, and we look within ourselves.
Why within ourselves? For His Holy Spirit Who came in 33 AD in power and birthed the church fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets Joel (2:28-29) and Isaiah (7:14), among others. That God would come dwell with us and in us.
Like the Wind
And make us like the wind, by faith following His leading, not really knowing where we’re going, but listening and obeying and trusting Him for His good will, helping us fulfill His good purpose for us by His power — an adventure, happy and free.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 NIV
Life In The Spirit
I have a nagging thought within me, conflicting thoughts really. One is that the Lord, full of grace, loves me and accepts me just as I am and doesn’t really expect that much of me, because he knows we’re all like dust. That He just wants my company and trust, so we can know each other better. What could I, or any human do for Him really? But two, could it be that I/we don’t really understand the Power and Person of the Holy Spirit that dwells within all believers? That we are living well below our call and station because of this lack of knowledge and experience? And what can I do about that, if it’s true.
I’m going to leave you with those thoughts for prayer, mediation and reflection. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more and experiencing more as I pray. And I’ll probably blog some of it. Let me know if you do too!
Mainly I wanted to celebrate the day and give thanks to God for His Masterful plan to redeem us fully by His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, [Jesus — God is Salvation] and then empower us to live, love, and commune with Him by His Power sent to live with us and in us [Immanuel — With us is the Mighty One].
Happy Pentecost!! He is Risen! He has Returned in the form of His Spirit! He’s coming back in Person soon! Glorious Day!! Today and That Day!!
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29 NIV
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’).”Matthew 1:21-23 NIV
First let me say I don’t know. Only God knows, and He doesn’t make it the most obvious, as is His Way. I just know I’m intrigued by the man, his apparent faith and life lived in his community, and with His God. I tried very hard to search the web and discover who picked the powerful music for the Easter 2020 “Songs of Hope” Bocelli sang to millions that day live, and many more millions since via YouTube. Apparently he did.
It started with a prayer written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century put to music, asking that the Bread of Heaven (figurative of Jesus the Son of God — our sustenance and power for living) Who Is “the end of all Symbols” Most Highly Exalted, the promised One — come help us on earth, we who are “poor and needy.”
There followed two songs praising Mary, the Mother of God, for responding to God’s messenger angel, “Be it unto me as you have said.” Accepting God’s offer of divine life to be birthed within her, as mysterious as it mush have seemed to her, and to us still.
There is within these two songs, a prayer to Mary, not dead, but living in heaven, that she would pray for us in this time of our very real need.
His fourth song with 4th century lyrics was a powerful anthem of praise and acknowledgment, of worship, to God the King of the Universe and His son Jesus.
“O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord the only-begotten Son, The only-begotten, Jesus Christ!”
It ended with “Amazing Grace.” A humble acknowledgement that it’s in Him (by and in His grace) that “we live, and move, and have our being” as Paul told the first century stoic philosophers and men of Athens on Mars Hill (Acts 17). And it’s only by His grace that we behold God and know Him, “see” Him, as the African slave trader and ships captain, John Newton, discovered after almost destroying himself and others — then coming to faith and going on the write this song in England about the time of our Civil War in the U.S.. It’s one of the most telling, insightful, powerfully-true songs of all times. It is a fitting ending to humbly bow and acknowledge how needy we are and how gracious He Is. The ending says it’s only by His Grace we see. Amen.
Snippets from Wikipedia
“Doctors had advised the couple [Bocelli’s parents] to abort him, as they predicted that the child would be born with a disability. It was evident at birth that Bocelli had numerous problems with his sight, and he was eventually diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. He has stated that his mother’s decision to give birth to him and overrule the doctor’s advice was the inspiration for him to oppose abortion”
“Bocelli grew up on his family’s farm where they sold farm machinery and made wine in the small village of La Sterza, Tuscany, Italy, about 25 miles south of Pisa.”
“Bocelli showed a great passion for music as a young boy. His mother has said that music was the only thing that would comfort him. He started piano lessons at age 6 and later learned to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and drums.”
“At age 12, Bocelli lost his sight completely following an accident during an association football game. He was hit in the eye playing goalkeeper during a match and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Doctors resorted to leeches in a last-ditch effort to save his sight, but they were unsuccessful and he remained blind.”
“Since 1982, Bocelli has recorded 15 solo studio albums of both pop and classical music, … selling over 90 million records worldwide. His first compilation album, Romanza, is one of the best-selling albums of all time, while Sacred Arias is the biggest selling classical album by any solo artist in history.”
“In 1998, Bocelli was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.”The Prayer” is his duet with Celine Dion for the animated film Quest for Camelot which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.”
“Celine Dion has said that “if God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli”, and record producer David Foster has often described Bocelli’s voice as the most beautiful in the world”
In other places I’ve read he was first married ten years with two sons, and since married several years with one daughter. In spite of a normal life in many respects and a good deal of suffering, or because of it, he apparently has a heart of sincere love for people and for God. Although a somewhat reclusive, multi-millionaire, his wife mentioned that he visits local nursing homes and sings for the residents. Telling, isn’t it?
In His Own Words
Bocelli said: “I will cherish the emotion of this unprecedented and profound experience, of this Holy Easter which this emergency has made painful, but at the same time even more fruitful, one that will stay among my dearest memories of all time. That feeling of being at the same time alone – as we all are in the presence of the Most High – yet of expressing the voice of the prayer of millions of voices, has deeply impressed and moved me. Love is a gift. Making it flow is the primary purpose of life itself. And I find myself once again indebted to life. My gratitude goes to all those who made this possible, the City of Milan and the Duomo, and to all those who accepted the invitation and joined in a planetary embrace, gathering that blessing from Heaven that gives us courage, trust, optimism, in the certainty of our faith.”
In his own statement, Mayor of Milan Guiseppe Sala said, “I am happy Andrea has accepted our invitation. This year, Easter will be very different for all of us. The joyous serenity that usually comes with this day, has been greatly troubled by the pandemic we are experiencing. I am sure that the extraordinary voice of Bocelli will be the embrace we are missing these days, a strong, special hug, capable of warming the heart of Milan, Italy and the world.”
Once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Milan, Italy will mark Easter Sunday by staging a very special concert featuring Andrea Bocelli. At the city’s request, the famed opera singer will deliver a solo performance at the historic Duomo cathedral on April 12th. Though it won’t be open to the public due to the countrywide lockdown, the event — titled “Music for Hope” — will be live-streamed globally to promote a message of “love, healing, and hope to Italy and the world.”
Bocelli will be joined by the cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, who will be playing one of the world’s largest pipe organs. The Easter Sunday concert will consist of “carefully selected pieces, specially arranged for solo voice and organ for the occasion,” including “the well-loved Ave Maria setting by Bach/Gounod and Mascagni’s Sancta Maria – uplifting sacred music repertoire on a day symbolic of the renewal of life.”
Andrea Bocelli performed a special online concert from the Duomo cathedral in Milan this Easter Sunday (12 April 2020).
Entitled ‘Music for Hope’, Bocelli’s concert was poignantly performed without an audience and instead streamed globally via Bocelli’s YouTube channel, in light of social distancing measures in place across the globe to stem the spread of coronavirus. Bocelli was joined – at distance, of course – by cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, who provided accompaniment for his chosen pieces. Selected to communicate a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the rest of the world during this difficult time, the pieces included the popular Bach/Gounod setting of ‘Ave Maria’ and Mascagni’s ‘Sancta Maria’, as well as an arrangement of John Newton’s enduring ‘Amazing Grace.’
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It is Easter this Sunday. And in Milan, the renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will be sending a message of love and hope to the world, especially Italy, which has seen more death in this pandemic than any country.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “PANIS ANGELICUS”)
ANDREA BOCELLI: (Singing in non-English language).
GREENE: “Panis Angelica” (ph) is one of the songs Bocelli will be performing Sunday at the Milan Cathedral, which is known as the Duomo.
BOCELLI: Many times, I’ve performed this piece also in front of the pope, for example. It’s a beautiful page of music.
GREENE: On Sunday, there will be no audience because of the pandemic, just Bocelli and his organist in the empty cathedral. He’ll livestream this concert on his YouTube channel for free. Bocelli joined me from his home outside Milan, where he and his family have been staying put, mostly. He says he knows how many Italians have been suffering through this. And he feels fortunate.
BOCELLI: For us – it’s very bad to say this, but I dreamed throughout my life to have a period to rest myself, to stay with my family, to speak with my sons, and I had. But anyway, I am privileged because I’m in my house with my families. And I’m – everything’s OK here.
GREENE: He was speaking to me along with his wife, Veronica. And as we were setting up, I could hear the tinkling of their piano. I mean, the idea of Andrea Bocelli playing for us in a moment like we’re in was a wonderful thought. Though, we were warned not to get our hopes up.
Who’s playing the piano?
BOCELLI: Me (laughter). It’s me.
GREENE: Yeah? Have you been playing a lot of piano during – while you’ve been home?
BOCELLI: Yes, yes. Many times during the day, I go to play the piano because it my first…
VERONICA BERTI: Hobby.
BOCELLI: Hobby (laughter).
BERTI: …And work. Work and hobby both go together.
GREENE: That’s great. Well, I want to hear about Easter Sunday. Andrea, you – the mayor of Milan invited you to do this show.
GREENE: Why did you decide to accept the invitation?
BOCELLI: Because I think that, in this moment, music can help. And in this moment, I think it’s very important to do our best to create positivity among the people. My idea – my will will be to help people don’t lose the hope.
GREENE: Well, I know the Duomo in Milan and the square would normally be very crowded on Easter Sunday. Is it going to be strange to be there and performing with almost no one else there?
BOCELLI: No. It’s not strange because this is not a concert. Basically, this is only a prayer. I really hope that people listening my singing can pray with me.
“This is only a prayer. I really hope that people listening … can pray with me.”
Sounds to me like someone who sees…. Amen?
Lord have mercy on our straying nation and world. Show us our blindness — help us see. Amaze us again, please, by your grace. Amen.
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” II Chron 16:9
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
Beautiful, sincere, and recorded previously in NYC — “The Prayer”
[The NYC version has been removed by Youtube. This one is inferior but worthy of your time and mediation.]
“The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Word of God transforms us as we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, pray it, sing it, share it, and fellowship with the One Who wrote it. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are strengthened, and our behavior is changed; not by external force, but by internal transformation.”
I borrow that from the beginning remarks of Charles Simpson’s excellent pastoral letter this month. You can read the whole of it here. I’ve been in a spiritual wilderness of late, experiencing both the isolation, cleansing, and terrible beauty, reorienting as it is; and I’ve been in the Word experiencing it’s beauty, cleansing and reorientation.
Against the mostly hidden enemy of our souls, there is no substitute nor defense like the Word. Indeed Christ used the Word of God His Father, the the King of the Universe, when attacked in the wilderness by Satan.
Words from Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, come to mind: “…one little Word shall fell him.”
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth; Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
So we see the Word can silence our enemy and put him to flight — very important indeed, and the order of things in our earth journey in the seen and unseen realms.
But I’m thinking in this early morning moment by the fire of the “transformation and the renewing or our minds” power of the Word. It’s beautiful. It’s holy. It’s relational. It’s mystical. It’s joyful. It’s reorienting. It’s life and light really. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful to experience.
Our Catholic brothers have a saying, “Don’t read the Word, let the Word read you.” Indeed.
I have a very, very high view of Scripture. Yet once I felt the Lord impress me, “I didn’t give the Word for you to serve it; but for it to serve you.”That’s at once humbling, and important to know, if it is true. It’s an important distinction, even if both are true at the same time.
Jesus in His wilderness experience quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” We need food every day, in the natural and in the spiritual.
And we need to practice good hygiene every day to stay healthy. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus “washes us with water through the word.”
We need healthy relationships each day to thrive. Our Father meets us when we read and meditate on His Word, to illumine us, love us, and just be with us, like a friend.
Please excuse me. It’s time to wash up, and have breakfast, with a Friend.
This morning in our FYV Fellowship Matthew study, the location of this spot came up. I sent the following email to the leaders of the group in response and thought you might be interested as well. I hadn’t listened to Gene Little’s words in awhile, but they are timely perhaps and true. I invite you to listen with ears that hear, and see what you hear? For yourself? Blessings **********************************************
Good to be with you this morning.
I would not be clear on where the Valley of Jehoshaphat was myself except for a personal trip I took to Israel in 2017, when my lodging host in Jerusalem in a serendipitous fashion offered to take me to some of his favorite off-the-beaten-path places. Here’s what happened as he handed me his phone when arriving at the rim of the valley at Teqoa, and said “Record what I’m about to say.” I did, and that was that! Take one, take only, on the spur of the moment, without warning, then off to see Herodium, and his favorite, lesser-visited, Jerusalem sites. :):) After getting home I added the introductory music, photos, title and sent it back to him. Since that’s a hobby of mine. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/8_FgqGDbpdE
“For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” Joel 3:1-2
Many think this prophecy about the Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same location as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:20). After looking into it, I think they are a few miles separated geographically, but maybe not that different spiritually. His blessings as you ponder… or study further… and His grace to you and yours.
After trading emails back and forth with Alan, a men’s Bible study leader, and doing more research the following came to light.
I never knew their was a reference of the Kidron Valley also being called the “the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” That’s where the confusion or debate comes from I would guess. This started in the 300’s A.D.? The ancient Jewish sources say there was no valley by that name. Wikipedia may have it as close as anyone, with their three insights or possibilities.
 The judgment we discussed will likely be in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate and the Mt of Olives, which Joel called “The Valley of Jehoshaphat” for some reason. Perhaps symbolically? As the LORD vanquished Jehoshaphat’s attackers in his day. Certainly that’s what Joel heard the Spirit say to write. Maybe it was known as such to people in his day, and has been lost in antiquity? There is after all, much mystery in the Word… seemingly on purpose at times! As well as, much revealed!
 Jehoshaphat witnessed the LORD’s promised deliverance in his day near Teqoa… about 10 miles south.
The Word is always understood better in community with illumination by the same Spirit Who breathed it. 🙂 Grace be with you all.
I just returned from a week long trip to Honduras, Jan 16-23, with friends from Louisiana, Colorado, and California. There were eleven of us, 7 men and 4 women. The bulk of the team and it’s leadership was from the West Monroe, Louisiana, area. Our intentions were to teach a group of 20-30 village pastors from the surrounding mountains from the Bible and a book, “The School of Obedience,” by Andrew Murray, as requested by their pastor and leader, Dairo Deluca, in a two day conference at a remote mission house in the mountains. We also came to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, visit a prison to share the Gospel and distribute some needed supplies, then visit two villages with preaching, teaching, prayer, music, large boxes of food for families, and toys for the children.
It was a very enjoyable, successful, rewarding trip on many fronts. Unexpectedly in degree, because I’ve been to Honduras seven times now in the past five years, and five times with this team. I can’t really put my finger on the reason, but these trips seem to get more and more special and intriguing.
I continue to be amazed and impressed with what God is doing in this country and with these people. The people impress me too, with their humility, hospitality, transparency, and simple joy in living.
Honduras is in Central America about a three hour flight south from Houston. It’ s the second largest country in CA, slightly larger than Tennessee, beautiful, mostly mountainous, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast. According to Operation World, Honduras is “one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest countries,” with “widespread unemployment, low wages, and long lasting devastation from Hurricane Mitch (1998)”… making it a country of great need.“ Thirty-seven percent of the population is under fifteen years old.” So there are lots of needs and opportunities to serve children in Honduras.
Operation World further reports that “Honduras has experienced five decades of evangelical growth. In 1960, evangelicals numbered 32,000 and were 1.7% of the population. They are now 1,750,000 and 23%, and growth shows little sign of stopping. Some polls show that up to 36% of the population identify with evangelical beliefs.” Local pastor Dario tells us more recent statistics show the number to be 45%. These statistics make me believe God’s heart and ear is turned to the people there, and the people are responding.
This infusion of truth from the Gospel and the resultant teaching of truth from the Bible, along with God’s love, will transform this country, as it will any country and has historically, from the inside out.
The attractive lady sitting next to me on the airplane on the trip down was from Austin, TX, and had been to Honduras several times. She was traveling alone this time to spend two weeks at an orphanage where her purpose was to “refresh the workers, and love on the kids.” There were also several small groups on the plane wearing Christian t-shirts coming to serve. This has been the case every time I’ve come here. Maybe you’ve not heard about this on CNN. 🙂
Each year this group breaks up the long van ride back to the airport by stopping for rest and reflection for the night at the seaside city of Tela. Besides swimming, walking the beach, reading with the sounds of the surf, and enjoying some good food; the team meets and shares with each other their defining moment or moments of the trip. Let me end this post by sharing mine from my journal. Other reflections will follow in future blogs, I’m sure.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the twilight at Los Enquentros two nights ago. A sizable group of women walking down the road with heavy boxes of rice on their heads. I know that may sound strange for a defining moment but it just hit me:  The beauty of it  How other worldly it seemed and surreal  How happy they were with the gifts and to see their children happy and amused with toys  The joyful children  The curious attention they all paid to Mario while he preached his heart out minutes earlier  No idea what their thoughts were?  But we were in a village in the mountains of Honduras, preaching the gospel, praying for the sick, feeding the poor, loving on children and their parents  Are you kidding me?  Topped off by six boxes of rice being tossed back in Dario’s truck as we drove away with six grown women running like school girls, laughing and climbing in the back of the moving pickup with three men from the US — a truck that died on the bridge, then twice more in a short distance, before stopping to let them out as they unloaded the rice themselves before we could help — in front of their homes on the main gravel road, in the early evening darkness, right in front of two soldiers in starched fatigues with automatic rifles standing in the middle of the road. You can’t make this stuff up! The end.”
“The need, the joy, the love, the strangeness of the encounters, the leading and provision of the Lord. How the Spirit had us each doing our own thing but completely a team — comfortable and glad to serve and depend on each other. 🙂 How beautifully peaceful it all seemed. The end, again.”
“How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; you give them drink from Your river of delights.” Psalms 36:7-8