Tonk Talk by Mark T. Tonkery
A little girl walking in a garden noticed a particularly beautiful flower. She admired its beauty and enjoyed its fragrance. “It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. As she gazed on it, her eyes followed the stem down to the soil in which it grew. “This flower is too pretty to be planted in such dirt!” she cried. So she pulled it up by its roots and ran to the water faucet to wash away the soil. It wasn’t long until the flower wilted and died.
When the gardener saw what the little girl had done, he exclaimed, “You have destroyed my finest plant!”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t like it in that dirt,” she said. The gardener replied, “I chose that spot and mixed the soil because I knew that only there could it grow to be a beautiful flower.”
Often we murmur because of the circumstances into which God has placed us. We fail to realize that He is using our pressures, trials, and difficulties to bring us to a new degree of spiritual beauty.
The Apostle Paul reminds in 2 Corinthians 5:1-7, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Christian there will be struggles, trails, temptations, and moments of pain in this life. It is important to develop and maintain a Christian attitude in the midst of our suffering. Remember in Romans 8:37 “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. Every day, he prayed intently for God to rescue him, but it seemed He just wasn’t listening. He eventually managed to build himself a hut out of driftwood to protect him from the weather and store what few possessions he had managed to salvage. Then, one day after scavenging for food, he arrived ‘home’ to find his hut was on fire after being struck by lightning. The worst he could imagine had happened. Everything he had was lost. He would surely just give up and die now.
“God, how could you do this to me!?” he cried.
Early the next morning, as he lie on the shore distraught, he was startled by a group of men who had arrived by boat to rescue him.
“How did you know I was here?” he asked.
They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.”
It is so easy to get discouraged when things are going wrong and we are facing many trials. We may even blame God for the things that happen, or complain because He doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want Him to. But God is always at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time ‘your hut is burning’...it may be a ‘smoke signal’ given by the grace of God. He loves you and cares for you even if you can’t always see it.
I have been asked is the coronavirus or Covid-19, a plague from God?
Well, I do know that in Exodus 7–10, we read about the ten plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptians, that were used to free the Israelites from bondage.
Then three times during the Israelites wandering in the wilderness God sent plagues upon them. The first time was when they were eating the quail that God sent to satisfy their longing for meat (Num. 11:33). The second time, a “plague” claimed the lives of spies who discouraged the Israelites from entering the Promised Land (Num. 14:37). The third plague came as God’s punishment upon the Israelites. Aaron stopped this “plague” by offering incense to God (Num. 16:46–47). On one other occasion, Phinehas saved the Israelites from a plague by killing a man who brought a Midianite woman into their midst. Nevertheless, 24,000 people died (Num. 25:8–9).
The Old Testament describes many cases in which God sent “plagues” to discipline His people. One example is found in 2 Samuel, where David built an altar unto the Lord and prayed that the plague would stop; it did after 70,000 men died (2 Sam. 24:15; 25).
We know these plagues were brought on by God as punishment and served His purposes because we have the Bible to explain to us what happened.
But our world has known other plagues, not recorded in the Bible. Such as the black plague which emigrated from the Orient in the fourteenth century, spread westward and wiped out one-third to one-half of Europe’s population. Cholera that began in India in 1816 reached Russia and the Near East by 1830. By 1832, it had swept through Europe and England. Irishmen brought it to Canada, and from there it was brought into the United States via Lake Champlain, killing thousands in the most severe plague since the black plague.
Then between July and October 1918 over 50 million died from swine or the Spanish flu. Now most recently we have experienced the coronavirus, which has killed over 15,000 people worldwide, as of the writing of this article.
The question is raised again, are these plagues from God? The Bible tells us at least two things: First in Matthew 24:5-7, where Jesus tells us that living on this earth there will be a continuous cycle of bad things that will happen, but the end will not be yet. So, we live in a world where disease, war, and all kinds of calamity will take place. Jesus will go on to encourage His followers in Mt. 24:13 to endure and those who do will be saved. Second, in John 9, Jesus’ disciples asked Him when they saw a blind man, whose sin had caused his blindness? In their thinking, birth deformities, sickness, and suffering were the result of sin or even God’s judgment. Jesus goes on to state in, John 9:2, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
So what we can understand from these two passages is that we live in a world of continued chaos, where there is going to be things like Covid-19 that wreak havoc on our world and yet we are not to lose heart because God’s work can be displayed during difficult times.
It just might be God is using this virus as a reminder for spiritual renewal as He used the plagues in the Old Testament, but if not it is still a reminder that in the most trying times God still is in control and as in John 9:2 the works of God might be displayed. Think about it! By Mark T. Tonkery
As I think about the current situation, with the coronavirus, it is very hard to know what to do socially and with regards to the church. I admit I am the first one to suggest that we should not cancel our worship services, but as I listen to different health care professionals and the warnings of our government, some people should not be out because of health reasons due to the coronavirus. During this unprecedented situation, we find ourselves making changes in our daily life to help us to avoid and not spread this virus. One of those changes we see Christians having to make is to our regular times of worship and Bible study.
So, what should we do if cannot get out to church services or what if our worship services and Bible study time are canceled? Here are some suggestions:
·Have a family devotional. As we read in the Book of Acts, we see that many times the early Christians met in their homes for worship, prayer, Bible study, sing, and partook of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 5:42; 12:12; 16:15; 16:34) we may very well have to do this temporarily until this virus passes.
·Read your Bible, pray and sing. It might be you have no family and are unable to get out due to health reasons. So, you might want to take the example of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25 who were in prison yet prayed and sang. Or John the Apostle in Rev. 1:10. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. John was unable to assemble with the church so he did what he could and spent time with God anyway.
·Other suggestions might be to listen to a gospel sermon on tape, CD, or online. Camden Ave. has many past sermons on our web page, other faithful congregations’ live stream their services as well. One could also go to In Search of the Lord’s Way website https://www.searchtv.
We need to remember that just because one cannot make the services at the church building does not mean it is a day off from school or from work in which it is a free day to do whatever we want. Heb. 10:25 is still commanded and although we might be prevented from assembling for one reason or another, we need to still spend time with God and His people as best we can. Remember John the Apostle as he was banished to the Island of Patmos, for his faith, still spent time with God, on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10), may we strive to do the same if we are unable to assemble with the Body of Christ.
I realize that change is difficult, but I believe we are in a situation where we are forced to change, but we must not be forced to give up our time with God and our fellowship with one another. These suggestions are an effort to encourage each one to grow in our faith with God and our fellowship with one another, while at the same time trying to guard the health of our members and community during this unusual time.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery, Minister Camden Ave. Church of Christ:
Children do not always get the same blessing at the same time. Which, of course, can cause some problems with jealousy. “Why does SHE get to go to a friend’s house today?” “Why does HE get to buy candy?” Listen kid, some days it’s your day and some days it’s not. And let me share with you one reason why the jealous response is unwise: it’s a great way to guarantee you won’t participate in the blessing. One kid gets candy and another become jealous. Jealous kid gives candy kid a real hard time. What does that do to the odds candy kid shares? Wouldn’t being happy for someone increase the odds you get to share in their blessing? I think so.
Jesus taught in many places. He did miracles in many places. He had tremendous gifts, given to Him by His Father. But Jesus did not hoard these gifts for His own purposes. He freely shared with thousands. But . . . there was one place where Jesus did not do very many miracles. It was the place that I believe was most filled with jealously. In His hometown they said “Where did this man get these things? . . . What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles?” (Mark 6:2) Or, in other words, why does THIS guy have the candy and I don’t? They took offence at Jesus. Their failure to acknowledge that God gave Jesus these gifts, and that they should be happy about it, led to less sick people being healed.
Our Heavenly Father loves all His children. All are given generous gifts – just not all the same ones at the same time. I humbly suggest that you be okay with that. Do you think being bitter about someone else’s blessing would compel God to give you more? I think it is more likely to have the opposite effect! What’s more, your resentment will close the door to you sharing in the blessing of another. It’s harder to share with a grump. So, bottom line, be thankful for the gifts God gives you. Be equally thankful for the gifts God gives others. That will keep jealously from costing you blessings.
When our lives are over most of us like to be buried with our families. People in Old Testament times were no different – they wanted to be “gathered to their people” (Genesis 15:15, Numbers 20:24, etc.). Unfortunately, there were cases where the family gravesite was really far away.
Joseph had that problem. He died in Egypt, miles away from where he wanted to be buried. “And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place’” (Genesis 50:25). I don’t know if God gave Joseph a timetable for His plan, but the day God came to their aid was hundreds of years later. The people who promised to move his remains were long gone by the time of the exodus from Egypt. And digging up bones is . . . icky. I guess the people who were leaving had an excuse to not dig up bones if they wanted it. “I didn’t make that promise. Great, great, great granddad did. Not my problem.”
Also, I suppose it could be claimed that this promise was coerced. They were “made” to swear this oath. Joseph was the second most powerful man in Egypt. If he asks for something you say yes. There’s another excuse for anyone who wanted one. And yet, hundreds of years later, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exodus 13:19). A promise was made before God – and when the time came the promise was kept. From what I read in Scripture nobody looked for any of the available excuses, they just did it because they said they would. This is a remarkable instance of keeping a promise across many generations.
How many of us have trouble keeping our own promises? Would we be so quick to extend our obligations to those connected to us? If your grandfather accidently orders more popcorn from the little girl who is fundraising than he can afford would you step in to fulfill that obligation? (And how grumpy would you be about it?) If someone at church tells someone who needs a ride to services that they will pick them up, but then their car breaks down, would you inconvenience yourself to go get them instead? I don’t think Israel would have been quite so blessed if they began their nation with breaking a promise. I love that they put themselves out to preserve the honor of their people.
If you have opportunity, especially as a Christian person, I encourage you to do the same.
Love keeping promises SO much that you’re even willing to keep someone else’s.