Dr A.R. Bernard was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 28, 2020. While in hospital, he experienced what he calls “a place of darkness”. By God’s grace he recovered, and is today back preaching online at his church Christian Cultural Center, with his son, Pastor Jamaal Bernard. In this interview conducted in May 2020, he spoke frankly with City News on his experience with COVID and the prophetic implications of this virus: the reawakening of passion, fervor and creativity towards purpose.

Dr AR Bernard is City Harvest Church’s spiritual mentor, a close friend of co-founders of the church, Pastors Kong Hee and Sun Ho for 21 years, and a pillar of support to CHC through its most challenging times. When news of his hospitalization due to COVID reached Singapore, many urgent prayers were prayed for his full recovery. Today, Dr Bernard has recovered and grows stronger daily. He is also back in action, conducting Sunday service on Christian Cultural Center’s Facebook Live channel with his son, Pastor Jamaal, and appearing (via Zoom and other platforms) on a host of news programmes and Facebook Live events.

We had the privilege of speaking with Dr Bernard on May 7—had COVID not happened, he would have been speaking live at CHC last month. He shared honestly about the terror of the COVID journey, and also how he understands this worldwide pandemic from a prophetic point of view.

CN: Thank you, Dr Bernard, for joining us today. How are you doing?
ARB: My pleasure! I’m glad to be alive, glad to be talking to you, and having an opportunity to share, you know, so God has been very gracious to us and I’m grateful for all of the people who were praying for me while I was in the hospital, and also the medical professionals who were really at the top of their game in treating me so I’m very grateful.

Could you tell us about your experience with COVID—how did you actually contract it?
You know, the abbreviated version is posted on the Internet; the elongated version where my son Jamaal interviewed me. I had been very busy meeting with elected officials, community leaders, my own congregation, throughout the months of January, February, and early March, and [I was] in contact with a lot of people who, I ended up discovering, contracted COVID-19. But you don’t know if you’ve been exposed, you don’t know until all of a sudden you begin to experience symptoms in March and April, [which is] the allergy season. So you’re trying to figure out: ‘Is this just the typical allergy symptoms?’

But the last week of March, I had consistent fever, the chills, body tremors, and physical aches and pains, including abdominal pain. And it got worse by the end of that week, and by Saturday morning, March 28, I was experiencing shortness of breath. So I knew that that meant I had to go to the hospital. Of course, I was avoiding going to the hospital because you can go there and get sick, but thank God for hospitals.

So, my son Jamaal came and picked me up and dropped me off. And I will tell you, when I got there, it was a ghost town. It looked like a scene from a movie. There were these white tents constructed in front of the door of the emergency room. One gentleman came out to meet me and told my son [that] he couldn’t come with me. So I had to go in alone to the ER. The beds are separated by curtains that draw around. So I was taken to one bed, and the curtains were drawn except for the curtains in front of me so I could see what was happening out in the ER. They began testing me immediately: they gave me oxygen, because my blood oxygen levels were quite low. And they began to take tests: electrocardiogram, chest X-rays, etc, and determined that they would have to keep me because of the low oxygen levels. So they gave me the COVID test— that took two days for the results to come back—but I had all the symptoms. I spent some eight hours in that emergency room waiting for a room to open up so that I could be transferred. And while I was there, I was dealing with my own symptoms, I began to feel the anxiety and the isolation. And I couldn’t communicate with my family because there was limited use of cell phones in case someone has a pacemaker or some other issue.

Dr Bernard (right) with his son, Pastor Jamaal Bernard during a CCC Sunday service webcast in May 2020.

I watched as the medical workers, health care workers were doing their jobs. In front of me, people were being rolled in on a bed, sitting up, going into a cubicle or room. And I’ll tell you, within a half hour or an hour, they were being wheeled out laying down with the sheet covering their faces. This was a Catholic hospital, so the nurses were making the sign of the cross. (You can’t have a priest come in the chaplains and the priests were not allowed to come in to give last rites or anything like that.) So that was about it. In terms of what these people were experiencing, their families couldn’t come into the ER, so these individuals were taken down to a mortuary in the hospital where their bodies were held until, you know, they [the medical staff] figured out what to do. It was a horrific thing.

Here I was in the hospital for the same reasons, and I was watching people being carried in and carried out. It was eight hours of that. So, I had a heightened consciousness of death: I knew that I was there in with pre-existing conditions, so I was in the category of 50-50 chance if this thing were to, you know, intensify and God forbid, I would need to go on a ventilator because the ventilator is an extreme measure to keep people breathing because that thing, pumps oxygen into your lungs in a very dramatic way so that your body is actually moving. And some people’s bodies can’t even take that kind of pressure, so the ventilator ends up damaging them. So thank God, I didn’t have to go to ICU. I didn’t need a ventilator.

By the end of the day, I was taken to a room and settled in. It’s not a room with a view and a TV. They draw the curtain, they close the door, and all of the staff is covered from head to toe in protective gear—we’re talking about gowns and gloves, face masks and then shields over their heads, and caps on their head. They’re coming in, they’re doing their job, but they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. So it’s not that social interaction that makes you feel good while you’re in the hospital, that’s part of your healing.

One benefit of being in a Catholic hospital is, they pray. So every morning someone would call me and say, ‘Can I pray for you?’ And I say, ‘Absolutely.’ Even though we may disagree doctrinally, theologically, but it was the right environment. They love Jesus and a prayer was said.

So the first day, all of the symptoms intensified. I began to lose my sense of taste, my sense of smell. I began to experience hallucinations. I began to feel disoriented. The isolation began to intensify. Because my body is going through certain things where I’m losing my senses that keep me in contact with the outside world. So it allows my soul and my mind to try to make sense of what’s happening. My brain is collecting data—as it was designed to do—and my mind is trying to make sense of that data that’s coming in. It intensified within those 24 hours, and then 36 hours. By that time, I was afraid to go to sleep because when I did, I would have nightmares. And when I did finally go to sleep, you know, I was in this place of darkness. I will tell you it was awful because you feel darkness all around you and no contact with the outside world.

And the disorientation: because one minute, you’re clear, you’re okay, you’re interacting with the healthcare workers. You’re eating—trying to eat because everything tastes terrible. You don’t have an appetite, you don’t want to drink [but] you have to drink fluids so you’re not dehydrated.

But then I began to see myself walking around the room, knowing that I’m sitting in bed, you know, and that’s unnerving. Because those are the kinds of things [experiences] that people have after they’re dead. (laughs) You hear stories of people who died and they see themselves on the operating table and all that.

So, you know, it was tough. You begin to wonder: are these pre-existing conditions? Where’s this all going to lead? And that’s real. That’s very, very real. And I don’t care how many of these preachers says “Oh, just believe God!” No. You’re experiencing a traumatic engagement of the physical and the soul and the spiritual, and you try to make sense of it, that darkness, looking into the abyss.

This disease is insidious, it affects the brain, it affects the lungs, it affects the heart, and you know, it affected my feet. So you’re going through all of this and the healthcare professionals are trying to figure it out as well. They don’t know—there’s no cure; there’s no vaccine.

So they started treating me with hydroxychloroquine, which some said, “You shouldn’t use that because it can have a negative effect on people.” And most of the successes were anecdotal. So, the government would not approve it. But in this hospital, they were using it along with an antibiotic, azithromycin. And they were giving me injections of anticoagulants so that I would not have a blood clot, because that was killing a lot of people. So while the doctors were doing, that I’m experiencing [darkness] psychologically, and emotionally. The whole theme of darkness was very real to me.

I got to the place where I said, “You know what? Okay, Lord, I abandoned myself to Providence. I’m in Your hands. You know how this is going to turn out.” And that gave me peace. It really, really did. I trust God with all of this—that gave me peace.

But then I just began to experience a searching of Scripture in my mind. And I landed—I believe it was at the leading of the Holy Spirit—at John 1:5, where it says, “And the light shines into the darkness, and the darkness couldn’t comprehend it.” The darkness couldn’t extinguish it, the darkness couldn’t absorb it or ally it. And now I’m in this new place of interacting with the Word of God, and the Word is now feeding me.

And I’m thinking about my own suffering, and then I think about the fact that my suffering was just a fraction of the suffering that Jesus experienced on a cosmic level. And I will tell you, I began to walk through the Scriptures: as I walked through his movement into the Garden of Gethsemane, it took on new meaning. The Cross took on new meaning. It was like I was caught up in the Scripture, you know. And in as much as abandoning myself to God’s Providence gave me peace, it didn’t give me strength. The strength came from my walk through the Scripture. So what gives you peace doesn’t necessarily give you strength. The strength came from the Word of God and that began to minister to me deeply.

At the same time by now it was 36 hours in and the treatment was beginning to work. Within another 24 hours, I experienced a drastic change in all of the symptoms that I was going through. So I stayed in the hospital there for five days. Of course, I was too sick to take notes and write, but this was so vivid in my mind, I didn’t have to write it down—it was gonna stay with me for the rest of my life.

On the fifth day, they brought a COVID patient into my room because there were two beds, and the only thing separating us was a curtain. And this person is hacking, coughing and having all the symptoms and everything. I’m saying, “Okay, no, I’ve got to get out of here because I don’t know if I can catch this again, or whether I’m fully recovered.” So I called my doctor and I said, “Doc, we’re out of here.”

I was blessed to make a phone call and get all of the equipment that I needed to be home to continue my recovery, including an oxygenator, which is simply a machine that generates oxygen. Jamaal came to pick me up late that night, close to midnight. My wife and my son and my daughter-in-law fixed up the room to make sure everything was in place. And I went home and began the process of recovery.

So that’s the short long version!

Very dramatic, but wow, it’s amazing! You talked about some of the symptoms you went through—what happened to your feet?
My feet were dry and peeling, but in a very dramatic way. I understood that that was because I was dehydrated. But they became purple in color around my heel and the base of my feet, and I couldn’t let anything touch it because it would hurt. So I had to sleep with the covers off of my feet, my feet sticking out. I didn’t really pay much attention to that, until I got home, and it continued and intensified. So I said, “Okay, well, let me try some cortisone” and I put hydrocortisone on it, and it burned. Then the burning went away, and the sensations went away. I had to do that for a week. Then, all of a sudden it came back to normal.

Then I’m watching a news report talking about the different symptoms that they’re discovering. And one of the symptoms was a purple rash that would break out on your feet or on other parts of the body. And that was a covert symptom and interestingly enough, this past week (early May), we have something called Kawasaki disease that is hitting children. It’s that purple rash that’s breaking out all over their bodies. And it’s COVID-related. So they’re tying these things together to continue to see the impact of this virus.

That’s scary.
It is scary. It’s things you see in a movie we, we didn’t expect to see in real life.

When you went to hospital, what were your biggest concerns for the church, for Pastor Karen and for your family?
My first concern is for my family, Pastor Karen. You know, I want to be there for my family, and I don’t want them to worry, and to have any type of care. So that was the first concern before me. The congregation, you know, we’ve been in a 20-year preparation for Pastor Jamaal to come in and take over the operations, which he started doing a year ago. And I was confident that he would step up to the plate. We have great systems and structures in place, we’ve developed a great team. So I was not as concerned that the church would work through the transition, mostly my family.

The week we watched Pastor Jamaal announce that you had COVID, it was a great shock. But he was very calm, he had a very soothing effect as he was delivering the news. We could really feel there was stress, but that he was a really good pastor.
He did well, I’m proud of him.

Last year, when you came to Singapore, you told us that people want their faith a lens through which they can make sense of the world. How should we understand this pandemic through this lens of faith?
I think it’s less about COVID—yes, that’s the culprit but I think what people are looking at is the fact that all of our so-called security blankets, and sense of protection, or even removal from things that we hear about on the news, or see in a movie, have become a reality.

When Ebola broke out, it was confined to areas in West Africa and that was one thing. But to now see a pandemic, a global experience, with people dying so quickly of this virus that we don’t have a cure, we don’t have a vaccine for; and the medical profession professionals are trying to figure it out.

And then the question as to its origin, how it started, I think that intensifies the anxiety, the fear in dealing with it. This is something totally new. The only thing closest to this took place 100 years ago, in 1918, which was the Spanish flu. It was also a virus. And it’s interesting because some of the same issues that we’re dealing with—the closing down of business, the closing out of churches, the resistance to the closing of these things, social distancing—these were issues back then. You know, and here we are 100 years later, never imagining that something like this can happen, and to spread so quickly around the globe, it simply meant that there are no safe places on this planet anymore. You know, at one time, we used to think that the planet was so big that we can find a place untouched by humans, or the effects of humans. And that’s not true.

Then, not understanding how it’s transmitted: is it airborne? Is it droplets? Is it me coughing or sneezing? Does it enter only through the mouth and the nostrils and the respiratory system? Is it by touch? All of those things added to the confusion, the chaos and increased the fear.

I think that’s what created the major anxiety with people. Then there were the mixed messages from media and government officials and the World Health Organization— who do you believe? Is it serious? Is it not serious? Are they making more of it then than they should? Or is it really serious that we need to panic? There was just chaos and confusion.

Times Square in New York during lockdown. Photo by Paulo Silva @ Unsplash

Exactly. So how do we how do we make sense of it being Christians? How do we sift through all the mixed messages and social media?
Well, first of all, it’s beautifully put in the Book of Romans: it says, the invisible things of God can be clearly seen, being understood by the things that are visible, even His eternal Godhead. So we know these things, especially as Christians, we believe in this realm of existence, this dimension of existence that is invisible, that is spiritual and incorporeal; and then there is the physical realm, in which we live and have our existence. In fact, we live in both worlds, essentially, because we’re designed for both realms.

So, there is the physical side of this and we say, Okay, is this the first time something like this has happened? The answer’s no. We look back in history 100 years: we had the Spanish flu; we had the plague of Europe. You know, we’ve had, so many different times throughout history, that a major disease that has killed a lot of people and spread. So this is something that has happened before. Okay, [COVID is happening] with greater intensity, so we’re filled with greater surprise.

So that’s where we begin: we begin in the physical, in the natural, to make sense of it, right? Then we begin to ask, “Are there any spiritual implications to this?” That’s when your theology, the lens, your worldview comes into play: “What is your theology? Is there a theology for pandemic?” I was talking to some of my professors in our school that we’re opening—the new school for Biblical theology—and we were talking about, is there a theology for pandemic? And the answer is no. Do we create one? Is there a need for theology for pandemic? And I have to say, this is real and essentially a normal part of fallen creation. And within that fallen creation, there’s sickness, there’s disease, there’s death, and it continues to manifest itself in ways that we don’t know, that we discover. Antibiotics, penicillin and things that have come out of it, are only 100 years old. So these things are still new to society, and new to the human experience, but the disease, the sickness and the death that has been there, all along.

So we say, “This is the result of fallen creation, and how we respond is a result of a fallen humanity. Because not only is creation broken and wounded—in the physical sense, the physical creation—but the participants in that creation, human beings especially, are also wounded, and broken, and disordered and dysfunctional. And it’s out of that woundedness and brokenness that we respond or react to the things that go on within a fallen world.” So you put all that together, you can understand the confusion.

Jesus said, “In the world, you will have tribulation.” That’s what He said, which means He was trying to prepare our expectations when it comes to living in a fallen creation. That way, we’re not shocked, surprised and we don’t panic. He said, “This is the reality that you’re living in, until I come back.”

Now, we believe in God’s promises. So we apply those promises to say that we’re protected, these things won’t come near our dwelling—we have the responsibility to exercise our faith. But the reality is that they still come. We can say “No weapon formed against this will prosper”, we can announce that and believe—we have a responsibility to believe—that it will come. But the reality is that there are times when it still comes; it hits us, and we have to deal with it. Jesus also said in that same text “Be of good cheer, because I’ve overcome the world.” It simply means that God’s going to do something about it. God’s measures, which He works everything in accordance with His will and purposes, and at the same time, He works everything out for our good, for those who love Him, so you have the working of our good together with the working of His will and purposes. All of that comes together, but we don’t know what “that” is. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 says “We know in part, we see in part, we prophesy in part”, you know what I mean? So our knowledge is partial. And we try to make sense of it through a lens that is more opaque than it is clear. And through partial knowledge and partial information, and we wrestle through.

Once we go through all of that, we then should find ourselves at the character of God: God is good, God is benevolent. That’s His nature; that’s consistent. So we cannot and must not say that God is the author of this pandemic, of this virus, to bring judgment or even to bring some good out of it. God does not need evil in order to do good. That’s theology that helps us, so when we settle that, then we ask the question: “Well, where is God in all of this? Where is He?”

I’m glad you ask! If God is good, we must now look for good that’s coming out of this situation. And I will tell you, around the world, the goodness of people, and their care for others, has blossomed like a whole new spring around the world. Here in America, the dedication of healthcare workers to put their lives at risk, to sacrifice their families, their time, their own health, to go into the epicentre (New York). We’ve had healthcare professionals come from other states into New York just to help in the hospitals; people who continue to go to work in the service industries to keep society moving. We see the food pantries, people reaching out to the homeless, trying to feed those in need, the churches engaged in humanitarian work. That’s where God is.

Jesus said, “I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was naked, You clothed me. I was in prison, you visited me.” Essentially, He was saying “You won’t find me only in the four walls of a church building. You will find Me where the needs are, where the people in need are. That’s where you’ll find Me. And if you meet Me there, now you’re ministering to Me, not just those people.” Because He identifies with the least of these in society, the most vulnerable within societies, the marginalized within society, the disenfranchised within society. He’s there. Jesus said only God is good, so if you see good and goodness in this world, then you know that you’re dealing with God. You’re seeing Him at work. So if you want to know where God is, that’s where He is in all this.

That’s so good!
I’m sorry, you get me inspired here and I start preaching! (laughs) Yeah, I think the church’s responsibility is to respond to what Jesus said—He positioned himself with those who are marginalized, the most vulnerable within a society. So the church’s responsibility is to respond to that. What is happening around the world, because of COVID, is giving us a bigger perspective—it forces us to examine our systems, our structures, our policies with regard to people groups, and how they congregate within a community in our society. So I think governments have to step back and re-evaluate their policies, their processes, their practices, their systems and structures.

And you know, that’s what I believe God calls revival. We use the word “revival” in in church-speak, where we dedicate a week or a month of services and invite guest speakers and guests, praise and worship leaders, and we have a wonderful time and we call it “revival”. But much of that is man-inspired, not God-inspired. It can be Holy Spirit-inspired, to revive a particular church or denomination from time to time.

But when we’re looking at a major revival that is God-inspired globally, we’re talking about a reawakening of passion, fervor and creativity towards purpose, and it forces a re-examination of purpose: what is the purpose of humanity, of government, of community, of business? We begin to re-evaluate human society and culture and ask the question: “What are our core values?”, “What are our cultural identities?” You know, this is going on around the world. So again, I believe that coming out of this is a God-inspired revival, because the churches, government, social institutions have had to rethink how they do business.

And that’s why I say this is a “reawakening of passion, fervor and creativity towards purpose”. Churches have had to be creative. The medical professional field has had to be creative; government has had to be creative. It’s really a stirring. And when I see that, I see God at work.

So, you know, if we would continue with the theme, you know, it results in personal and professional revival, re-evaluating of your personal life, your core values, your core purposes, your priorities or the reordering of your priority—because we begin to think about what’s really important. We won’t necessarily come out of this and become all become minimalist (laughs). No, human nature will continue to guide our appetites. But we begin to rethink our personal commitments, relational renewal; we begin to evaluate our relationships, we begin to have gratitude for the important people in our life; we become more thankful and understanding that every day is a gift from God, every day of life.

The prioritizing of relationships in our life: some relationships we made important and they really have not been important. In fact, we have to begin to think about what relationships are adding to our life and what relationships are taking away.

The renewal of purpose will begin: re-examine our passions, our vocation, occupation and our sense of mission in life. We begin to re-examine things. I’m beginning to see that: it’s happening here in America, it’s happening in Europe. It’s happening in Australia. It’s happening in Africa. It’s happening in Asia. I’m saying, wow, this is revival. God is reawakening passion, fervor, creativity towards purpose.

A member of Christian Cultural Center in action at the church’s Food Pantry, which provides prepacked groceries to the community. Photo: cccinfoorg Instagram

So what do you see is going to happen economically? Let’s talk about America, particularly because the numbers are huge. What do you think can be done about this situation?
We have 22 million Americans currently unemployed (Editor’s note: 43 million as of June 3, 2020). We haven’t seen those numbers ever. I mean, even during the Great Depression, in 1929, we did not have those numbers, that percentage of people who are unemployed. And it’s not like, once you’re unemployed that you’re going to very easily and readily go back to work. Some people who are now receiving unemployment benefits are better off than they were when they were working.

But I believe America is going to rebound. That’s who we are. That’s our Constitution. That’s our DNA. I think that it’s going to take a little longer than many want to believe it’s going to take time to recover from the effects of this virus, not only in terms of our physical health, but economically.

Like I said, it’s going to force a re-evaluation of our systems and structures, our policies, our processes and practices. What we’re looking at is not things returning to normal, but what we’re looking at is a new normal. What does that look like? And it’s not only true for the secular world, it’s true for the sacred world. Houses of worship, religious organizations—we’re being forced to rethink how we do what we do. And I think that’s wonderful. Because that’s how societies are purged, and how they move to the next level. Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that bears fruit, I’ll purge it” (John 15:2, KJV). All purging or purification is by way of crisis. And crisis doesn’t come to destroy us; crisis comes to reveal the cracks, it comes to reveal the deficiencies. It comes to expose the thing that we need to give attention to that we haven’t given attention to. Crisis is good!

You have always taught us the importance of having discernment. How should we discern the spiritual forces that are at work?
Well, the only truth has been given to us that is sacred is the Word of God. So we try to through our depth of knowledge of the Word and experience with the Word makes sense of what’s happening around us. And if I were to weigh in, based upon my experience of the Word of God, I would think about Jesus’s words where He said that you cannot serve God and Mammon—or money. And that’s interesting, because he speaks of devotion to either God or to money. He doesn’t place Satan opposite God as though that’s the competition. The competition in the lives of human society with God is really economic. Because the “daily bread” can reduce us to looking to satisfy our physical needs only. And that’s really what dominates human society: how to pay the rent, where we’re going to get our next meal.

So when I’m looking at things on a global level, I follow the money trail. I think about what’s happening economically, how it’s impacting the globe, how it’s impacting regions of the earth, how it’s impacting particular nations, especially those nations that have the greatest economic influence globally. So you know, things like unemployment, things like productivity—because even though the unemployment rate in our nation is very high right now, organizations and corporations who are providing certain needs that the society has right now in these conditions, they’re booming. They’re trying to hire new people to keep up with the demand. We’re talking about the food chain food stores, Amazon, some of these other organizations that are delivering goods and services. So I look at economics, what is the economic impact of pandemic, what is the economic impact upon the nations as a whole and the personal lives of individual.

So many churches have different viewpoints on how to see the coronavirus. Many feel it’s an opportune time to win the lost, others are talking about the End Times. What is your view?
Eschatologically, during every major event, those who are believing in the imminent return of Christ, the Rapture and Armageddon, the Tribulation, are going to exploit the opportunity; they’re going to come up with some idea that cannot really be Scripturally held up [that this is the Second Coming].

Jesus said that no man knows the hour, but there are signs along the way, there are prophetic indicators that emanate from the character of the culture. I think that as we become more intensely the global village, which forces us to depend on our social unity and our technology, those are the greater indicators as to where we are on God’s prophetic calendar and His return. And we’re not quite there yet. Because although we tend to be a global village now, there are still regional differences that have not been broken down yet. There’s still cultural differences that are not going to change anytime soon. Does this move us closer? Absolutely. Is this the Rapture? No, you and I are still talking to each other. We’re still here.

But it was the social unity, the trust in their social unity and technological advancements that united people in Genesis 11, around the Tower of Babel. [They were of] one mind, one language, they were able to make bricks—that’s technology. So trusting in their social unity and their technology is what united them. I think we’re going to see more and more of that, and that’s for me the indicator.

Using human nature as an indicator is not good because we’ve experienced the advancements of civilization over thousands of years, but human nature has remained the same. That’s the only constant. So we can’t judge by pornography and poverty: these things have been consistent and are the result of fallen human nature.

But we can judge by how societies are interacting with each other, the unification of society, the advancements of technology, which allow or make convenient the dispossession of God from society. And that’s why, we as a human society, have failed to evict God, because we’re essentially spiritual beings. We have aspects of who we are that are not physical: reason is not physical. Love is not physical. Faith, hope, these are not physical things. So, we are spiritual by nature, and there’s a close relationship between body, soul and spirit. But this is the reality. So, I think watching the advancements of technology and the unification of the global village socially, eventually politically— those are the things we have to watch.

So number one: this is not God’s judgment on us. Scripture is clear: if God’s going to bring judgment on humanity is not going to kill His own people in the process. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”—it’s not “God so hated the world that He murdered His only Son.” Sometimes our theology reflects the latter, not the former (laughs). So I don’t see this loving God as someone who’s mean and angry with human society.

I’m working on a book called Casualties Of War: Humanity In The Light of Cosmic Conflict, where I deal with spiritual warfare and fallen humanity and society.

What do you discern that God is doing through all this?*
The wonderful passage where the prophet Isaiah, speaking to Israel at a time when they were facing captivity, said, “Behold, I do a new thing.” I believe that at times like this, God does something new. And He wastes nothing. So He’ll take this and move it into the direction of His will, His purposes for human society and for the church, the people of God. So I say, get excited! I say, get creative, be filled with passion forever! Be innovative, and see what we can do to move things forward into the future.

There’s going to be a new normal, we’re not going to go back to things as usual, business as usual. No, things have changed. My staff, me, our church, we’ve become wiser in terms of what we can do towards greater efficiency and effectiveness. I think that situations like this reduce us to what is truly essential, to what truly matters, because we are a consumer world—it’s about adding, adding, adding, getting, getting, getting. And something like this really stripped all of that away, and we realized, “Wait, I really didn’t need all of that.”

Dr Bernard (right) and his son Pastor Jamaal Bernard sharing at CCC’s online Sunday service on Facebook Live

Okay, the most important question of all: When will we see you back at City Harvest?*
Oh my goodness, wherever I’m invited, I’m happy to be there! So, we look forward to the lifting of the bans and changes in protocol; to when life can open up and we become more functional, especially in terms of travel. So, as soon as possible, I look forward to being with you. You know, it’s wonderful that in spite of the distancing, we are so close, we are so connected, and thank God for technology. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve developed all of this technology so rapidly within the last 10 years. So here we are, and I think that God is infusing knowledge and releasing it into the earth, to prepare us for things that He knows are coming our way.

 

A GREETING FROM DR A.R. BERNARD
City Harvest Church this is Dr Bernard. First, let me thank you for all of your love your prayers for me when you heard that I was battling COVID-19—it was a horrific experience that I wish on no one. But I’m glad to be alive, glad to be talking to you, glad to be stirred with passion, fervor and creativity towards the future. This is a time for us to be revived to reawaken inside of us, the God inside of us and the gifts that He’s placed in our lives. So I pray that you do that. And until I see you—which I hope will be soon—I love you, Pastor Karen loves you. We at CCC appreciate you and thank you for our partnership in the Kingdom of God. God bless.


* These two questions and answers were extracted from a second interview with Dr Bernard conducted on May 23, 2020.

This story was updated on June 11, 2020.



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