COVID-19 is now all the news, all the time. Many of the articles and newscasts appear designed to inspire fear and create panic. Dire predictions dominate, not only of people getting sick and dying, but of shortages and an economic depression. With all the closures and cancellations affecting us daily, it’s easy to buy in, to start building our own hoard of masks, disinfectant, and whatever else we determine we can’t live without, and to succumb to anxiety.
But wait. God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still in control. He still loves us. Worry is the opposite of faith—a way of telling God we don’t trust Him to care for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps all this disruption is a reminder that we’re not the ones running the show. That we need to keep an eternal perspective. Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to love one another.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found at the very end of Matthew. It gets me though the hard times, the good times, and all the times in between. It reminds me of my source of comfort, joy, and power. You’ll find Matthew 28:20b at the end of the Great Commission, where Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Last week was our church’s annual SERVE Gala. The staff went all out to let our church volunteers know they’re loved and appreciated, and each of our church’s five campuses singled out a Volunteer of the Year. It was fun, heartfelt, an excellent way to say thank you for all the time and effort members of our congregations invest in our church.
Pete and I were there because we, too, are church volunteers, helping out in a variety of ways. I believe that every churchgoer should serve their church body, according to their gifts and abilities. (Check out Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12.)
But there was something missing, something I rarely see mentioned when it comes time to talk about serving: while helping out at church is important, not all serving should happen in the church.
“Please give three references.” I was helping someone I’d recently met to fill out a job application. She’d already listed her contact information, work experiences, and skills. Now she just had to list three people who knew her well, and she could turn in the form.
I figured that she didn’t need my assistance with this part, so I moved on to helping another person. But later, when I reviewed the woman’s application, I realized that, for her, this had been the most challenging question of all. Yes, she had listed three people, but they were people I knew well—and I knew they didn’t know her at all.
Do you want to rent an apartment? Buy an airline ticket? Get a date? If you do—and you’re a citizen of China—you’d better have a good social credit score.
Four years ago, the Chinese government announced a new system with the goal of “raising the awareness for integrities and the level of credibility within society.” In other words, the government wants more control of the economy and the population. What a surprise.
We were at our church’s Good Friday service, just a few weeks ago. Pete and I arrived “less early” than we usually do and found our usual spots already taken, so we ended up sitting further back than normal. No big deal, I thought. But as the service opened with the worship our church is noted for, I discovered that sitting in the back was a much bigger deal than I had anticipated.
Here’s a little quiz for you. When a Christian is caught doing something wrong, we should:
Post it on Facebook
Alert the press
Talk to them gently, one on one
I wish the church was full of perfect people. I wish none of us ever did anything wrong—that no Christian ever had an affair, or watched pornography. Never cheated on their taxes or fiddled with the accounting. Never hated, or was slef-righteous, or ignored a person in need.
American Christianity is corrupt? We’ve abandoned the gospel? This is alarming! I read further…
The Boston Declaration, condemning the abuse of the Christian faith by many conservatives today, was just written, signed and released by over 300 hundred Christian theologians attending the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, an annual meeting of nearly 10,000 professionals in religion. … [T]he presenters were clear that white American Evangelicalism is in a crisis, a crisis of its own making. It has abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our country has been pounded—fires to the left of us, hurricanes to the right. This is nothing new, although having so many disasters happen at the same time sure makes it seem that way. As a Christian, my initial response is, how can I help?
The first thing we can do is pray. For one, prayer is something we can do right away, and keep on doing as long as the situation demands. And two, prayer releases God’s power and resources—so much more than ours! Ask God how He would like you to pray for these things. Our first inclination is usually to pray the problems away, but God may have something different in mind. (That’s a topic for another post someday.)
Are you a prophet? Does God work miracles of healing through you? Perhaps the Spirit inspires your teaching or preaching. According to 1 Corinthians 12, these are just some of the gifts the Spirit bestows upon us, “for the common good.”
I know that some faiths believe that the Spirit no longer gives gifts. I disagree, but it’s a familiar controversy. But I was recently surprised by someone insisting that spiritual gifts are also given to unbelievers, those who don’t have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. I had never even considered this possibility. Could it be true?