Exposed by the Pandemic
Our church, Gathering Stones Calvary Chapel, turned five years old during the 2020 pandemic. This is not how I imagined celebrating five years of Gospel sharing, spiritual unity, worship, provision, and service to our community and one another. We are isolated, separated by miles and mandates... waiting.
On March 13, 2020, the news came that all schools were closing due to a virus called COVID 19. Washington State soon enacted on a “Shelter in Place” order.
I never thought that a virus short of a zombie- related apocalypse would halt the giant of our American Civilization, and the world, but it did. Everything changed; how we shop, where we go, what we wear, available supplies, jobs, gatherings, schooling our children, work…
The media did not help the situation and things escalated. A polar census grew, and I watched the church begin to divide. The conversation stopped being about the Gospel.
People were scared. People feared the virus, feared their rights being stripped, people were scared of how they were going to pay their bills and feed their families as their income dried up.
“No, go out!”
We have watched the politicians attacking each other and taking advantage of the crisis to further their political clout, medical professionals contradicting one another, more fiction than fact being reported, countries pointing fingers at each other, conspiracy theories, and every one’s personal convictions conflicting… it is no wonder that in eight short weeks America is ready to implode socially!
This pandemic has exposed many flaws in our American living, in our government, and in the church.
Is this really a surprise? It should not be according to Gods Word.
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
I am looking hard for Jesus’ Gospel in our reactions. Do not get me wrong; Scripture is clear that Christians are to stand for what is right Biblically.
Let’s talk service to our country since the conversation often leads there. My grandparents fought in WWII. My Dad served in the Airforce for decades working at the Pentagon and other places devoting his life to our country. My father in law served in the Navy during Vietnam and after, and his dad and mom served WWII and did his in laws (Navy and Army), my nephew (National Guard), cousins (Airforce, Marines), and brothers (Army) have worn the uniform… We bleed red, white, and blue. My young children know the Pledge of Allegiance and respect our flag, troops, and laws. My youngest wants to be a Marine. My wife and I have had conversations about dying for our country should foreign enemies
invade... we would. I am sure you would also.
Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
The COVID 19 virus has exposed a spiritual virus that lives inside the American Christian.
Do American Christians have the right to lose sight of our primary mission to be Jesus’ witnesses because large church gatherings are being inconvenienced right now? (Acts 1:8)
Galatian 5:13 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
We are being stirred by our emotions to act… we must ask ourselves if we are acting in the Spirit’s power or in sin? We are sensitive because we have bought into our freedoms and rights.
This isn't Heaven, it's Earth.
Galatians 5: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Yes, we have the blessing to live in America, but we are Christians first and foremost.
Romans 13: 1-2 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Our call as Christians who live in America is to uphold God’s Word.
Two-fold action is required. First, we can stand in spiritual boldness, but we must also stand in the image of Jesus. Second, God’s Word is truth. Part of God’s redemptive plan for all governments is that they will turn their back on Him.
How do we stand then? First, our government has not told us that we cannot worship.
Many are referencing the Biblical Daniel. He was told he could not bow and pray to God. He did it anyway and faced the lion’s den. Daniel’s story has components like ours, but we need to be careful not to take it out of context.
The Jews in his time were not allowed to meet in large gatherings. They could not return to Jerusalem as per their law for certain feasts, and had many other restrictions placed on them that Daniel obeyed. Let me emphasize that Daniel obeyed many of the restrictions.
Daniel made a stand on not eating the food offered to idols and being told not to pray to anyone but their leader.
The moment we are told that we are not allowed to pray, worship, or proclaim the name of Jesus, do not mistake my writing, I will defy that order because it goes directly against God’s Word.
It is interesting that the next large gathering for the Jews coming out of Babylonian captivity would not happen until they returned to build the city.
Decades went by...
To compare not sitting in seats in a large auditorium to worship for a few months to the oppression of Daniel is not acceptable.
Our local government said that during Phase 1 of re-opening the church can gather in drive-up form. The same form as the graduating class of 2020 will have to do. They will not get to wear their cap and gown to celebrate or walk the graduation stroll like the last 59 years of graduates at our school have done.
I am so encouraged at the resolve in our young adults as they compose themselves with Christlike behavior during great personal loss!
Back to Daniel, Israel had sinned in God’s eyes because they had turned their backs on Him as a nation. This was a direct result of their “Nation of God” mentality… similar to the America’s tradition of "One Nation Under God."
We became comfortable in our houses, our church communities, and forgot our deeper purpose.
Have we lost our personal relationship with Jesus? Does the church know how to reflect Him?
In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus accused the church of losing its first love. Is that speaking to us?
We get angry when we are asked to not meet in large groups, stay home, and wear a mask.
Why fight today, when yesterday we could have been fighting to restore prayer back into schools, railing against liberal sex education for 5 year olds, human trafficking and pornography, for the Biblical definition of marriage, and to stop abortions happening by the millions… but we choose to be angry now?
We are guilty of being activists when it hits home. We are so busy living our personal lives under the banner of a Christian Nation that we lost our purpose.
The pandemic exposes our selfishness.
Jesus did not have a congregation of hundreds every week. He consistently met with twelve people. Out of that twelve people, He turned the world upside down under a truly oppressive and murderous Roman government.
"Be wise as serpents and yet gentle as doves!" Take this time as families to dive into God for yourselves, take this season to remember what a blessing it is to meet as a church, take this time, fellow Pastors, to see the importance of small group ministry, re-evaluate your priorities, look at what distractions and comforts have taken your heart, and give your life back to God. Do not feel condemned but rejoice at forgiveness!
Keep Priorities Straight
1. God 2. Family 3. Ministry 4. Work/Government
God bless each of you in Jesus, Pastor Dwayne