The Anti-Mask League

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 – What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (10) Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

This post is not intended to make a political statement or to make an argument for “masks” or “no masks.” I’m just getting that out there from the beginning.

I was reading several articles this morning about the Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919, and it amazed me how things just don’t change. On one side the anti-mask league believed they were defending their liberties, while the other side called them “mask slackers.” Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes are so true when he wrote that “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Wherever we land in this debate, we must always remember that God’s glory must be sought above all things. Also we must not take some issue like masks and let it become another issue over which we as Christians wrangle. Let’s not press our liberties over our brother’s best interest, and may we not assign the wrong motives to someone who walks into a store without a mask.

Romans 14:7-8 – For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Galatians 5:13-15 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Here are some articles for your consideration that I found interesting on the intense debate a century ago about masks and the Spanish Flu.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article244267462.html

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article241614086.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/san-francisco-anti-mask-league-1918-spanish-flu-pandemic-2020-5

https://escholarship.org/uc/item/5q91q53r

Encouragement for the Graduates

2020 was not the graduation year our graduates were expecting. They have had to deal with a year that was far different that they were anticipating. The class of 2020 will have a story to tell that is unlike any previous class.

We are proud of you seniors, whether you are graduating from high school or from college. Well done! And great job on being flexible and making the best of your senior year in the midst of the Covid-19 chaos. Although you have not had the year you wished for, we know that you will take these challenges and trials and use them to develop you even further in your growth as a man or woman.

The encouragement for you today is to look at the various men and women of the Bible who went through big changes in their lives, many of them away from their homes, and most of them in some great life-transforming events. Look at these men and women and live to imitate them.

  • Be a Solomon who asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3)! We all need help and advice sometimes.
  • Be a Daniel and a Moses who were educated in the world but did not become worldly (Daniel 1:4,8,17-20; Acts 7:22; Hebrews 11:24-26)! Daniel was a Dean’s list type student, but he did it without caving in to the culture.
  • Be an Esther who stood up for others even when it could have cost Esther her life. She saw her purpose (Esther 4:12-16). Use your talents and positions in life to look out for the helpless and hopeless.
  • Be a Joseph and stand for sexual purity in mind and in body (Genesis 39)! Joseph showed us that being sexual pure is not only possible, but God will richly bless you for keeping yourself pure!
  • Be a Jacob and see that God is with you wherever you go, and He will keep His promises to you. Commit like Jacob to making the Lord your God (Genesis 28:10-22)! Jacob was on the run for his life, but was shown by God that God will always be with him.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27)

Some thoughts about hope

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:22-25
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. God’s grace has granted us access by faith into the grace of God in which we base our lives now. That salvation and that relationship with Jesus leads to rejoicing in hope of the final glory that will be brought upon us as God’s children in heaven.

We rejoice in sufferings because they produce hope. Just as Paul said, suffering produces endurance. We learn to stay with God and depend upon Him through suffering. The endurance we develop transforms our character as we grow in Christ through trials. And as our character grows, our hope grows with it.

Hope does not put us to shame, because we have God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We will not be disappointed, ever, when it comes to our hope in Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given into the heart of each Christian as the “guarantee” of our salvation. All of the other things we hope for in life can and most likely will disappoint, but never God’s Holy Spirit and never our hope in Him.

Our hope is the groaning inwardly for the redemption of our bodies and the completion of our adoption as sons into heaven with God. Can we even begin to imagine what it will be like to have God say to you and me, “Enter in…well done!”?

In this hope we are saved. Salvation in Christ and the hope of heaven why we became Christians. Hope for glory in heaven with God is what sustains us after we are saved.

Our hope is in what we do not see (our eternal redemption), but we patiently wait for it. This hope should calm our spirits and settle us into a patient waiting for being glorified with Christ. So no matter what may come or what we may endure, the hope we have in Christ is to be our focus so that we can endure the trials of today with a quiet confidence.

Connection

Thanks Andy Harrison for sharing this article!

Our Shepherds made the decision to no longer meet physically because of the Covid-19 outbreak on March 13th.  That means that we have been coming together virtually since Sunday, March 15th.

Over the last few weeks our use of technology has evolved and gotten more sophisticated.  We started out with just a live stream on YouTube which was recorded so members could view later as well.  It was pretty straight forward and allowed us to deliver information but there was no interaction.

We then tried out Zoom, setting up a few practice runs and having a prayer meeting on Friday, March 27th.  I was amazed at the response.  It had been about two weeks since our Christian family had been together physically.  The excitement generated by just seeing each other and waving and saying “hi” was incredible.  We have used Zoom for Sundays and Wednesdays ever since and have found our time together to be much more interactive.  I’m sure this is probably similar to your experiences in some way.

One thing that this entire experience has brought to my attention is the wisdom of our God in designing the local body.  I have felt the need to connect with our Christian family in this location more strongly than ever before.  I don’t believe I realized how much I needed the weekly routine of joining together and talking and hugging and looking into my brother’s and sister’s eyes.  I hope that when this is all over I will remember this feeling every Sunday morning when I’m struggling to get my family of six dressed and in the car so we can head to the building.

Last night, during our Wednesday night bible study, one of our elderly members got connected on Zoom for the first time.  She is in an assisted living facility and ,like most people in that situation, her connection with the outside world has been even more restricted then usual.  The pure joy on our sister’s face when she saw our family’s faces and heard our voices was something I hope I never forget.  She was thrilled to be a part of our virtual coming together and seemed to be overwhelmed at, once again, being connected with her family.  Over and over she kept saying thankyou to the staff member who had helped her get connected.

This longing I have to be with my Christian family here, that longing I saw in the face of our elderly sister on Zoom, it should just fuel our desire to go home that much more.  I believe, if we allow ourselves, we can use this experience to get the smallest taste of what our reunion in heaven will be like one day.   There will be a day when all the saints from all generations gather around the throne and sing songs of praise to our Father and our Savior.  What a glorious day that will be!

Stay strong.  Stay connected.  Let your light shine!

Has the Church Building Become Our Basket

Has the church building become our basket under which we have hidden our lights? I heard this idea posed in a sermon years ago by Jason Hardin. It is a great question. Read this passage about what Jesus wants us to be today in the world.

Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We are salt, but if the salt doesn’t fill out it’s purpose, it’s taste, then it becomes only good for throwing down on the road for people to walk on. We are light, but what happens when we cover that light with a basket? That light is not filling out its purpose. People can’t benefit from the salt and light if the salt doesn’t taste like salt and the light doesn’t shine because it is hidden under a basket.

Have our church buildings become that basket under which we shine our light? It is really easy to shine the light at the church building. But what about at home? What about at work? What about showing that light with our neighbors and friends? Do we cover that light the rest of the week?

If we are going to work during this pandemic, either remotely or physically, are we shining that light?

Now many are confined to homes. Most folks aren’t “going to church” now. It is a sad time, but it is also a time for reflection. It’s a time to look into the mirror. God doesn’t dwell in buildings made with hands (Acts 17:24), He dwells within the Christian. People call the area in the church building where we worship the “sanctuary.” God’s throne and God’s holy presence is the “sanctuary.” And our hearts are supposed to be that “sanctuary.” Our gatherings as Christians, no matter where they may happen, are that “sanctuary.” The holy temple of God is not at a church building, it is within the human hearts of those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.

John 4:21 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

It is a time to rethink that far too many have put way too much focus on a physical location. Jesus reminded the woman at the well of this fact, God’s people can worship God in any location. God’s people are to shine his light in every location. God’s people are to be that salt in every location. Let’s make sure that all of us are being that salt and light in every circumstance, not just at a church building.

When David Was in The Cave

Psalms 142:1-7
A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer. With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Today’s thought is from David, when “he was in the cave.” Was David in the cave because he decided to go backpacking for a week? No? Was he doing some scientific study? No. Was he lost? No.

David was running for his life.

1 Samuel 22:1 – David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.

If you read 1 Samuel 18-21, it looked pretty hopeless for David. King Saul was commanding everyone, including his own son (Jonathan) to kill David. King Saul tried to use his own daughters as bait to have David killed.

David was in forced social quarantine. He was isolated. Now, to be clear, in the next verse of 1 Samuel 22 we see that 400 people came to him. But I want to show that while David was running for his life and isolated in the cave, he wrote this beautiful passage – Psalm 142.

Meditate on this Psalm today. What can you learn from Psalm 142 while you are in your own “cave” today?

Knowing When to Hide

Proverbs 27:12 – The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Here is an interesting thought from the Proverbs. God says that there is wisdom in seeing danger coming, and then doing something to protect ourselves against it. The “simple” according to this verse are those who just keep going on and then they pay for not taking caution.

We’ve seen this mentality everywhere in history: with hurricanes, economic downturns, bad relationships, diseases, etc. Someone warns you that trouble is coming, and you blow it off, and then what happens? Trouble! For example, a woman is warned about a toxic man before she ever gets into that relationship. She disregards the warning, and then shortly after she is married she realizes what a horrible mistake she made. She didn’t see the danger coming. Another example is those who are told a massive hurricane is coming and they do not evacuate their homes but stay there by the shore. Then comes the devastation and they are in a horrible circumstance and in need of rescue.

I don’t believe the passage is saying we are to be scaredy-cats, running around afraid of the next problem. That’s not what God wants for us. But on the other hand, we are not to be the kind of people who just scoff at any warning that is given to us. We don’t go around saying, “I have faith, and that means it will be ok,” when we blow off clear warnings of problems coming. That is not faith…that is putting God to a test. True faith and wisdom means that we see bad things coming and take reasonable precautions.

Those Who Were Scattered

Acts 8:3-4
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word

In the days of Acts 2-7, the church at Jerusalem was huge. They were growing by the thousands. But then persecution arose, led by Saul of Tarsus (whom we know as Paul). The church was scattered everywhere. They could not all meet together as they were used to. Things had changed. Significantly. Times were dark and scary. But what did the church do?

They went everywhere preaching the word!

We are at a time where we cannot meet as we did before. Things have changed, even if for a short time. Times for many are dark and scary. But what is the call for the church today? Reach out to help others. Reach out to encourage others. Reach out to teach others. These are life changing events for many. Here is an opportunity for us to share the good news with others.

Use those phones and tablets. Take advantage of the time you have right now to say words of encouragement to others who need it. Find someone you know around you who could use words of God to help them today, and share those good words with him or her.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Hebrews 3:13
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Why did they suffer?

Luke 13:1-5
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus used the adversity and pain of his time to teach others. There where Galileans who were killed by Pilate, and their blood was mingled with the sacrifices. Awful. Disgusting. Cruelty. There were 18 people who were killed when a tower fell upon them. Sad. Painful. A catastrophe.

What did Jesus do during these times of pain in His community? He used it to teach. Jesus asked a question in this passage that I believe is worth our notice. Were those people who suffered worse sinners than others? Did these people die because they were more horrible in their sin than the other people around them in the community?

What is Jesus’ clear answer? No! These crises did not happen because of sin. It just happened. That is something we today need to caution ourselves against, to try to take something from the Old Testament out of context to say that the Coronavirus is God’s plague upon America because of our sinfulness. Be careful. It may just be that sickness is spreading because we are living in a world that is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3).

Are those people who are dying from Covid-19 worse sinners than those who survive? I believe Jesus would give the same answer…No.

But what did Jesus really want them and us to focus on? Repentance! He acknowledged that all of us need to repent, regardless of whether we are facing adversity or not. Everyone needs to change his ways. Period. Jesus is like, “Don’t focus on who is guilty for this temporary suffering, focus on your own guilt of sin and repent or you will face eternal suffering!”

So, as we look at this current suffering caused by Covid-19, let’s focus on the real problem, our sin. I may get the Coronavirus, I may not. I pray like the rest of you that this awful disease goes away. But I know that all of us will die in our sins at a 100 percent rate if we do not repent and come to Jesus.

Whoever Gathered Much

But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
(Exodus 16:18)

I’m in no way wanting to minimize the Coronavirus, nor do I want to comment on all the steps made lately to contain it. That’s not the point of this article.

But look at the store shelves. The panic has set in and everyone is trying to stock up on toilet paper, masks, hand sanitizer, vitamin C, meat, etc. The stores can’t keep stuff on the shelves.

Then we hear reports of people who bought up all the hand sanitizer and are selling in on Amazon for up to 70 dollars a bottle. Or the guy selling toilet paper out of the trunk of his car for a high price. Some people would applaud folks like this for being capitalists and opportunists. God would tell them they are being selfish and are hurting the poor.

When we go to the store in such panic and buy enough toilet paper to last 10 years, and then the elderly couple who comes in to the store later can’t buy any, what does that say? I’m confident that there are many good hearted folks out there who are sharing what they have with others, but I don’t think anyone can doubt that the store shelves being bare is a sign of many folks having a me-first attitude.

While there are principles in the Scripture that teach it is wise to have storehouses of supplies in our house (Proverbs 15:6; 21:20), there are other principles like the one we see in Exodus 16 that show God wants those who gather a lot to share with those who have a little. The Israelites were commanded by God to gather only enough manna for the day.  Those who gathered too much were to share with those who didn’t gather enough. And if you kept any overnight (except for the Sabbath Day), it bred worms and stank the next morning. It was a valuable lesson God was teaching his people.

This concept is repeated in the New Testament. Paul quotes Exodus 16 when writing to the Corinthians about sharing with others.

For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
(2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

A matter of fairness. Paul said that word twice in this passage. Fairness. Your abundance should supply their need at this time, and then later someone else’s abundance will supply your need. Regardless of what happens, and no matter what the culture does, God’s people are looking to share what they have with others who are in need, so that there will be fairness. This concept is not just for kindergarten kids at recess, it is for people who go to the store to shop. Remember this concept.