Politics. It is deeply divisive, even amongst family and friends, including God’s family. Even these fallible thoughts on my part could be divisive, although they are not shared in order to do such.
So why do I share them? I suppose it may be the same reason you share yours. Because we both think that our thoughts have merit. And they do, both yours and mine. But ultimately, I want thoughts to not merely be human-inspired, but God-aligned, both yours and mine.
So recently, as I was reading The Book, Jesus’ words jumped off the page of Scripture when He said this:
“Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”” John 18:36
Before we analyze the thoughts above, let’s set the context. Jesus, the very Creator of all there is, including what we see and don’t see (earthly kingdoms and rulers as well), was standing before an earthly ruler, Pontius Pilate. This governor was no spotless man. He was ruthless, corrupt and evil. A few weeks earlier, Jesus had commented about Pilate killing some Jews worshipping in the Temple (Luke 13:1), but notice that Jesus did not render an opinion about what was likely a ruthless act by a guilty ruler. (But that’s a whole separate discussion.)
So here Jesus is, standing before a miserable man. Think for a minute of the most immoral American President in your mind. Pilate was worse.
Now consider that the God of the universe is being judged by this man, and God does not delve into a litany of accusations or pronouncements about Pilate’s sins and evil actions. Rather, Jesus (God in the flesh) simply bears witness to the Truth, to a power that is greater than any earthly one. Jesus simply points Pilate to that which is this man’s only Hope and Salvation: Truth itself, as Jesus asserted of Himself previously (“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.”)
Now, back to the statement Jesus made to Pilate, when the Roman governor asked Jesus why he was being put on trial.
Jesus simply answered with these facts:
My Kingdom is not an earthly one
If it were, my followers would fight an earthly battle on earthly terms
Again, My Kingdom is not of this world
So Jesus had the ultimate opportunity, to simply educate Pilate and all the hypocritical religious leaders observing this kangaroo court, about His rights, His authority, and His greater power. But Jesus had an even greater audience than those in attendance that day at His death sentencing. The entire Christian world for the next 2,000 years would read and witness how Jesus responded to an unjust ruler and religious establishment. And what did Jesus do?
Jesus humbled Himself to the temporal earthly powers, that could never transform the heart. And instead, Jesus pointed billions of men and women since that day, including you and me, to a greater calling: to The (eternal) Kingdom versus a (temporal) kingdom. The former offers heart transformation. The latter offers little to nothing, except possibly political frustration, feuding, dissension, and heartache.
But this is not the end of the story. The first followers (the disciples who became apostles and the Founding Fathers of our Faith) learned well the lesson Jesus taught in that brief exchange with Pilate. They finally understood that there was no need to fret over their earthly rulers, or to dedicate their hopes and dreams to establishing a government to their personal liking. Rather, they committed their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to the only Constitution that truly mattered, the living Word of God. And for the rest of their days on this little temporal globe, they resisted the temptation to go back to their former lives where they grumbled about the political realities of their day. In place of that, they pursued the spiritual Truths that Jesus had taught them, and lived before them, for three years.
And the rest is history. We don’t have a record of a great government that was established by these men. Nor do we have an example of kingdom victories and great political movements. But we do have a record of a world transformed through a simple message, and strategy:
Share the gospel, one life at a time. And as the heart is transformed, souls are saved for eternity, marriages are healed, families are reunited, communities reinvigorated, and at times, entire nations are awakened (if God wills).
But it starts with “The Kingdom” instead of a kingdom. And it results in permanent transformation, in place of short-term “wins” that are quickly lost with the next political skirmish.
So, if you ask me, perhaps this is the lesson Jesus was teaching as His life hung in the balance. He could have “won” the political battle that day, but an entire world would have lost. So He challenged us to:
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
Unchartered waters. This is where I would suggest America is as a nation and people, as we continue to sail onward into the stormy waters ahead. While our world has previously faced pandemics and world wars, which took many times more lives, never before have we found ourselves facing such an overwhelming set of problems, with such a lack of wise leadership to solve them.
Regardless of your belief about the cause or response to COVID-19, the reality is that we are facing dramatic challenges, involving public health, rising deaths, political dissension, racial unrest, economic crisis, overbearing debt, collapsing businesses, and so much more. Voices are competing to describe the varying explanations for these challenges. But with each viewpoint comes armies of opinions who line up against those with alternative perspectives. The further we navigate into these murky waters, the deeper the lines are drawn that separate us from our fellow citizens, neighbors, church members, and even our families.
So who is right? What is true? How can we know? Who has the answers?
As I’ve considered all this, I was reminded of a story from ancient times where an answer was being sought by a once great king. This king had a dream that greatly troubled him, but for which he had no explanation. All of his advisors and political allies could not interpret the dreams. Yet there was one man, held unjustly in the king’s prison, who possessed supernatural abilities, enabling him to interpret the dreams of others. This man we know to be Joseph. And the king was Pharaoh.
The time that the dreams predicted would be unprecedented: a season of great prosperity, followed by another season of even greater famine. But without Joseph, the king would never have understood the warnings that were mercifully offered by God Himself to the pagan ruler.
In the years before the sovereign appointment between Pharaoh and Joseph, God had taken Joseph through his own season of trouble and turmoil. This season took him from being the favored son of his father, to being sold into slavery and ultimately ending up in prison, stemming from a false accusation. But all these personal trials were in fact preparing and refining Joseph for what would be his time on center stage.
Joseph responded with humility and trust to the God who allowed, or caused, his dire circumstances. As a result, God elevated Joseph to a position that was second only to the king himself, and blessed Joseph beyond measure. But the blessing Joseph received was not only for his own good. Rather, because of Joseph’s response, his humility, in the midst of great injustice, brought blessings to literally millions of men and women and their families, as the famine descended on the land.
Now fast forward several thousand years to the present. Consider that our nation is facing challenges and struggles that are not only existential to our nation as we know it, but to date they have resulted in the tragic deaths of 100,000+ of our citizens. While we search for answers to the COVID-19 virus, there are no answers for all the other societal ailments that COVID continues to expose.
So the question I am led to ask is “Where is America’s Joseph?” Is God preparing someone to come to the aid of our nation or to our community? Is God still in the business of humbling men and women so that, as we come to the end of ourselves, God can use us as instruments to bless others?
While we as Americans love to focus our attention at the highest levels, beginning in Washington DC, I believe we may be casting our focus in the wrong place. We tend to prefer big solutions to big problems. Thus we start with a top-down approach.
But while Jesus walked this earth, He did not prioritize his efforts in reforming from the top-down. Rather, Jesus’ approach was generally one person at a time. He called his twelve disciples, one person at a time. Jesus healed the sick, one person at a time. He raised the dead, one person at a time. And so on. Yes, he did teach to multitudes, even 5,000 or more at a time. But that was not in the hopes of seeking to bring political reform for Rome, or even Israel. Jesus was always focused on an inside-out solution. He focused on the hearts of people, one at a time.
So is God preparing you to serve Him in a manner that will bring blessing and the message of salvation to others? If so, it may include struggles, even monumental unjust ones. It may require refining that can only happen in the crucible of life’s fiery trials. But if you respond as Joseph did, maintaining your trust in the One who stands with you in the midst of those trials, you can be certain that God has greater works ahead for you. And who knows but that He may be preparing you “for such a time as this.”
Recently I was watching a video where Pastor Tony Walliser recounted his own testimony of personal struggles and doubt that he had growing up. They continued on as an adult, even as he became pastor of Silverdale Baptist Church here in Chattanooga. Because of these struggles, Tony would regularly default to a feeling of inferiority and doubt about his ability to serve God. Yet, God used the story of Moses to teach Tony that it wasn’t about him and his limited abilities, but rather it is about God, and His infinite abilities. The following verse was the one that God used to confirm this truth to Tony:
“The Lord replied, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you in the presence of all your people. I will perform miracles that have never been performed anywhere in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people around you will see the power of the Lord —the awesome power I will display for you.” Exodus 34:10
I cannot answer the question “Where is America’s Joseph?” I hope God is preparing him for us today. But whether God is or isn’t, you and I can still learn from the story of Joseph, and how he responded as God used difficulties and trials to prepare the shepherd boy for one of the most powerful positions in the world at that time.
So whether God is preparing you to “save America” or simply to stand ready to serve your family or community, we can know this about our God: “Little is much when offered to the Lord.”
First, let me say I DO NOT condone the rioting and violence that is occurring across our nation, following the murder of George Floyd at the knee of white police officer Derek Chauvin. As someone who values that Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” I believe there are other ways we must respond, even in the face of gross injustice. But I also understand that not everyone embraces Jesus’ teachings or His example in this regard, and even if we do, we can all become overwhelmed at gross injustice and feel like our only responses to such are protests and/or violence.
Last night I broke a long standing rule I placed in effect several years ago, and I watched the news for a couple hours, viewing the rioting and protests Live as they were happening. In the two cities I watched, Washington DC and NYC, the vast majority of the protesters/agitators were WHITE, not black.
As I watched the rioting, one announcer made the point that our nation’s founding flowed out of the violent responses of its citizens to unjust laws by its government. Most white Americans celebrate and applaud our nation’s founding fathers who rejected authority, and fought back, violently, to protest and overthrow an unjust government. The Boston Tea Party was one such rebellion. I should note that the organization I founded eleven years ago in Chattanooga, took its name from that act of rebellion and violence.
When I led the Chattanooga Tea Party for nearly a decade (which I no longer do, and I no longer consider the Tea Party movement to represent me), I and other leaders often took solace in these words that were integral to our nation’s founding:
“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…reduces them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”
While our organization, and none of the other liberty movements I was associated with, ever took up arms, or resorted to violence, I can assure you that there were many in the movement who were more than prepared to resort to violence had the government stepped across an imaginary line. If you doubt this, then explain why it was that gun purchases were skyrocketing during those years? The consistent interpretation that conservatives held was that the 2nd Amendment was not for hunting or sporting but was to protect oneself from a wayward and unjust government. Let’s also not ignore the fact that even now in 2020, white men armed with assault rifles and other threatening armament have recently been marching into state capitols around our nation.
But back to violence in our protests. Let me reiterate that I do not condone or agree with the violence we are seeing erupt across our nation. As a Christian, I believe we are called to love, peace, and humility, and when others persecute us, our response should be identical to that of Jesus, and the twelve apostles. None of us will ever be as violently persecuted as the Founding Fathers of Christianity (where all but one were martyred for their faith; that is the most extreme form of prejudice one can imagine). And yet, not one of them responded violently. This is the model every follower of Jesus should strive to emulate in our lives. It’s a high bar, which I struggle with personally, in the face of injustices.
As we watch and condemn what is going on, what would we have said if we were viewing the protests at the Boston Tea Party? While there are significant differences between the two, there are also many similarities, including injustices by those in authority and with power. So ask yourself, “What would I have done or said, if I was alive on December 16, 1773, viewing the violence of the Boston Tea Party? Would I have condemned it or embraced it? Would I have participated in it?” Today, most Americans praise this act of violence and rebellion, that destroyed a million dollars worth of property.
My intent for sharing these thoughts is not to provoke anger or incite emotions. Rather, it is to challenge us to stop and think; to put ourselves in the shoes of others.
When we judge a person simply by their external actions, we either condemn them or we embrace them, based on the cause they are fighting for. If their protests and even violence affirm our worldview, then we gladly applaud them. However, if their protests and violence are at odds with anything we’ve ever experienced, then it’s likely we will condemn them and find cause to belittle and hold them in contempt.
If we are white Americans, it’s likely we’ve never felt that our life was hanging in the balance when we were pulled over in our cars by a police officer. But many of my African American brothers and sisters have always carried such fear with them. But not only is that fear for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren also. Thankfully, I’ve never known that fear personally, or for my children. But it grieves me to realize that millions of our citizens do, primarily because of their skin color.
Think about that. Then consider that there have been a “long train of abuses” in the eyes and experiences of our black brothers and sisters. Their life is not ours. So until we can figuratively place ourselves in their shoes, we cannot fully comprehend the struggle, the outrage, and the deep rooted hurts they feel each time another man with black skin dies, whether at the hands of someone in uniform, or by a white man in the back of a pickup truck, or a false accusation is called in to 9-1-1.
So what are the solutions to this existential threat to not only the future of our nation, but more importantly to the relationships we should seek to grow with those who are different than us?
I believe first and foremost the solution is Spiritual. The center of this struggle is not in the streets of Minneapolis or other cities, but rather in the center of our beings: Our Heart. God says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
Even now, it’s possible that your response to my meager thoughts is one of outrage or rejection or condemnation. If so, I believe its possible your heart is deceiving you. Within each of us lies the potential to deceive ourselves into believing the problem is “the other guy; it’s not me.” If that’s my response, I am deceived.
Jesus said in John 8:7 “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” He also said in Matthew 7:5 “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
The point is, introspection is needed, first and foremost. What part have I played, overtly or covertly, in contributing to injustices in our community or nation? If you say none, then I applaud you and I would suggest you write a book so we can all learn from you. And there is no need to read further. But if you feel any need to continue to examine yourself, here’s what I would suggest is next.
Because the heart, the inner core of our being, is deceitful and wicked, we must regularly cleanse it. This cannot be done overnight but requires a continuous effort to transform what is natural (those responses that are wrong) to the unnatural (those responses that are Christ-like). The only way to do this is through a consistent time in God’s Word. We read this in Romans 12:2:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
As we begin to transfuse our minds with the healing power of God’s Word, our values, thoughts and behavior will be transformed. Recently I read a short Bible Plan in the Bible app entitled “How to Love People You Disagree With” and it included these thoughts:
… we exhibited patience?
… chose not to be offended?
… we quit taking everything so personally?
… we changed the degrading way we talk to others?
… we focused on what we did have in common?
… we chose the big picture?
And I’ll add, what if we “loved our neighbor as ourselves?” which Jesus reminded us is the second greatest commandment. These are a few of the fundamental behavior changes we must pursue.
Nearly a year ago, God led my path to cross with someone I had known for years, but never developed a close relationship with. Ternae Jordan is an African American pastor in Chattanooga whom God intentionally brought me to, so that God could begin to incorporate the above principles in my life. As we’ve spent dozens and dozens of hours together since last summer, my heart has softened as I’ve been able to, in a small way, “walk in his shoes.” Beginning to realize and better understand the dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations that my brother and his family and friends experience, has softened my heart, and changed my thoughts. I’m eternally grateful for Ternae, and as I think of what God has begun in our lives, I’m reminded of this verse:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
In closing, while the solutions are not that complicated, they are also not that easy. Cleansing our heart (seeking forgiveness and transforming what we think and believe), changing how we habitually behave and respond, and walking in someone else’s shoes, none of these are natural. But the history of our nation reveals that what is natural is not working. So perhaps if followers of Jesus across this land began to pursue supernatural answers to the age old scourge of racism and prejudice, we might begin to see a mighty work of God in our midst. And as we do, I’m hopeful that God will bring about healing and unity, to what has been hurt and division for more than 200 years.
Addendum: Verses to consider as we seek to “Love our neighbor as ourselves:”
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” 1 Corinthians 13:6
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
For years now, many in our nation have been warning of the coming collapse of our nation’s economy. The signs were easy to see. But most were unaware, or didn’t take the time to understand them. I’ve written a lot over the last number of years about the coming economic collapse.
At the same time as many were warning about the economy, others were warning about the potential of a pandemic. History teaches us that pandemics are a reality of our fallen world. Sooner or later these global events appear, and when they do, many lives are lost and the entire world is disrupted.
Whether this pandemic and the associated disruptions are natural, or self-inflicted, is beyond my ability to know for certain. While I may have my own views, at the end of the day, my little place in this world is of such inconsequence to something as pervasive as the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching effects, that my theories about it’s origination are meaningless. Furthermore, you and I have zero potential to redirect the path our nation and world are speeding down.
But that’s not what I wanted to discuss today. Rather, I wanted to address the principle that is taught in a verse from Proverbs, the book of wisdom in the Bible. Note what Solomon had to say:
💡”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:4
Approximately 1,000 years after Solomon penned the above principle, one of Solomon’s descendants, the King who will ultimately sit and rule the world from the throne that Solomon occupied, had this to say about how we know when storms are threatening:
💡”Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right.” Luke 12:54
When you look out your window and see dark clouds gathering, the wind picking up, animals scurrying about, and other such signs, you can normally predict that there is a storm coming. From the place where we live, up atop a hill that sees miles off into the horizon, we regularly see this happening. It’s quite easy to predict what will occur in the next few moments when we see the band of rain headed our direction.
In a way, I believe the responses that we take when we see a physical storm is coming, can be applied to the current COVID-19 crisis. Let me explain.
If you could go back 90 days, prior to the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis, and you knew then what you know now, would you do anything differently then? I have no doubt you would, just as I would. I’d be willing to speculate that you would have at least purchased more toilet tissue, or some other consumable. Right? But there are probably other steps you would have taken then, that today you are incapable of addressing.
So let’s look at where we are today and then try to fast forward a few weeks or months into the future. Are there any dark, ominous storm clouds on the horizon that warn of some difficult times ahead? Are there signals that the worst could still be yet to come? Do you believe that opening up the economy is just going to magically bring back to reality what we might have been enjoying just a few short months ago?
The answers for me to all of those question are resoundingly clear. Additionally though, my gut, along with so many of the reports I read, are warning that the clouds are bringing an even more ominous storm. Is it possible I could be wrong? Absolutely. But when your smartphone alerts you to a “Tornado Warning” and you take cover, are you angry afterwards if the tornado did not materialize? Or are you simply thankful that the plan you put in place was sufficient to protect you, had the tornado destroyed your home?
From an early age I was taught that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In this case, “a prudent person forsees danger and takes precaution.” There are strong indications that what is to come in the remaining chapters of this COVID-19 crisis, and beyond, could be worse. If so, what should you do?
Well, only you can decide what are the appropriate steps that you should take for you and your family. But at the very minimum, consider what you wish you would have done 90 days ago. If you have not yet addressed those steps, then what about starting there? Is it possible that over the next 30-60 days you could formulate a plan to check off those items?
Beyond that though, here are a few other ideas that I shared previously, in another article I penned four years ago. In this article, I offered a number of practical steps you and I can take and should be taking immediately, to respond to the storm clouds we all see.
If the last 60+ days should convince us of one thing, it should be that the unimaginable can in fact occur. To delay today is to be sorry tomorrow. Today you can act. Tomorrow may be too late.
I hesitated to write this article, particularly in this day and time. It seems that anything one writes or posits in this current era, invariably results in arguments, dissension, and sore feelings. I do not wish to cause any of the sort. However, neither do I believe that what I share is beyond scrutiny. So, where we might diverge in our views, I would hope that we could do so respectfully and without resorting to inflammatory remarks, or disparaging attacks. But since I do believe that iron can sharpen iron, I welcome additional thoughts and perspectives.
That said, I must affirm that my source of Truth is the Bible. You may have a different source, and if so, I’m ok with that. I don’t intend to twist your arm to believe that my source is THE source. But it stands to reason, that only one source can be accurate, when various sources disagree as to Truth itself. As I’ve tested and ingested the Bible over many years now, I am 100% convinced that it is Truth, because it was authored by God Himself, through the inspiration and guidance of mortal men. And it consistently convicts, instructs, and directs my life.
So, with that as a background, I wanted to address something that has been quietly at work within me since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis. First, let me say that I am not one to dabble in conspiracy theories… at least not lately. There was a time in my life when I regularly focused on all sorts of conspiracies, normally those dealing with government and power, which invariably included wealth. And wow did that take up an inordinate amount of my time and focus.
But several years ago I began an intentional time of study of God’s Word, that continues to this day, and I came across this passage that specifically addresses conspiracies:
“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” Isaiah 8:12-13
Conspiracies, at their heart, typically involve emotions: Fear, Dread, Anger, Resentment, Anxiety, etc. Too often when emotions come into play, we frequently leave logic and faith behind. The Bible speaks of fear many times and from numerous vantage points. But one thing is certain, the fear that is associated with conspiracies is not of God. In fact, the verse above in Isaiah specifically instructs us not to fear or dread what the general population does, and 2 Timothy 1:7 asserts specifically that fear does not come from God:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
But there is One whom we should fear, and it’s God Himself. Jesus told us the reason we should fear His Father:
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.” Luke 12:4-5
So if conspiracies evoke fear, or anger, and many other negative emotions, which are not from God, and the Bible speaks specifically against overindulging in conspiracies, why would I want to go down those rabbit holes, for which there are often no absolute certainty as to their accuracy?
Since the Bible warns about fear and conspiracies, I have greatly resisted the temptation to begin chasing the many theories about COVID-19 that are regularly promoted by our culture. Social media is one of the great platforms that promotes all sorts of conspiracies… #fakenews as it’s commonly referred to these days.
But one man’s #fakenews is another man’s gospel truth.
So what do we believe? And what deserves our undivided attention? This seem to be the real struggle these days with most of what we read, watch, or consume mentally.
So as the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to extend, and wreak such havoc and devastation locally, nationally, and globally, I believe it would be foolish to not at least consider other alternative explanations for what is causing such calamity to so many.
Since my source of Truth is the Bible, then I think it bears mentioning that this ancient Book identifies who it is that is invested in wreaking havoc, confusion and dissension. In fact, Jesus had this to say about the one I am referring to:
“He (the devil) is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
Additionally, we read this about Satan the deceiver, in the final book of the Bible:
“This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” Revelation 12:9
While God is at work here on our globe, so is Satan. His lies and deception are ever present throughout all the ages. His primary objective is to deceive mankind, individually and collectively, and to lead us away from God. Given the fact that Satan is the master deceiver, it can only be concluded that many of us could easily fall for his slick lies. And he can package them in the most credible arguments that millions, if not billions could embrace. The term #fakenews is a recent term in our culture, but Satan has been packaging fake news since the first moments of man’s existence on the earth.
So what does all this have with COVID-19? Well, in our lifetimes, and perhaps in the history of the world, there has never been a moment in time like the one in which we are living. The entire world, including hundreds of nations, collectively agreed on a common response to a worldwide phenomena. That in and of itself is unprecedented. Think about that. Within weeks, if not days, all of the civilized world closed down. And with this closure, literally billions of people were dramatically impacted. In America alone, tens of millions of our fellow Americans lost their paychecks. Overnight. With no warning. More people are unemployed than in the Great Depression.
But I believe God is sovereign. So nothing happens here on this globe, or in your life, that God has not either caused, or allowed. But as true as this reality is, there is another Truth to consider during this crisis. Satan, while not sovereign, has been given broad discretion to operate deceptively amongst us, with a diabolical scheme to destroy all that is good. Remember, Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2) And we are also told that he “walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 1:8)
So if COVID-19 has wreaked havoc, death, and destruction, and the loudest voices across the entire globe are trumpeting a synonymous message, is it possible their message is one that is deceptive, whether purposeful or ignorantly? I think the answer must be “Yes it is possible” — at least it is for me.
So, if the above is true, that the solutions and conclusions that are being promoted by our leaders could be false, or incorrect, then what is True? Sadly, I cannot personally say. Nor can I yet decipher from the other conflicting voices and messages. But is it worth listening to them, in moderation, in order to derive truth, so that we can respond correctly?
Again, I think the answer is Yes, at least for me.
But here is where I am responding differently today than I might have five or ten years ago. Then, I would have gone all in on investigating and researching, to the extreme, the alternative responses to COVID-19. I would have become obsessed with viewing and reading the unlimited options available to overdose on “conspiracy-mania.” This is how we get sucked in to an unhealthy, and I believe unscriptural, response to this crisis. So I would ask you to consider that there is nothing that you might discover, even if it were the conclusive “smoking gun” behind this crisis, that will change the world, or Washington DC, or your state, or your community. Nothing.
So if there is nothing you might discover that will change much of anything about COVID-19, then why try to find out? I think the primary reason to attempt to decipher the truth of this crisis, within moderation, is to better equip yourself, your family, and your community, with a plan to respond to whatever might come next. This is not because we fear what might come next, but rather because the Bible tells us that:
”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3
Is there danger ahead? I think so. Should we prepare ourselves? Yes, if possible. But should we fear or obsess over it? Absolutely not. God is our refuge. Our tower. Our strength. We have no need to fear since there is no conspiracy that He did not already foreknow. Furthermore, we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
But finally, this is the greatest reason to not obsess over conspiracies, or go to herculean efforts to try to discover what likely cannot be known with certainty. If you were to know all there is to know about the origination of the Coronavirus, it would have little, or perhaps no, impact on your soul, or the soul of your neighbors. Remember what Jesus said in the verse above: “don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.”
In that short statement, Jesus was contrasting the temporal, your physical life, with the eternal, your spiritual life. The loss of a life here on earth is of eternal insignificance when compared with the loss of a spiritual life in the life to come. So why would you and I obsess over conspiracies of the Coronavirus, which are temporal at best, when all around us are souls who are potentially facing a spiritual virus whose curse is eternal?
If Jesus, or any of the Apostles were here today, I can hardly believe that they would set aside their God-ordained purpose, to get caught up in pursuing the cause of a global pandemic. Rather, I believe they would do today, exactly what they did in their time. They would “love God and love their neighbor as themselves.” And that love would propel them to redouble their efforts to share the only news that has the power to overcome conspiracies, COVID-19, and the father of lies. So we should strive to do what John commanded us to do:
Social media and memes. They seem to be made for each other. If you’re looking for laughs, they often give great comic relief, particularly in this difficult time we are facing.
But as I’ve seen many of the memes that regularly get posted and shared, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts. This is the main one:
🔊“Never get your theology from memes.”
Typically memes are short, to the point statements that, on the surface, may seem to encapsulate a current issue, and they claim to shed some grander truth about the issue at hand.
There’s an old saying though that stated “inquiring minds want to know…” But there’s a deeper truth, that Jesus reminded us of, and that we should consider particularly when memes are involved:
💡“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” John 7:24
With this in mind, there is a meme that is making its way around social media this week. Yesterday a pastor in Florida was arrested because he chose to assemble his congregation, in spite of precautionary health advisories by the local governing authorities. Without arguing the merits of the case that he will be mounting with the help of Liberty Counsel, I’d like to share some thoughts from the Bible, versus the Constitution.
The meme here would seem to correlate the “assembling” that occurs at Walmart, where people are buying food and supplies, with the “assembling” at church. I would suggest though that conflating these two examples is like comparing apples with planets (versus oranges).
Walmart and such establishments are physical buildings that house physical products that we must all have to function physically. Without securing these products, at some point we will die physically.
But the building in this meme, while depicting a church, is not THE church. Rather, it’s just a building. The Bible, from where our theology should flow, is very clear that we should “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” But the church is not a place or a building, rather it is the body of believers in Christ, locally as well as all over the world. Assembling can occur in many different manners and sizes. This has been the case since the book of Acts, when the first assembly of believers began. And to this day, believers in nations all over the world, are sometime forced to meet even secretly, in their homes, for fear of death or persecution.
But there’s another aspect to this meme that I believe flows from the spirit that is implanted within the DNA of most Americans. It is the spirit that asserts our rights above all else, and the attitude of ”no one is ever going to deprive me as an American of my rights.” But is this the “right” attitude to have about rights, if you and I are followers of Jesus? Are we first Americans, or is our citizenship a heavenly one, that should shape and guide all of our responses?
To answer that question we should look to the one we claim to follow: Jesus. His example, and the examples of the “founding fathers” of our faith, the 12 Apostles, reveal a very different attitude about rights than the one that Americans consistently demonstrate, including my own.
We demand. They gave up.
We complain. They gave thanks.
We gripe. They praised God.
We protest. They accepted.
We resist. They submitted.
We live. They died.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that there is not a place for organizations like Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, and others, to pursue justice in our courts. I know the men who lead these organizations, and they are good men, and followers of Jesus. From a purely American Constitutional standpoint I’m sure that Liberty Counsel will represent their client well and will insure the pastor’s constitutional rights are followed.
But there is a difference between an organization appealing to an earthly judge, to enforce the laws of the land, and appealing to The Supreme Judge of the universe to protect and sustain us. The Apostle Paul was beaten many, many times, and once he actually asserted his Roman citizenship to avoid an unjust beating. But besides Paul’s limited example, we see Jesus, and the twelve apostles consistently and repeatedly giving up their rights, submitting to an evil governmental system, and in every instance, except for the Apostle John, they all were executed for their faith.
Americans are big on rights, demanding everything enumerated in the Bill of Rights and more. But true Christianity is about giving up one’s rights. And it’s also about loving our neighbors. When we irresponsibly gather in large groups, we place others, including our neighbors, at risk.
It seems this is an opportunity for the church to humble itself, pray, confess, and serve, not rise up, gripe, complain, and demand.
So I’m less concerned personally about demanding rights, that we can voluntarily relinquish as our spiritual forefathers did, than I am about the church not suffering a black eye as we attempt to be the light in this present darkness.
My point is we are missing the big point of what is going on, in my view, if we simply focus on demanding a “right.” What if we responded like Daniel when his government demanded that he stop praying to God and that he could only offer prayers to the king? Daniel simply went home, without griping and complaining, he opened his window, and kneeled in humility to God and began to pray. No building. No congregation. Just Daniel and God.
Let’s be like Daniel in the midst of the greatest crisis of most of our lifetimes. Let’s be like the Apostles, who submitted themselves to a cruel and evil system, that ultimately took their lives. And let’s be like Jesus, who we are told:
💡“He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:23
And then let’s follow Solomon in doing what he suggested His people should do when they found themselves in the midst of a calamity:
💡“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14