Coronavirus Traps To Avoid

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It was right around this time last week that news of Coronavirus started to dominate the national conversation. And then, last Thursday, life started to shift for all of us. Maybe it started to shift slowly at first but here we sit, nearly a week later, starting to realize just how much it really has shifted. We’re all feeling the impact of this virus, figuring out new rhythms, and wondering just how long this is all going to last.

For the first week, we talked a lot about not giving in to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

– 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)

We still need that reminder today. But as I pay attention to my own heart and what’s happening in the lives of people I love, I realize fear isn’t the only thing we need to fight in this moment. Here are four Coronavirus traps I’m working to avoid.

Trap #1: Obsession

My screen time report for this past week is going to be ugly!

I’ve spent way more time on news websites, blogs, and social media than I have in a really long time. Part of that is the desire to stay informed and part of that is the desire to connect with family, friends, and our church. And a lot of it is a way of wasting time and trying to cope with all of the uncertainty.

I’ll be honest. The roles that God has given me in life don’t require an hourly update on the latest Coronavirus statistics. Some of you have roles that do; thank you for serving us all. But most of us don’t. Staying informed is good. Obsessing isn’t.

Trap #2: Indifference

This Coronavirus thing is real and the more we sacrifice now, the faster things should get back to normal. “Stop being silly, wash your hands, and get on with life” just isn’t a good look right now. And, frankly, it’s an unacceptable look for followers of Jesus. We should be taking the lead in sacrificing for the most vulnerable, going out of our way to promote the common good, and following our leaders on the federal, state, and local levels.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB), emphasis added.

In this moment, love looks like social distancing.

Trap #3: Pride

For many of us, Coronavirus is impacting more than our schedules and travel plans. It’s impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health. And it’s impacting our jobs and our finances.

The simple reality is that a lot of us are going to need some help to make it through this. Not because we’ve been unwise or done anything wrong but because this is all so unprecedented.

So, if you need help, ask. Don’t let pride or shame stand in your way. You don’t need to do that to yourself or to your family.

At Restoration City, we’ll be sending out information on how to request assistance from our benevolence fund in our weekly email. But for now, just know you are not in this alone.

Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility.

Trap #4: Despair

Laura and I went for a walk with the kids this morning and we were talking about the need to both take this threat seriously and to remain confident that we’re going to get through this. Right now, we don’t know how long that’s going to take. But we are going to come out on the other side.

It feels like our country is coming together. Leaders are working together to solve problems. And we have a lot going for us. Many of us have the ability to have groceries and almost anything else we want delivered right to our doors. That was unheard of ten years ago. Or think about the regularly scheduled doctors appointment that I have tomorrow. We’re going to do it virtually. In fact, we’re finding out there’s a lot we can do online, including our Prayer Nights.

So, don’t give in to despair. Remember the words of the last song we sang together as a church before this all started:

Don’t let your heart be troubled

Hold your head up high

Don’t fear no evil

Fix your eyes on this one truth

God is madly in love with you

Take courage

Hold on

Be strong

Remember where our help comes from

– “Good Grace”, Hillsong United

We’re going to get through this. Who knows, we might even come out stronger on the other end.

2016 Elections: Hope or Despair?

Sunlight Through Trees

On Monday, The New York Times released a brilliant piece showing that only 9% of Americans voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in this year’s primaries.  No wonder the other 91% of us are a little upset.  Although, I do have to say that if you didn’t even bother to vote, Mark Zuckerberg should find a way to prevent you from posting about politics on Facebook until the election is over!  Nonetheless, voter apathy isn’t really my point for today.  Except that it kind of is because I want to write about despair.

It’s not hard to come by in this election.  Bad candidates.  Bad coverage.  Bad policies. Bad voters. Bad, bad, bad…  It’s left many of us wondering if there’s any hope to be found.  I know because I’ve been there.  I’ve been dismayed by how things are going in our country and in this election.  I’ve feared for the world my kids will inherit.  I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in futility.  Cynicism is so convenient at times like this.

But I’ve gotten to the point where I really do believe there is hope in the mess.  Light is breaking through.  But we’ll never see it until we’re able to correctly diagnose the problem and the solution.

The Problem

Let’s get one thing clear.  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the problem.  They are a symptom of America’s problem.  We need to stop being surprised that a country with a weak moral compass has nominated two leaders with seemingly weak moral compasses.  When we look in the national mirror, we see Hillary and Donald.  Being appalled at them is useless.  Dealing honestly with the fact that they reflect our broader culture will actually get us somewhere.  It’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s far easier to mock, grumble and whine.

The Solution

If I’m right, the solution isn’t getting better candidates – there were plenty of other qualified men and women who ran this year and plenty of qualified men and women who made the decision not to run.  The solution is a cultural resurgence in America – the restoration of a shared morality, a shared civility and commitment to the common good.

This is where we need to have a hard conversation as the church.  In recent decades, Christians have looked for the government to do what God looks for the church to do.  This is why so many followers of Jesus are feeling so much despair in this election – it’s the despair that comes when an idol is exposed in our heart.  And for far too long, far too many evangelical leaders have turned right wing politics into a functional idol as if the well being of the church rests on the Supreme Court or the hope of the world is in the halls of Congress.  Don’t get me wrong, government is a good and noble calling.  We need more Christ honoring, gospel shaped public servants.  But we also need to repent of our political idolatry. 

There is hope in our country.  It’s the same hope that’s been transforming lives for thousands of years.  It’s the hope that echoes from an empty tomb outside of Jerusalem.  It’s the hope that reverberates in every church that loves Jesus and preaches His gospel.  It’s the hope that changes us at the heart level.  It’s a hope unhindered by laws, politicians or even persecution.  It’s a hope so real and so eternal that can hold it back.

So, I’m tired of grumbling that the government isn’t doing a better job with what the church should have been doing all along.  We’re the ones called to shine light in dark places.  We’re the ones who offer hope to refugees, immigrants, the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the lonely.  You want to do something truly worthwhile with your life?  Devote yourself to knowing Jesus and making Him known.  Find a local church that loves its city and then roll up your sleeves and get involved.  Don’t settle for the life of an armchair political pundit – make your life count.  Do it for the glory of Christ and the good of our country.

Fear, Faith & Church Planting

If you want a crash course in how messed up your heart is, plant a church.

It’s a sure fire way to surface all kinds of fear, anger and despair you had yet to uncover. When I look back on my last six months as a church planting resident with The Summit Network, I realize just how much I’ve had to confront in my own heart. I wish I could tell you those confrontations with self were always easy, quick and painless but that’s just not the way it works for me. I can be a frustratingly slow learner. But Jesus has been faithful and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for anything.

Like most church planters, I’m an optimistic visionary at heart. I love big dreams, inspiring visions and thoughts of what the future can and should look like. I live in the world of what’s possible and I love to paint that picture for people. And I really love it when other people buy into the vision.

But when they don’t, all kinds of chaos threatens to break out in my heart. Whether it’s someone not joining our launch team or someone not contributing financially or someone just seeming a little bored as I’m laying out my dream, I don’t always handle the rejection well. Fear, anger and despair are right there to plant their little questions. Maybe my vision stinks? Maybe we’ll go broke and my son will starve? Maybe the reason this person isn’t more excited is because they’re a totally selfish jerk who doesn’t love Jesus? Maybe I’m not a good leader? Maybe Summit needs to fix their assessment process and weed out guys like me? And on and on and on…

All of that junk comes from a lack of belief in the promises of Jesus to us through the gospel. He really did promise to build His church. (Mt. 16:18) The Father really is glorified when we bear fruit. (Jn. 15:8) He knows every one of our weaknesses and promises sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9) No plan of His can be thwarted. (Job 42:2) And on and on and on…

I get worked up when I think this whole thing rests on my shoulders. I’m tempted to shrink my vision, lower my dreams and downsize my hopes. I’m tempted to cave to the fear, anger and despair that constantly lurks. But when I remember Jesus, I’m okay with the uncertainty and the setbacks. When I remember Him, I’m filled with hope for what God is going to do.

Planting Restoration City has forced me to learn how to fight fear with faith. Maybe God will use a church plant to do the same in your life or maybe He’ll use something else. Either way, I’m convinced it’s a lesson he wants all of us to learn.