If you are like me, there have been a million narrative coming at you, a billion different thoughts bouncing around your head, and a trillion questions about what all these changes to everyday life mean for you. I personally have a tendency to fear the worst and want to protect my family from any potential threats to them. But I also have a tendency to look to God in these fears and let His voice become louder than all the other ones. As one of your pastors, the question I keep asking God in prayer is, "What would you want from your church during this time of fear and confusion?" As I have prayed and searched the Scriptures, I believe I have found a possible answer and a challenge to us all.
God is unchanging (Heb. 5:8), but our experience of him does change. What I mean is that throughout history, God often shows up in unexpected ways. At the Red Sea when the people of God were being trapped between the sea and a hostile Egyptian Army, God split the sea and saved his people. On the cross, the Son of God died and all his followers scattered in fear, only to be surprised by his glorious resurrection three days later. Throughout church history, our Triune God has used plagues to bring people to himself. He has used the death of martyrs to expand the gospel to the nations. We have a God who is not trying to figure out how to adjust to the COVID-19 outbreak, but is intimately involved with his people in this whole process.
In Isaiah 58, God is confronting his people for observing his Sabbath rest and fasting with the wrong intentions (58:1-4). True Sabbath rest and fasting is meant to be a means of worshipping God by resting from producing, while also seeking justice and love for neighbor (58:5-14). In fact, with the looming darkness of COVID-19 and the surrounding rainclouds above us, look at the brevity of Isaiah 58:10: "if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday."
The people of God have always been saved to be sent. Read that again: the people of God have always been saved to be sent. Throughout Isaiah, God calls his people back to covenant faithfulness, which is often paired to be a Light to the Nations (42:6; 49:6; 52:10; 60:3). And this call to be a Light to the Nations continued into the New Testament (John 8:12; Acts 13:47; 26:23), and continues with us today.
So, how do we become a Light to the Nations when confined to our houses? How do we become a light to our neighbors and unbelieving friends when a simple sneeze or touch could potentially spread the virus? There have been an array of opinions on this. Some believe we need to ignore all of this and "just obey God." I'm not sure that it is true or helpful. If we were being called not to gather as churches because of our faith, it may be a different story. But we are being called to not gather so we can help slow down and stop the pandemic. Others believe we must hideout and not face the public whatsoever. I also am not sure that this is true or helpful. There are creative ways to Sabbath, fast, and be a Light to the Nations. What appeared to be the darkest day in human history (Matt. 27:45) was actually the Light of Nations himself being lifted up to bring rest and satisfaction to all who would believe (John 12:32). Will we use this dark time to point to our Glorious King and Savior?
Herein lies my challenge to you, Kaleo Church. I have comprised a list of things you can be doing if you are working from home or spending more time at home than usual:
1. Pray: How many times have you thought to yourself, "If I had more time and less distractions, I would pray more?" Right now we are in a confusing time but we have unlimited access to the throne of God (Rom. 5:1-2; Heb. 4:15-16).
2. Pray for revival: I have been overwhelmed with the hope and longing that God would mobilize us by the power of His Holy Spirit to seek ways to love our needy neighbors. In a dark time like this, the church can be a Light to the Nations in a way that causes unbelievers to ask questions (1 Peter 3:15). Wouldn't be a shame to look back on this time and see that we drowned out our fears with Netflix instead of being a Light to the Nations?
3. Check-in: Use this time to download Zoom, Marco Polo, or Facetime to connect with brothers and sisters in the church. Read together, pray together, cry and laugh together.
4. If you are a homeschool mom, there are more than likely some parents in the church and some neighbors who are freaking out right now as they have become a homeschooling parent. Share resources and help in any way possible. There are some amazing women in the church who can help with this (Chrisha Dilley, Tonya Comer, Amber Lynn, Abbey Cain, and Jenn Van Fleet to name a few).
5. If you are aware of a neighbor that needs something but you are afraid of human contact, use Amazon to ship them something they need or something that can cheer them up.
6. If you are a parent and have never really had the time to lead your kids in family worship, start a new rhythm. 10 minutes in the morning or at lunch. One Psalm, one song, and a time of prayer.
7. Make a schedule. Create a daily schedule of rhythms that can accomplish needed tasks, make time for worship, and provide some kind of online community. Free time can often lead to sloth and lust and we must be active to not fall into these.
8. We have been spending time, in person, with our neighbors. We are safe about this and I know this isn't for everyone. Our neighbors have made us cookies, and we have gone to the store and got needed items for our neighbors. If this is doable, do it.
9. Right now it is raining like crazy. Get on some old clothes and go walk in the rain (umbrella is optional). Go dig up worms, get dirty, and be a kid again. Marvel at God's creation.
10. Download RightNow Media. This is an incredible resource that the church has a certain amount of licenses to. This will help with Bible Studies, provide sermons, etc. Talk to Matt Tinney for more info.
Kaleo Church, what if God is using this time of worldwide change to draw a host of people to him? What if this is a time for our neighbors to know that we are not a people of fear nut a people of hope? This is an incredible and exciting time to be alive. We have a message that can give hope and eternal life to those who are afraid and dead in their sins. Let's not waste this time, beloved.