Who Are You Telling About Jesus During the Wuhan Virus Crisis?

A message of peace.
A message of love.
A message of hope.

Last week, I asked if you were “going to church” during this drawn-out ordeal.
Canceled travel plans, kid at home, many lost jobs, isolation from almost everyone, meetings zoomed instead of in person, friends who die alone, friends unable to pay respects because of the constraints.

But as David and Miriam of Ohio mentioned in a Zoom meeting of Simple Church Alliance yesterday (http://simplechurchalliance.faclex.com/), this could be an amazing opportunity for the Church to show the world the peace, love and hope of Jesus.

It feels like the world is spiraling out of control.  Governments seem powerless to do anything besides add band-aids of financial assistance as though that will solve the problem.  But the virus continues to consume our attention, our neighbors’ lives, and run rampant over the usual routines.  When will it end?  Where is the hope?  How can we feel at peace?  Does anyone love me in this time of isolation?

As Christ-followers we have the unique opportunity to offer peace in the middle of the storm.  Martin Luther encouraged magistrates and government officials to stand fast in the plague that ravaged Europe in 1527.  In a letter to the Wittenburg Christians, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,”  he maintained that those in service to others “must remain steadfast before the peril of death.”  Not only government and health care workers but anyone who was able to serve the general good.

However, he did not suggest we expose ourselves recklessly to disease and in the final analysis left the matter up to conscience: “devout Christians [must] to come to their own decision and conclusion” whether to flee or to stay during plagues, believing one must follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  I suspect he intended that if one did not know Father well enough to know the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13) he may as well leave.  If one did know Him, He would guide, not Martin Luther or government.  The actions of assistance to the sick should come from grace, not obligation.  Such is the peace Father offers us in the eye of the storm.

The Eye Of The Storm by Ryan Stevenson

 

 

Along with this peace and giving motivation to it is the love of Jesus.  The “disciple who Jesus loved” told us near the end of his life, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)  To express the love we have received from a Savior who gave His life for each of us should be one of our primary goals, not just in the face of a health crisis, but all the time.

Who, upon receiving a medical breakthrough for himself would not share it with others in need?  Who, upon finding he could prevent his house from burning down would not show others how to do that?  Who, upon receiving a great gift, unrequested, unsought, and undeserved would hoard it all to oneself?  See the lepers of of 2 Kings 7 for an illustration of how one should respond.  When you know a wonderful secret, you do not want to keep it secret!  You cannot wait for the opportunity to share it with those who might benefit.

And what greater “secret” could we who follow Jesus possess than the way to overcome “the last enemy”? (1 Corinthians 15:26)  It is a blessing that the Wuhan Virus does not destroy young lives as easily as it attacks us older folks.  For a short time, a morbid attempt at humor ran on twitter: #boomerremover.  Children and young adults should be taught that they have received an unexpected gift.  Another virus could just as easily reverse this effect, killing the young and sparing the old.

But the feeling of invincibility that comes from being young is an illusion.  No one here gets out alive. (December 6, 2015)  We will all face the Specter someday, hopefully for the young, many years away.  But that day will come.

Now, while it is on everyone’s mind, we Christ-followers have the best reason for “the peace that passes understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)  We can give hope so much more than for just a few short years, whether they are one or 100.  We can present a Hope that is more than just a childish wish that things were different: that mom and dad did not get divorced; that my grades were better; that I could get that job; that I will get a check from the government handout.  We can offer LIFE!  Eternal life from the Creator; eternal life in the Son of the Creator!  A Hope that is certain, not just a wish; an anticipation of what we know will happen.

So do not force conversations but be sensitive to that small voice inside when the opportunity arises to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)  Give the distressed peace.  Give the lonely love.  Give the hopeless hope.

Are You Going to Church During the Wuhan Virus Crisis?

Multiple guess: what is the church?

  1. a building (1 Corinthians 3:10)
  2. a meeting (Hebrews 10:25)
  3. a place to go to (Acts 28:15)
  4. a family (Acts 13:26)
  5. a body (Romans 12:5)
  6. a bride (Revelation 19:7)

If you answered Yes to all of the above, you are on the right track.  But we should really be careful in our hearts when we refer to the Church as the mortar, stones, and drywall where we meet.  Or even to refer to it as the meeting we attend.  The key is our understanding, truly understanding, that WE ARE the Church!

This concept is becoming more evident in The Age of the Wuhan Virus.  The current “crisis” has closed church buildings and is forcing people to consider what their relationships are.  The technology has been helpful to mitigate the feeling of isolation that has swept our nation, beyond the church, to affect schools, theaters, restaurants, conferences, symposiums, book-signings, and almost any other venue that involves more than 10 people meeting.

Walking in our neighborhood yesterday in spring’s warming temperatures, people tended to walk to the opposite side of the street when they would see us approaching.  One dear brave woman greeted us, only maintaining the six-foot recommendation, as we pretended to ‘fist-bump’ as we wished each other well.  Such is life in this Age of the Wuhan Virus.

But phone calls, texts, face-times, visits with dear friends are proving to be valuable to assessing about whom do we really care.  What/Who are we as the Church?

We are a people of faith with connections to one another, like stones in a building glued together with mortar that is strong enough to keep us connected even if we cannot meet at our legacy facility; like a family that are united by blood even if we do not always agree or get along; like a body that needs all its parts to function fully and correctly; like a Bride getting ready to be purified for our Bridegroom so that we can be presented to Him on that Day.

We used to call a “quiet time” or “devotions” a special time set aside to get closer to our God.  We may not have “quiet time” every day, especially if you have little ones quarantined in your home.  But we have “devotions” every day!  It just is a matter of understanding to what we are devoting our time, energy and spirit.

Gavin Duerson, leader of Simple Church Alliance gives some valuable insight into some practical steps for sharing a family “devotion” time: http://simplechurchalliance.faclex.com/blog/2020/03/20/3-ideas-for-having-church-in-your-home/

Along with this, First Alliance Church (https://faclex.com/dailyconnection/) is opening up an avenue of daily worship which can impress on us the idea that The God Who Is There really is always here.  I sincerely hope this continues long after the Wuhan Virus is under control.

So do not worry if you did not “go to church” since YOU ARE the Church!  Be the Church in all your goings and doings, during this Wuhan Virus ‘crisis’ and after.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come. (Revelation 22:17-20)

Be The Church

8 Reminders in the Face of the Coronavirus

These are indeed strange days in which we are living.

  • Money will soon disappear as nations will digitize currency and make international exchanges and activity clearer and faster . . . and tracking more convenient.
  • Governments are testing new restrictions to protect us . . . and to control populations of enormous proportions.
  • Media is measuring just how much the outlets for information can be manipulated to educate us . . . and tell us what those in places of authority want us to know.
  • Everyone is walking in fear of the next announcement: . . . will there be any toilet paper in the grocers next week?

Really!? Toilet paper is being hoarded?  Because of the coronavirus?

Yes, these ARE strange days in which we are living.  But thankfully we do not have to live only in this world.  We are citizens of two realms: one here and now on earth, and we would do well to heed our Master’s words: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)  Interesting that this instruction was couched in the middle of His discussion on the end of time.

But there is another ‘country’ in which our higher citizenship is recorded (Hebrews 11:16).  And there will be no shortages there.  No pandemics.  No currency manipulation; the streets are made of pure gold!  Full freedom to be all that we were created to be.  Wisdom and knowledge beyond our current brains’ ability to comprehend.  And no fear. (Revelation 21:4)  And since our citizenship is there, we have nothing to fear from this world.

A wise 17 year old once told me: “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower.  Filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.” (Lane Martin) So as Dane Ortund says at the end of this week’s guest blog, “Be at peace. All is assured.”
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8 Reminders in the Face of the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 13, 2020, by Dane C. Ortlund

Corona VirusThe Cure for Latent Anxiety
These are strange days, days of fear, days of hysteria. In other words, days that simply bring all our latent anxieties up to the surface; anxieties that were there all along but are now made visible to others. What do we need to remember in these days of alarm?

1. The World of the Bible
Now we know how the people of God felt throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. The Prophets and many of the Psalms speak to people who are caught up in mass hysteria or subject to pandemics. Maybe the current cultural moment is precisely the hermeneutic we need to read the Old Testament, which can otherwise feel so foreign, deeply for the first time.

2. Our True Trust
Times of public panic force us to align our professed belief with our actual belief. We all say we believe God is sovereign and he is taking care of us. But we reveal our true trust when the world goes into meltdown. What’s really our heart’s deepest loyalty? The answer is forced to the surface in times of public alarm, such as we’re wading into now.

3. Neighborly Love
When the economy is tanking, opportunities to surprise our neighbors with our confidence and joy because of the gospel surge forward. Now is the time to be outside more, to be loving more, to be hospitable more. Love stands out strongest when it is least expected, rarest, but needed most.

4. Family Discipleship
Our kids’ teachers are telling them to wash their hands longer. Why? Their teachers won’t tell them, but it’s because there is a dangerous virus infecting thousands of people around the world right now — both young and old — and some of those people will die. Heaven and hell are staring every fourth-grader in the face. That’s why they’re being told to wash their hands for twenty seconds. We have an opportunity to instill in our kids a deeper awareness of eternity than they have ever known. There is a salutary effect to all of this because either heaven or hell awaits every fourth-grader, either taken out by a virus next month or taken out by old age, decades from now. Ten thousand years from now, the difference between dying at age ten or age eighty will seem trivial. This is an opportunity to disciple our families into the bracing reality of eternity.

5. Eschatological Hope
Maybe this is the end. I doubt it, but maybe. Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). Maybe the sight of Jesus descending from Heaven, robed in glory, surrounded by angels, is right around the corner. If so, hallelujah. If not, hallelujah. We’re being reminded that he will indeed return one day. Either way, let us rejoice our way through the chaos.
From Heaven’s shore we will see how eternally safe we were all along.

6. Invincible Providence
No infected molecule can enter your lungs, or your three-year-old’s lungs, unless sent by the hand of a heavenly Father. The Heidelberg Catechism defines God’s providence as, “The almighty and ever-present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty — all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” That truth is like an asthmatic’s inhaler to our soul — it calms us down, allows us to breathe again.

7. Christ’s Heart
In times of turmoil, in seasons of distress, Jesus is more feelingly with his people than ever. Hebrews tells us that Jesus experienced all the horror of this world that we do, minus sin (Hebrews 4:15). So apparently he knows — he himself knows — way down deep, what it feels like for life to close in on you and for your world to go into meltdown. We can go to him. We can sit with him. His arm is around us — stronger than ever — right now. His tears are larger than ours.

8. Heaven
From Heaven’s shore we will see how eternally safe we were all along, even amid the global upheaval and anxieties that loom so large as we walk through them. The dangers out there are real. The cautions are wise. Our bodies are mortal, vulnerable. But our souls, for those united to a resurrected Christ, are beyond the reach of all eternal danger. How un-harm-able we are, we who are in Christ. Be at peace. All is assured.
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Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is chief publishing officer and Bible publisher at Crossway. He serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and is the author of Gentle and Lowly.  He is an elder at Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. 

Daylight Wasting Time

Two stories, the first is apocryphal about how Daylight Saving Time came into existence.

Daylight Wasting timeDon’t let anyone fool you about stories of Ben Franklin and treaties between the EU and US over how this absurdity we call Daylight Saving Time began!

Congressmen and Senators were spending lots of time with their constituents . . . until someone noticed they were spending LOTS of time with their constituents.  So most of them went back to D.C. so the voters would think they were doing something.  Having picked up some chicken tenders, wings, and pretzels to go from Hamilton’s Bar and Grill, they were sitting around the Upper Senate Park and one of them noted, “Well, we really oughta do something, pass a law or at least have a discussion so the folks back home will think we had a reason to come back here.”

After a lengthy heated discussion on whether this year’s salary raise should be bigger or smaller than next year’s, one of them suggested it was getting late and he did not like to walk in D.C. after dark.  Which made a light bulb turn on over one of the congressperson’s heads!  “Hey, why don’t we give everyone in the US an extra hour of daylight in the summer!?  That would show we really cared about the dum-dums . . . I mean ‘voters’ back home.”

The bill was about to pass unanimously when an aide from a high school diplomacy program pointed out that 1), they did not have power over the sun; and 2) without that power, if they lengthened each day by an hour, it would not take long before people were going to work in the middle of the night, and that would not settle well with the dum-d . . . uh, voters.

So one of the senators in the park suggested they could solve this very easily by just removing an hour at the front of each day that they “lengthened.”  They all cheered at this “solution” and voted to move the clocks forward every spring at some arbitrary time, which after lengthy negotiations with Europe and much of the rest of the world’s politicians, was decided to do it on a Saturday in March.

However, with March Madness coming in the US, they decided they could mess up church schedules with less acrimony than disturbing the basketball and school schedules, so they all opted for the Sunday morning after the first Saturday in March before the NCAA tournament began.

Another high school student working as an aide pointed out to the other students there, that it would be much easier to just ask everyone to get up an hour earlier, but he was quickly hushed by the others who wanted to go out for a party that night.

And THAT‘s how Daylight Wasting . . . I mean, Saving Time was born in the halls of the ponderous panderers.

The second story is true with only the names changed to protect the guilty.

Working in an office in the early 1990s a discussion about Daylight Saving Time came up as we were preparing for the abrupt and uncomfortable change in the spring clocks.  A former high school student, Perceptival, with more than an ounce of sense said, “If it is really THAT important to come to work an hour earlier, why can’t we just do that without messing with the clock?”  To which one his colleagues, Ludicrious, said (and I am not making this up!), “Oh, heavens! I have to get up at 5:30 to get here at 8am!  I could NEVER get up at 4:30!”   The former high school student pointed out, “But that is exactly what you ARE doing.  You’re just calling it 5:30.”  At which point the discussion ended because everyone wanted to go to the last party they could before moving their clocks forward an hour.  Apparently, most of them could not stay up late enough after the spring time change for it to get dark. Emo1 

Coronavirus and the Christ-Follower

 “It is crazy to me that it is perfectly normal to be a Christian in America and to be obsessed with staying alive.”  Francis Chan,  February 7. 2020

The quote from Francis Chan from his speech at Moody Bible Institute is important for Christ-followers to keep in mind as we face the ‘dangers’  of the Wuhan-Coronavirus.

UK Hospital
UK Hospital, Lexington, KY

Lexington, Kentucky, just recorded the first case in the Commonwealth yesterday, March 6, 2020.  When we had visitors from China last month they wanted to purchase N95 masks to send back to their families in their respective cities.  However, as we searched for the masks, most of the outlets, e.g. Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Grogans, etc, were already out.  We found them at Lowes and Home Depot and our guests cleaned out two stores of their N95 masks.

The fear associated to the virus is more frightening than the virus.  For most people with ‘normal’ or nominal immune systems the Wuhan virus will only produce mild flu-like symptoms and we will get over it.  The fear stems from the novelty of the virus: there is no vaccine, no effective treatment and no cure.  If there are underlying health issues or any compromise of one’s immune system this ‘mild’ virus can quickly become fatal.

Attached is a Christianity Today article by Emmy Yang in which she looks at the advice Martin Luther, 16th century pastor and reformer, gave solid advice for people facing a 21st century pandemic.  The links in the article should be active.

Remember that Father did not give us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (1 Timothy 1:7)

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Is It Faithful to Flee an Epidemic?
What Martin Luther Teaches Us About Coronavirus
简体中文繁体中文
The German reformer’s pastoral reflection on the plague can guide both medical students like me and Christians in China — and everywhere the Wuhan virus has spread.
Emmy Yang, January 30, 2020, Christianity Today

From its epicenter in Wuhan, China, the current coronavirus outbreak is stoking fear and disrupting travel and business across the globe. More than 150 people have died from the virus in China alone, and more than 8,000 are infected across 20 countries — exceeding the SARS epidemic in 2003. [Update: As of March 4, more than 3,000 people have died in China, and more than 95,000 have been infected across 75 countries.]

Citizens in Wuhan, a major central city comparable to Chicago, are under lockdown by the government and public activities have come to a standstill, including annual celebrations for Chinese New Year (which began on January 25). Chinese Christians, in Wuhan and China at large, have faced difficult decisions about whether to join the millions of Chinese who return home to visit family (as is customary during the lunar holiday season), to flee from the mainland, or even to gather for regular Sunday services.

But are followers of Jesus right to flee an epidemic when people are suffering and dying?
In the 16th century, German Christians asked theologian Martin Luther for a response to this very question.

In 1527, less than 200 years after the Black Death killed about half the population of Europe, the plague re-emerged in Luther’s own town of Wittenberg and neighboring cities. In his letter “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” the famous reformer weighs the responsibilities of ordinary citizens during contagion. His advice serves as a practical guide for Christians confronting infectious disease outbreaks today.

First, Luther argued that anyone who stands in a relationship of service to another has a vocational commitment not to flee. Those in ministry, he wrote, “must remain steadfast before the peril of death.” The sick and dying need a good shepherd who will strengthen and comfort them and administer the sacraments — lest they be denied the Eucharist before their passing. Public officials including mayors and judges are to stay and maintain civic order. Public servants including city-sponsored physicians and police officers must continue their professional duties. Even parents and guardians have vocational duties toward their children.

Luther did not limit tending the sick to health care professionals. In a time when Wuhan faces a shortage of hospital beds and personnel, his counsel is especially relevant. The city, one of China’s largest with a population of about 11 million, is in the process of rapidly constructing two new hospitals to accommodate growing crowds of coronavirus patients. Lay citizens, without any medical training, may find themselves in a position of providing care to the sick. Luther challenges Christians to see opportunities to tend to the sick as tending to Christ himself (Matt. 25:41–46). Out of love for God emerges the practice of love for neighbor.

But Luther does not encourage his readers to expose themselves recklessly to danger.
His letter constantly straddles two competing goods: honoring the sanctity of one’s own life and honoring the sanctity of those in need. Luther makes it clear that God gives humans a tendency toward self-protection and trusts that they will take care of their bodies (Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:21–26). “All of us,” he says, “have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body.” He defends public health measures such as quarantines and seeking medical attention when available. In fact, Luther proposes that not to do so is to act recklessly. Just as God has gifted humans with their bodies, so too he has gifted the medicines of the earth.

What if a Christian still desires to flee?
Luther affirms that this may, in fact, be the believer’s faithful response, provided that their neighbor is not in immediate danger and that they arrange substitutes who will “take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them.” Notably, Luther also reminds readers that salvation is independent of these good works. He ultimately tasks “devout Christians … to come to their own decision and conclusion” whether to flee or to stay during plagues, trusting that they will arrive at a faithful decision through prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Participation in aiding the sick arises out of grace, not obligation.

However, Luther himself was not afraid. Despite the exhortations of his university colleagues, he stayed behind to minister to the sick and dying. He urged his readers not to be afraid of “some small boil” in the service of neighbors.

Though God’s children face earthly sufferings, those who proclaim faith in Christ share in a heavenly promise of freedom from illness and suffering. In an open letter calling for prayer from Christians around the globe, an anonymous Wuhan pastor affirms “[Christ’s] peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things.” Both Luther and the Wuhan pastor express the reality of suffering but recognize that death and suffering do not have the final word.

This week, my grandparents in China messaged me that they are well but are dwelling “like rats” in their apartment, leaving only when necessary. Incidentally, in the Chinese Zodiac system, 2020 is the Year of the Rat — the animal that spread pestilence-carrying fleas across Europe in the 14th century.

My grandparents live west of Wuhan in the province of Sichuan, where more than 100 coronavirus cases have been confirmed. I cannot help but think of them and my other relatives living in China at this time. Hoping to send them masks now out of stock in many stores throughout Asia, my parents and I discovered this week that even US stores have been depleted.

In a climate of fear surrounding the outbreak, I come back to Luther’s letter for guidance. As a medical student and a future physician, I have a clear vocational commitment to caring for the sick — whether they have coronavirus, tuberculosis, or influenza. Precautions I will take, yes. But I am reminded by Luther that they are individuals deserving of care all the same.

“When did we see you sick?” ask the righteous in the parable of the sheep and the goats, to which Jesus responds, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:39–40). If and when the coronavirus encroaches upon our communities, how will we faithfully respond?

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Emmy Yang is a
Theology, Medicine, and Culture Fellow at Duke Divinity School and a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.