Three Things I’ve Noticed in Quarantine

For the past month or so, most of us who are not “essential” workers have gotten to know our houses very well. Every phase of our lives is being done differently right now. That includes our spiritual lives. What have you learned about your spiritual life from being in quarantine? In James’ letter, the author leaps right out of the gate by making this statement “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  Trials, like the one we are presently going through, are used by God to forge and refine our faith. Because of that, we are to find joy in trials. Here are three observations I have made as I’ve looked at the way followers of Jesus have responded to quarantine. 1. The government is not God. A lot of us have looked to the government and its leaders to provide answers, a plan, and support. But we see, regardless of political affiliation, definitive answers are in short supply. Information, untainted by agenda, is hard to come by. The government is not all-knowing, nor is it all-powerful. God supplied his people manna every day. The government is sending $1200. An unprecedented amount of money was spent in a relief bill, but it will not meet the monthly need of most households. The government does not have unlimited resources. A big part of our developing perseverance is being sure we have faith in the right thing. God wants to be the focus of our faith. Also in the first chapter of James, we...

Disruption

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:21, 27, 33-34 Throughout the world, we are experiencing a level of disruption to which we are unaccustomed. People’s daily, comfortable routines are broken. Going to work each day is an uncertainty. Long planned vacations have been canceled. All of us are being asked to cut ourselves off from gatherings and relationships. This lack of comfort and security is causing mass anxiety, panic, and worry. People are hoarding basic supplies. Market shelves have been cleared of food and other essentials. So many are trying to preserve their sense of security and independence. Sadly, this reaction is just as common in those who follow Jesus as those who do not. Unfortunately, security in this world is not promised by God. Despite its best attempts, humanity’s efforts to create a utopian kingdom without God are precarious at best. The COVID-19 virus and its spread serve to remind all of us that life is fragile and not to be taken for granted. Hope is not found in good health, predictability of growing economies, or Hope is found in the kingdom of God. It is this Kingdom to which Jesus continually directed the eyes of his followers. If you have made a claim to follow Jesus, then you are a citizen of...

What Christmas Brought

Christmas is upon us, and those who follow the way of Jesus are filled with joy at the remembrance of the Son of God’s entrance into humanity. In Jesus we have been offered the Father’s ultimate gift to his creation: his one and only Son. One of my fondest childhood Christmas memories involves the way that my mother reminded my sister and me that Christmas was about Jesus’ birth. For the entire season of advent we would have a nativity set up with an empty crib of hay. On Christmas morning either me or my sister was allowed to place baby Jesus in the nativity. Many of use have among our season’s decor a manger scene depicting the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, among other figures. It is a beautiful was to commemorate Luke’s telling of the Christmas story. The problem for many of us is that we keep the Jesus we follow in the manger. Baby Jesus is easy to dismiss as King of our lives. As a baby, Jesus is easy to control or ignore altogether. You do not surrender you life to a baby, for a baby is dependent upon others for its well-being. Thus, we tend to be more comfortable with a baby Jesus. At Christmas we remember that Jesus humbled himself and entered the world the same was as every other human being. But the baby in the manger grows up. He is affirmed in his identity by the Father. From that relationship, Jesus draws purpose. Jesus knew why he had come and told those around him what his birth had brought. Do not think...

Remaining Centered

As followers of Jesus’ way, we long to develop a state of our soul that is in continual communion with God. This is of course done in prayer. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they should “pray continually”, but how is this possible in the ebb and flow of daily life? In Jesus we observe those times when he went off to be alone to practice solitude and silence in his prayers. Getting away from the busyness and expectations of life is an important facet of the development of our prayer lives. Yet, praying continually does not mean that we are to live in solitude and silence always. It is not possible nor is it the expectation from what we see in the life of Christ. In order for Jesus to speak out of the overflow of who he was, he needed to be in continual communion with the Father. We need to develop the same sense of presence. Then we will experience less of the dichotomy of life where we define some times and spaces as sacred and others as secular or normal. Jesus’ power as he walked among us came from being ‘in’ the Father. Similarly, our power comes from being ‘in’ Christ. Our ambition is to be ‘in’ Christ at all times and in all situations. An example of this is found in Mark 9 where Jesus, Peter, James, and John are descending from a mountain to find the remaining disciples in an argument that came about because they could not drive out an evil spirit. Later, when Jesus was privately teaching his twelve...

God and Decision Making

Many years ago, I had a friend I was working with who was presented with two opportunities. He prayed. He invited others to pray with him. We talked many times. But in all the prayer and discussion, my friend was left feeling like he hadn’t heard from God. He became paralyzed by anxiety because he wanted to make the right decision. He scoffed at the idea that maybe God was allowing him freedom and that there wasn’t one right decision. I had a client who was in the process of choice and made the statement that “if it is easy, then it is God’s will.” We had a lot of conversation about that falsehood of that statement, but it is a common way to think about God’s will. Many times we treat God like a genie in a bottle. Saving having him part of the decision making process until we are at a crossroad or crisis. Then we demand that God’s intervention be instantaneous and obvious. We don’t like to wait. Other times, we make a decision that suits us and then turn back and invite God to join us. A classic example of this is when Abraham and Sarah decided to fulfill God’s promises through having Hagar be a surrogate mother. They had made the promise a higher value than the One who made the promise. Paul highlights the problem we have in discerning God’s will in Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s...

Resting Through the Storm

At the end of a long day of teaching the crowds from the shore, Jesus confronts the disciples with a plan: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” – Mark 4:35 It is Jesus’ idea to get in the boat before dark and head away from the crowds and toward gentile territory on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So, the disciples of Jesus hopped in the boat and they left right then. As we read through this passage, Jesus is going to perform a miracle over nature. But, there is more meaning to this story than just the face value. Throughout his gospel, Mark presents events as well as words as parabolic. Jesus is teaching his disciples (and us) in parables of words and deeds. This story starts with Jesus saying “follow me” and disciples complying, despite not knowing what was to be ahead. Being a disciple means getting in the boat with Jesus. Because they were heading to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were leaving both the crowds and heading toward the gentiles. Both of these realities forced these followers of Jesus to confront their own preconceptions of the Messiah. Leaving the crowds meant leaving power and adulation. Heading to the unclean gentiles confronted the idea that this was Israel’s Messiah. They were heading away from their vision of the Messiah. Being a disciple means letting go of your expectations of the journey. The way of Jesus is one of surrender and obedience. It is also one of discomfort as...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

Close
loading...