COVID-19 on April 15, 2020

As I sit working from home for part of the fifth week in a row, I am encouraged by a lot that I see happening around us — people helping each other, people encouraging one another, etc. Yes, there are also people that are being led around by their fear — hoarding things, grumbling loudly, casting blame in every direction they can, seeking to manipulate others for their own political or personal agendas, seeking to leverage their authority to oppress others, etc. — but I can see the roses amongst the thorns. We can really tell a lot about what a person’s life is founded upon when challenges set in.

I’m also encouraged by the recent data showing that the number of new confirmed cases per day is apparently on a down trend (Source: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html ):

COVID Daily Cases

As an American who is interested in how our leadership is handling this pandemic, and as I realize that the USA has the highest total number of confirmed cases, I know that we can’t blindly compare:

  • the number of cases/deaths in a large country like the US where there is much more transportation and everyday free movement between cities and states and where testing is widely available and encouraged
  • to a smaller country that is more isolated and remote with little testing widely available
  • without taking into account the population.

When looking at the top 10 most affected countries, the US has the highest jump in confirmed cases (seen in green below):

Top10Affected

However, when we take into account the population of the various countries, we are not one of the highest in number of deaths per population. Obviously, I’m not celebrating that other countries have a higher or lower death rate per population, and I’m not on some US specific agenda. I would love to see everyone have as low as possible death rate across the entire world — but the only data we have on something new like this is to make comparisons:

Deaths per Population

I’m encouraged that our efforts as a nation of Social Distancing and then Staying at Home over these past 5 weeks have the statistics at least indicating that we may have flattened the curve. I’m encouraged that the case statistics are now on what appears to be a down trend:

FlattenTheCurve

While these trends encourage me that our efforts are having an impact, every number on this graph for the deaths in the US is a real person — with even more people around them that their death has impacted in some way:

USDeaths

I realize that even still today, there are many who are mad and disgrunted about the shutdowns and inconveniences. I realize that there are even still today people who want to blame all of this on conspiracies, etc. and who deny that it was ever something we even needed to address. For some, even after it takes the life of someone close to them, they may still not be able to accept the interruptions and inconveniences they have undergone as being helpful to protect others — as a reasonable and worthy sacrifice on behalf of their fellow man. But I say, even if it were contrived, and even if we are to be wronged by someone — isn’t it better to accept being wronged for the benefit of others?

I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 6:7 in this instance. I really like both the KJV and Good News translations of this verse from the original Greek:

Original Greek: ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἥττημα ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθ᾽ ἑαυτῶν δια τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; δια τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε;

KJV: Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?

GN: The very fact that you have legal disputes among yourselves shows that you have failed completely. Would it not be better for you to be wronged? Would it not be better for you to be robbed?

And I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 as well:

Original Greek:   ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ χρηστεύεται  ἀγάπη οὐ ζηλοῖ  ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται οὐ φυσιοῦται   ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ χρηστεύεται  ἀγάπη οὐ ζηλοῖ  ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται οὐ φυσιοῦται

KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

NLT: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

Lord, help us and guide us in these times to follow in your footsteps, to walk with you, to trust in you, and to not let fear, anxiety, or the challenges of the day gain a foothold in our lives. You are greater, and you are faithful and true to the end. Amen.

Question about Modesty

I’m going to give you some scriptures to consider… broken up into what I would consider:

  • Milk – easy to consume (foundational)
  • Bread – must be washed down with milk (learning/ construction)
  • Meat – must be chewed on, meditated upon, takes time (polishing)

First, let’s talk quickly about perspective — whether I’m in a mindset of “can I do this or that” or I’m in a mindset of “what glorifies God, benefits the Kingdom of God, and doesn’t stumble others”. This is the milk.

If we can’t stomach this “milk” scripture first and have a right perspective to begin with, we may not be mature enough to receive the “bread” scriptures I’ll share below specifically about modesty without considering the scripture as “burdensome legal obligation keeping us from what we want to do” instead of “helpful godly instruction that glorifies God, furthers the Kingdom, and doesn’t stumble others”. Because if we are still focused on “I”, we need a lot more nursing life from Christ and our old life of sin and selfishness dying away.

Remember, the “milk” will wash down all of the bread so that we dont choke on it (not leaving any out or changing it, put potting right or perspective to receive it):

You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23‭-‬24 NLT

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 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.
Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NLT

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:12‭-‬20 NLT

If the perspective is wrong and we are only thinking about ourselves, the next scripture will only seem burdensome legal obligation and not joyful instruction in godliness. But with Christ as our guide, we can reach conviction and repentance instead of remaining in rebellion, condemnation, or shame.

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.
1 Peter 3:1‭-‬5 NLT

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.
1 Timothy 2:8‭-‬15 NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 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! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:16‭-‬26 NLT

As you can see above, a person in the wrong mindset and perspective of “self” could either read the above and say, “How dare they judge me or tell me what to do!” Or say, “Look how godly I am because I already do these things!” And both those responses from the heart would reveal the same sin of pridefulness. This is why I must also include meat to be considered for part of the meal if you long to grow to be a mature Child of God, loving others, and walking with God in light and not in darkness:

Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
Galatians 2:16‭-‬21 NLT

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer : ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9‭-‬14 NLT

When we can receive all of this joyfully, and can be eager for all of this to be true in our lives and in our hearts and in our thoughts — and when we are not adding to it, subtracting from it, or wagging our finger at others about it, but are humble before God and seeing Him actively make it so in us as He leads us along this narrow path — then we will know that He is God and that He will finish the work He has started in us. Amen.

Old Man Wrigley on a Maundy Thursday

The song “Believe” made popular by Brooks & Dunn talks about a young man’s life influenced by an older man’s faith. This older man is called Old Man Wrigley in the song. Give the song a listen, and pay attention to the lyrics:

Hearing my mom Jean Edge Ballinger read daily devotionals to my grandmother in the next room while I’m working from home reminds me that being an Old Man Wrigley has nothing to do with age, or position in life — just that strong pull of faith, of gratitude for what was laid down on Good Friday and raised back up on Easter Sunday, and an eager willingness to share honestly with others the reason for our hope.

I have plenty of pastor friends, and most of them look at the Old Man Wrigleys of this world with more awe and respect than they do the crowd gatherers. And some Old Man Wrigleys have such a clear and understandable reason for their hope that crowds gather very regularly to listen to them, not just on a front porch.

You might see Old Man Wrigley on a front porch, or an old man taking a boy fishing, a step parent adopting a child to love as their own, or a neighbor spending time with you, or a loved one taking care of a family member, or a preacher sharing the Good News, or a recovered addict helping run a shelter, or a business leader teaching and mentoring other professionals — but look past the veil of this world, and you might just catch a glimpse of Jesus and His disciples washing feet.

Maundy Thursday is a remembrance that some Christians practice in remembrance of the night before He went to the cross. The key with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, or even weekly church gatherings isn’t about carrying on the consistent religious tradition of such things — but that we actually remember and appreciate and “worship in spirit and truth” our Savior and Lord.

On the text, we see that Jesus first demonstrated by His actions the principal of living service to others:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
John 13:3‭-‬17 ESV

Then after He had demonstrated with His actions, He told His disciples what to do:

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:31‭-‬35 ESV

Believers, we must be like Jesus and like Old Man Wrigley, letting our lives’ actions speak so loudly of the gospel that others might ask us, “How are you like this?” Or “Why do you believe?” Because this is real faith that they can see and discern is quite different and peculiar from the self-righteous and from the hypocritically religious and from the lost clearly trapped in sin and pride and selfishness. Because you can tell a child all day what to do with your words, but if you don’t first instruct them with your actions and your example, it is futile.

you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
1 Peter 3:15‭-‬16 NLT

Opportunity Walks Alongside Challenge

John Maxwell had this quote to share today on his Minute with Maxwell:

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” –Chuck Swindoll

Every opportunity comes from a challenge. How we perceive a situation or circumstances can either blind us to the opportunity in hopelessness, or it can set our eyes upon God’s promises and His ability to accomplish mighty and amazing things even in seemingly impossible situations.

Yes, our own strength and ability had limits. You are wise to not expect that you could overcome everything that you face on your own. But what is impossible for man is possible for the Almighty.

What does scripture tell us?

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord ; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the Lord ; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
Isaiah 41:10‭-‬17 ESV

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2 ESV

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2‭-‬4 ESV

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalms 23:1‭-‬6 ESV

Lord, may we trust in you fully. Trust in your faithfulness. Trust in your plan. Trust in YOU. Amen.