Dear church family,
Tonight, March 26, 2020, we cover the last ‘step’ on our strategy on facing the COVID Pandemic.
Previously we covered:
Step 1: Pause and Innovate
Step 2: Prepare and Plan
Step 3: Engage and Execute
Tonight we will focus on Step 4: Recover and Reemerge
Churches across North America and around the world will suffer a huge negative impact.
I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist.
We saw this at 9/11, we saw this in Katrina. That’s simply the reality of the effects of this kind of crisis. However, most will recover and reemerge.
How we reemerge will depend upon circumstances out of our control, but also largely on how we navigate this time of crisis.
Remember that the church is not the building, the church is the PEOPLE. You and me! We are the church!
I also believe this crisis has pushed us out of our comfort zone and forced us to explore new ways to connect, and better strategies to reach people for Christ. A fellow pastor shared that in the past 10 days he has seen more innovation and creativity in the Church than what he has seen in the last 10 years!
My prayer for every church in every place would be for them to rise up “for such a time as this” by sharing and showing the love of Christ.
John 11 tells us the story of Lazarus’ death.
Mary and Martha were facing the same problem we face today. They were looking at a tragedy and saying, “Where were you, Lord, in all of this? How do we make sense of this?”
Jesus moves through the ruins with four things: truth, tears, anger, and much love and grace.
The truth he wields with Martha; the tears He sheds with Mary; the anger He directs at the tomb, and the love and grace He extends to everybody.
Let’s look at the way these four things fit together.
What do we learn from Jesus’ tears? When Jesus reaches Mary, she asks Him a major theological question: “Lord, why weren’t You here? You could have stopped this.”
She asked Him a question, but He couldn’t even speak. He was moved with compassion. He just wept.
All He could do is ask, “Where have you laid him?” He is troubled. He is deeply moved.
This reaction is startling because when Jesus enters this situation, He comes with two things that you and we don’t have.
First, He KNOWS a lot more than we do. Jesus comes in knowing why it happened. He knows how He is going to turn it into a manifestation of the glory of God. He knows what He is going to do and that in the next ten minutes they will all be rejoicing.
When you and I enter into these tragic situations, we have no idea.
The second thing, He has is POWER. He is the only one that can do something about the problem. You and I can’t do a thing to undo it.
Yet, He cries! Why?
Why doesn’t He just come in and say, “Just wait and you will see”? If you knew you were about to turn everything around, would you grieve? Would you allow the pain to tear your heart? Why would Jesus do that?
Because He is perfect. His love is perfect. He is perfect love!
He does not close his heart even for a minute. He doesn’t refuse to enter into our grief. He walks directly into it!
We learn two things from this. The first is simple but needs to be said: There is nothing wrong with weeping when we see the pain and suffering around us.
Ellen White writes in “The Oriental Watchman”, December 1, 1909 “Christ is affected as his weakest follower is affected. The sympathy of Christ is such that he can not be an indifferent spectator of his children’s sufferings. Not a sigh is breathed, not a pain felt, not a grief pierces the soul, but the throb vibrates to the Father’s heart.”
Jesus Christ was the most mature person who ever lived, yet He is grieving.
Grief is not a sign of weakness. Those who are like Jesus don’t avoid grief. They find themselves pulled into the grief of those who are hurting.
Jesus’ tears also suggest something about our need to “fix it.”
When the crisis comes, there’s a lot of people that are willing to volunteer, to help, to fix things.
At this point, there are several of us Christians that study Bible prophecy and know exactly why this is happening… and where this is going to end. I mean, you read Matthew 24 and you know this is just a sign of the end times.
I’m so happy for each one of you! But I want to remind you that Jesus is also a proponent of the ministry of tears.
The ministry of truth and power without tears isn’t Jesus.
Over the next months and years, San Marcos may have a hard time recovering from this.
The city is going to need neighbors and friends and people who are willing to live here and be part of a great city.
The best thing we can do for the city is to stay here and be ourselves, even though it may cost more money or take more time.
So, let’s enter in. Let’s not just “fix it.” Let’s weep with those who weep. This is the first lesson about suffering, learned from the tears of Jesus.
The second thing we learn about the suffering we learn from the anger of Jesus. Did you notice anything in the text I read that indicated that Jesus was angry?
In verse 33, when Jesus saw Mary and the others weeping, it says, “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” But the original Greek word means “to quake with rage.”
In verse 38, as Jesus came to the tomb, it says He was “deeply moved.” The original Greek word there means “to roar with anger like a lion or a bull.”
So, the best translation would be, “Boiling up with anger, He came to the tomb.”
It may mean that He was actually yelling out in anger.
This is relevant to us because we are all going through this corporately.
Our shock and grief are giving way to fear and anger.
There is a lot of rage around.
In this passage, Jesus is filled with rage.
What does Jesus do with it?
He doesn’t enter into the “blame game.”
He says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life,” one of the most stupendous claims that anyone has ever made.
He doesn’t just say, “I am a healer.” He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. I am the life-giver.” He is claiming to be God!
But when He gets to the tomb, He does not demonize anyone, including the victims, and including God.
I bring this up because at this point is very easy to start blaming each other for what’s happening, or what is NOT happening in the City, in your neighborhood or even in the church.
Some people are wondering if God is mad at them. “I just lost my job so He is mad at me.” “I was just in a car accident. I am paralyzed. He must be mad at me.” That’s not how it works!
Jesus did not suffer for us so that we would not suffer. He suffered so that when we suffer, it makes us like Him.
Jesus focuses His rage on death itself. He is angry at the tomb. And this is the storyline that the best Christians are using.
Let’s get angry at death. Let’s get angry at illness.
Let’s not waste our time playing the blame game.
Let’s get active. Let’s mourn with those who mourn.
Let’s step up to make a difference!
People around us are dying of fear and we know the One who’s love takes away all fear!
After this time of crisis, we will survive if we love well—both Christians and non-Christians alike.
I pray that our church (you and me) will lead well.
That we will lead with gentleness, wisdom, discernment, and integrity. Not with a haughty or prideful spirit as if we know it all.
There’s an amazing article Ed Stetzer published in USAToday last week. The title is, “Removing the coronavirus mask: may this crisis reveal us as Christians.” I highly recommend it!
Among several great comments I invite you to consider, he wrote that his hope and prayer would be that we would be like the Christians Eusebius described from the 4th century.
His prayer is that once this crisis has subsided (and it will), they will say of us (as Eusebius said of them), the Christians “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians.”
If we are planning to survive this crisis, we better be ready to show compassion, to love like Jesus did, to mourn with those who mourn and empathize with their frustrations.
At the same time, I pray that everyone around us can see our deeds, and glorify our loving God!
That’s how the Church will survive! That’s how the Church will recover and reemerge… that’s how the Church will thrive!
Let’s humble ourselves and ask God to help us represent Him right!
Have a blessed night!
Your servant in Christ,