Pastor Ben's Weekly Update
July 30, 2020
"Furthermore, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are worthy love, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things."
Philippians 4:8 (1599 Geneva Bible)
Our days may come to seventy years
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Listed as Psalm 90, this is the first Psalm ever written and the only one attributed to Moses. Moses was God’s voice to the leaders of Egypt and the first leader of the new nation of Israel as it moved toward the land God had promised to them. He saw God punish evil repeatedly, both when God punished Egypt for not letting His people go and when God punished Israel for rebelling against God.
Moses essentially says, life is too short for this nonsense. Don’t you know that God will punish you for your evil? You only get 70 or 80 years – why waste it suffering under God’s wrath?
His plea to God – relent, Lord! In verse 13 – is not based on Israel’s goodness or even their repentance. They had not good and had not been particularly apologetic for their evil. Rather, Moses appeals to God’s compassion, asking for God’s goodness and favor as someone who has no standing. There is no “you owe us” or “God, we deserve better.” Rather, Moses acknowledges that God has laid out all of Israel’s sins in verse 8. Moses asks that everything good Israel needs – that Moses hopes to see – come as grace and mercy from God, knowing that Israel only deserves punishment. So he asks, “teach us…” (12), “relent… have compassion” (13), “satisfy us… with your love” (14), “make us glad” (15), “may your [splendorous] deeds be shown” (16), “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us” (17), “establish the work of our hands” (17). He never claims any moral standing and never tells God to give them what they deserve because he knows that what they deserve is judgement and condemnation.
Oftentimes we come to God from a position of deserving, believing that God owes us. But God doesn’t owe us anything, no matter how good we are. We receive Jesus in the same way the Israelites received the Promised Land – by the grace of God. Every good act of God is an act of mercy. We are not saved because we deserve it. We do not receive mercy because we demand it. As the Lord taught us to pray, “thy will be done.”
May we be so humble as to seek God’s will in our prayers.
May we daily find his mercy.
Steve Straw, aviation mechanic and pilot for the C&MA national church and Bongolo Hospital, has made the transfer of skills needed to fix many broken oxygen concentrators that could save lives if and when COVID-19 arrives at Bongolo. Steve was contacted by Dr. Sarah when she discovered many of the oxygen concentrators were in disrepair. She asked Steve to try his hand at fixing them. He sought some advice from Paul Davis, the hospital’s previous maintenance director who is back in the states. They video conferenced and Steve began fixing the machines with help from the hospital’s local maintenance staff. The long-distance teamwork between Paul in the US and the local maintenance staff here at Bongolo has enabled Steve to develop new skills in repairing oxygen concentrators. We may not have made this discovery that is so helpful for the hospital for some time, had it not been for the novel coronavirus.
“As long as you think you’ll be alright…
it’ll be a mediocre, half-dead Christianity. ...
When no one can help you anymore…
that’s when you’re near the kingdom.”
I have a rule – I call it the Inverse Anger Rule. The Inverse Anger Rule states that “in the 21st Century, we are most worked up and most divided over the things which affect our everyday life the least and over which we have the least amount of control.”
In simple terms, we are getting angry over things that do not affect us and which we cannot control.
The prime example of this during the past week was Hydroxychloriquine. A marginally-ineffective anti-malarial drug has become the latest dividing line in the culture wars. Videos are circulating showing it to be a miracle cure or the way through the COVID pandemic. People argue back with the many studies which show its effectiveness to be, at best, mixed and, at worse, harmful.
But why are we fighting for or against this drug? What do you accomplish by sharing this video in the first place? What is your goal or your desired outcome?
Unless you are a national public health official or some other public leader, you have no control over what does or does not happen with HCQ. Moreover, unless you have COVID and are consulting with your doctor, the relative effectiveness of this drug does not really matter to your daily life.
If you have Lupus, however, the availability of this drug and its preservation for your taking is very important to you. If you have family or friends which need this life-sustaining drug, you are right to fight for its availability for you and its careful study in other applications so as to not exhaust our stockpiles.
Instead of fighting over the thing – a drug, a video, a study – or fighting through memes, let’s start revealing our motivations. Lay bare your thought process behind your posts. Do not blindly support some national celebrity’s positions on a subject or re-post videos one way or other without putting out your reasons behind your posts. Saying, simply, “food for thought,” or “hmmm” (of which I am guilty!) does not uplift or help other people. We are all struggling in various ways through this pandemic and its associate effects.
Try this: the next time you post something, being with, “I am sharing this because I hope we can find a way through this pandemic and I wonder if this is a good way forward.” Or “I am scared of what will happen to school in the future.” Or “I am lonely right now and I wish life could go back to normal.”
If you begin with your motivations, you might find yourself questioning those motivations. I hope so! I know my motivations in the past for engaging in social media have really been about winning or telling someone else they were wrong. Or want to seem smart. Or being angry. Or any number of myriad reasons that were uncharitable and ungodly. We ought to question our motivations.
If you are posting, for example, because you think “those people are out to destroy America,” or “these people are part of a secret cabal of baby-killing pedophiles who want to control me with microchips and so forth,” perhaps take a step back and ask, “if I really believe all that, what do I need to be doing to prepare myself for such a moment? With whom should I be speaking in real life? How can I actually get engage at a local level to prevent this?” If you have world-ending concerns that you cannot shake, you need to speak with others in real life ASAP. Find your pastor. Talk with people with whom you disagree. Talk to local elected officials. Engage your local health department. Talk with your doctor. Make it local.
If you begin with your motivations, others can help meet your needs in that moment with prayer, encouragement, and solidarity. We can join with your mourning, laugh with your joy, and assuage your fears. We can love each other better when we know what we are all going through.
No more shots across the bow. No more artillery drops. Let’s be humans together and be honest about our motivations. Let’s make life local and no longer feed the burning fire that is our culture wars. You might find the help you need, the hope for your fears, the peace for your anger when you lay bare your concerns instead of fighting with fear or writing just to win.
Second Harvest Food Bank needs help with our pop-up produce pantry, which was previously staffed by the National Guard. Feeding the hungry is always a good move.