At the beginning of our virtual church service on Sunday morning, we sang the song, “Days of Elijah.” Even though the song is starting to show its age, it’s a favorite at the Gap. Whenever we sing it together, voices get a smidge louder.
The song, written by Irish worship leader Robin Mark, hearkens back to the great prophet of Israel, Elijah, and his experience proclaiming the word of the Lord. Elijah did the Lord’s bidding and witnessed great miracles from his own hands. But, as the song reminds us, Elijah lived through days of great trial, of famine and darkness and sword.
This takes me to one of my favorite childhood Bible stories. Something about Elijah sitting by a creek being air-dropped bread by a raven has always appealed to me. God provided his servant everything he needed during the great famine. Of course, eventually God allowed the creek to run dry in order to move Elijah from that place to another. Necessity moved him from Cherith Creek to Zarephath. He went from being fed by a raven to being fed by a widow with miraculous regenerative bread ingredients. Wherever he went, Elijah had to trust the Lord for his next meal.
You may think you are different from Elijah, but you aren’t. Raven or not so raven, your daily bread comes from God. We all trust Him for our next meal. Sure, our methods have become more sophisticated. These days our funds are air-dropped electronically into our bank accounts. But make no mistake, God is still the source of our daily bread.
This time of quarantine reminds us just how dependent we really are on the Lord. The bread shelf at the supermarket empties quickly. Even bread flour is scarce, as people resort to baking their own. One thing we know about bread is it has a short shelf-life. We’re always looking for the next loaf. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He was reminding them that they were dependent on God for all of their needs. On another occasion, after miraculously feeding a large crowd of people, Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is the spiritual daily bread God gives us. All our spiritual needs are met in Him. When we need physical food, God provides bread. When we need spiritual life, joy, and peace, God provides Jesus.
I'm praying that this time in our lives passes quickly. But I'm also praying that we won't miss out on all of the rich lessons God has for us as we sit by the stream and wait for the raven. If nothing else I pray we are reminded that there’s truly no god like Jehovah.
Have you seen in the news that the Chinese government is trying to blame the United States military for COVID-19? This has resulted in President Trump referring to it as the “Chinese Virus” to set the record straight. Then there are reports of Asian-Americans being called out in public, and mistreated. Apparently, there are some who think that Americans of Chinese heritage deserve to be punished because a virus originated in the country of their ancestors. The misnamed Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918 originated in Haskell County, Kansas. I wonder if Kansans were discriminated against. It brings up a question. Who’s to blame here? Whose fault is this pandemic?
For answers to this question we turn to Jesus. There is an intriguing conversation between Jesus and his disciples that might help shed some light on the question of blame. It’s found in the gospel of John.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3 NIV)
Jesus heals the man’s blindness, which results in a fascinating debate involving the Jewish religious leaders, the healed blind man, and his parents. The religious leaders are convinced that Jesus is a sinner, a charlatan, and a heretic. But how is he able to cure blindness if these things are true? It presents a conundrum, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for the formerly blind man who responds to their grilling with a simple diagnosis, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25 NIV)
Back to the question. The disciples ask Jesus who is to blame for blindness. The consensus of thinking in the ancient world was that all disease and hardship was attributable to sin. Do you remember the story of Job? His friends could not be convinced that pitiful Job had not committed some type of sin. We still play the blame game.
Jesus turns their eyes away from the blame question. He says, “neither this man nor his parents sinned.” But rather than explain to the disciples the origin of this particular blindness, he turns their thinking away from the cause to the result. Regardless of the cause of the blindness, he explains to them, it will result in the works of God being displayed.
Applying this passage to the current situation, can we just stop with the blame game? The most feasible story is that this virus originated in a wet market near Wuhan, China. A wet market combines human interaction with all sorts of live animals sold for food. It’s a scene out of everyday life in China – nothing sinister about it. Like going to Sam’s Club or Costco. Somehow, in the mix of animals and humans, the coronavirus mutated and COVID-19 was born, spreading rapidly from human to human. Who sinned? I suppose the relevant answer is “Nobody.” Even though we know the universal answer is “Everybody.”
So, rather than obsess over the cause, let’s take advice from Jesus and turn to the result. What will the result of COVID-19 be? Well, that story is still being written. It’s too early to tell. But consider this. When this chapter of your life is through, what will people remember about how you responded? What will your children remember about how you conducted yourself in your home? How are you spending your time? What words are you speaking?
This could be an unprecedented time of spiritual growth in our world. I hope and pray this virus will ultimately result in increased intimacy with God – that hearts and minds will turn to him, and seekers will find the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s do our part. Forget the blame game. Participate in God’s cure.
Watch our Morning Worship Service right here at 10:30 am on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
In the interest of positivity, I present a list of the Benefits of Social Distancing for your edification. Some are serious. Some are satirical. I’ll let you sort them out. If you can think of anything else, add your thoughts in the comment section.
It’s that last one I want to zero in on for a moment. I don’t presume to know the myriad of purposes the Lord might have in this chapter of our lives. But I do know this. He has our attention.
Dr. Tony Evans likens our current situation to an alarm clock. He says, “When your alarm clock goes off and wakes you up it brings you out of one reality of slumber and sleep into a new reality of alertness. The further you remove God from a life, a family, and a culture, the more chaotic things will become. And so, oftentimes, in the Bible and in the world, God will shake things… Shaking means when God allows disruption in the normal order of things. Life is going along like you prefer it, like you want it, like you desire it, like you love it. And all of a sudden there is an interruption in the affairs of normalcy. That’s what God does all through the Bible, He would shake things up when He wanted to get our undivided attention.”
So, what is your responsibility when God’s alarm clock goes off? Well, you could hit the snooze button and return to your slumber. That might feel good until the alarm sounds even louder. You could unplug the alarm clock and sleep indefinitely. But what kind of life is that? When God’s alarm clock shakes you from your slumber, ready or not, it’s time to wake up and face a new day.
Most of us know the story of Jacob’s dream. How he dreamed of a ladder extending to heaven, with angels ascending and descending. The Lord used that dream to renew His covenant with His people, Israel. The Lord used that dream to awaken Jacob from his slumber. Can I draw your attention to the words spoken by Jacob after waking up from that life-shattering dream?
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:16-17 NIV)
There are times in life when God’s presence seems nearer. There are times when God peels back the corner of the sky and gives us a glimpse of heaven. Times when we are suddenly aware that God is with us. He never left, He just feels closer. This is one of those times. Jacob called that place “Bethel,” which means, “The house of God.” I am praying for you. For our church family. For our nation. When we look back on this strange chapter in our lives, I pray that it will be our Bethel – the place and time where God shakes us up and wakes us up to a whole new reality… a reality where His presence is more fully known.
Dear Church Family,
A couple of Sundays ago we considered the teaching of James 3 on the power of the tongue. In his letter, James emphasizes that although the tongue is a small member of our body, it is nevertheless very powerful. James compares the tongue to a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a spark that ignites a blaze. All of these are small items that pack a big punch.
Consider the coronavirus. It, too, is a very small item (microscopic, in fact) that has major impact. This tiny dynamo is closing down schools, churches and businesses. It is treating the stock market like a roller-coaster. It is emptying the shelves of toilet paper, and is forcing everyone to rethink everyday activities.
Quaker Gap is no exception. As church leaders, we are needing to make difficult decisions. I want to gather the flock together, sing songs of praise, open the Word of God, pray as a corporate body and serve a tremendous meal to be shared around full tables. That’s what we do best. The government is telling us not to gather together. The latest recommendation of the CDC is that in-person events that consist of 50 people or more should be cancelled for the next 8 weeks. The latest buzz word being used is “social distancing.” How can we be a body of believers who encourage one another to grow in our faith in Jesus, while keeping distance from one another? I don’t have all the answers, but we will find our way.
We have decided to take this one week at a time. For this week we have decided to cancel all church activities and services. This includes all Wednesday Evening activities, all face-to-face meetings, and all services on Sunday, March 22nd. We will re-assess the situation on Monday, March 23rd and give further instructions.
On Wednesday, we will post a written Bible Study on the church website. We will post a video message to watch on Sunday morning. We will publicize these tools on social media and through email.
Our Deacons would like to assist the church body during this time. If anybody has need of anything, please contact a Deacon or the church office. We would be happy to serve you in any way we can. If you are quarantined because of illness, we would be happy to drop needed items off on your porch if you have nobody who can do this for you.
Please remember that just because we aren’t meeting corporately as a church, our ongoing expenses do not cease. We continue to rely on your tithes and offerings. Donations may be mailed to the church at 2265 Flat Shoals Rd., King NC 27021. If you have online banking, you may designate the church as a bill recipient and the bank will send a check. Additionally, we are working on an online giving solution. As soon as that is in place, we will make it public.
As always, the Lord is in control of this situation. We trust that He will reveal Himself in incredible ways through this time of social distancing. I look forward to our first Sunday back together again. In the meantime, please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns – or just to chat.
Please share this information with anyone you know that does not have access to email.
Joyfully in Jesus,
Dr. Jack Darida
Quaker Gap Baptist Church
2265 Flat Shoals Rd.
King, NC 27021