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Take Five, Give Five

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Sometimes God gives us good gifts in unexpected ways. This is one of those times.

As a culture we have been busy and stressed, running from one thing to the next without a break. We have gotten used to a high stock market and a low level of discourse. We have been obsessed with sports and entertainment, and we have grown accustomed to constant sniping, bickering, and disunity in Washington, D. C. We have even taken for granted the ability to go to church, treating it the way a consumer purchases a product or selects a restaurant in which to dine.

This week, suddenly we have to stop. It’s as if God is saying, “Everybody take five.” Stop taking your health, money, food, school, job, and church for granted. Quit majoring in minor things. Remember what’s really important. Stop being too busy to pray.  Quit overlooking the elderly, the sick, and the isolated. And yes, you can even quit going to school and church for a while (or at least change the way you’ve been doing them). For a bit of time yet to be determined, just stop. 

God built sabbath rest into his law, not to burden us but to bless us. “The sabbath was made for man,” Jesus said (Mark 2:27). God knows we need a break now and then—a time to “take five,” rest, recuperate, and recalibrate our souls. But in typical fashion, as if we know better than the Creator, we humans rush right over the God-given speed bumps and keep going until our spiritual fuel tanks are empty and our bodies are ready to crash. God told the ancient Israelites to let their land rest every seventh year, but they ignored his instructions and kept farming the land year after year without a break. In time the Lord allowed the Babylonians to carry the Jewish people into exile, and in that way the “land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested” (2 Chronicles 36:21).

So during these unprecedented days, let’s “take five.” Find new ways to rest, worship, pray, and serve.

And let’s also “give five.” Throughout the day, take five minutes here and there to serve someone else. Phone a shut-in.  Write an encouraging note. Text a friend. Talk and play with your children.  Check on a neighbor who lives alone. Stop and pray for someone who’s lonely. Reach out to a missionary or a soldier stationed overseas.

This is a time to “take five,” but as Jesus reminded us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  “Social distancing” doesn’t have to mean relational distancing. This is a great time for Christ-followers to serve a world in turmoil. Let’s make the most of every opportunity. Let’s be living examples of God’s calming peace and his unselfish love. It’s time to take five—and give five, too.

Our Self-Protection Mentality May Prove Worse than COVID-19

I’m writing this blog on the morning of the following news updates:

  • Wall Street reeled as the Dow fell more than 2,000 points.
  • The U.S. death toll rose to 26 and several members of Congress are in self-quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.
  • Italy has placed travel restrictions on the entire country of 60 million people.
  • Avon students (Indianapolis area school district) will have “e-learning days” through March 20 because of concerns about COVID-19.

I imagine that by the time you read this, the above updates will be “outdates,” and what’s new today will be old tomorrow.

Medical experts are telling us that this disease is indeed dangerous, but the self-protection mentality of the masses may actually be proving worse.  Abdu Sharkaway, a Toronto doctor, wrote a Facebook post last week that went viral.  In it, he attacked the “spellbinding spiral of panic” as the number of people infected continues to increase. 

"What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world.”

We’ve all witnessed the all-too-familiar scene of empty shelves at Costco, Sam’s and Walmart where hand sanitizers, cleaning products, masks, and gloves once resided.  

The church where I serve is working diligently to enforce every precautionary measure we can for sanitizing our facility (especially our kids' areas), and to develop actions related to how we serve communion and to any possible future restrictions placed on public gatherings.

As the old adage goes, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” 

So, how should we respond to the “spellbinding spiral of panic” that can quickly lead to hoarding rather than helping and fear rather than faith?  Jesus gives us a path forward.

Fear not.  When the disciples were terrified due to a great storm that was soon to engulf their small fishing boat (with them on board), they cried out to Jesus, and He said, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).  We tend to fear the unknown and that over which we have no control.  To conquer fear, we need to grow our faith, which means we trust in the One who knows the unknown and controls the uncontrollable. 

Pray and plan.  Jesus was about to enter into His final test of suffering and death, and he said to his disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).  Prayer calms the soul, aligns the mind, and opens the heart.  Jesus also said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  Wisdom shines down on planning, and innocence directs its steps. 

Be generous.  Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).  Love leads to generosity, that which we invoke to be a giver rather than a taker.  When we demonstrate a spirit of generosity, we are following in the footsteps of our Master who “emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

We don’t know how long this global concern will remain, but we do know what will remain forever for those who place their trust in Jesus: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Therefore, do . . . not . . . fear.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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