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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

JOMO should be the new FOMO

Laura and I had a weekend getaway recently where we walked around an idyllic town (“Little” Nashville), perused antique shops and ate in quaint restaurants. As we were trying to “enter in” to those moments of beauty and grace, I was amazed at how many people all around us were missing out. How so? They had their faces buried in their phones.

It seems, that people don’t talk to each other anymore, at least face-to-face. They don’t engage in the moment, because they’re losing themselves in videos of cute kitties and cuddly babies experienced by others (but not by them). The average teenager spends around six hours a day refreshing their social media feeds and the average adult spends about an hour. We are a society that fears missing out (FOMO) on knowing about what others are doing.

Without question, technology has made the simple tasks of life easier. Every time I order a book on Amazon and get next-day shipping, I say a little prayer of gratitude. Every time I use my phone’s GPS, I’m grateful that I don’t have to write down directions in order to find an address. Every time I pay bills by the push of a button instead of writing out multiple checks, I’m grateful for these revolutionary conveniences. And I haven’t even mentioned the improvements of health care, research, and communications.

The truth is, technology has made our tasks easier, but has it made our lives easier? Technology cannot replace genuine relationships, the beauty of a sunset, the joy of new life, or answers to life’s deepest questions such as, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Is this world all there is?”

Os Guinness writes, “The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with and too little to live for” (The Call, 4). In the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty. The longing of the human heart is as vacuous today as it was in the days of Solomon when he wrote, “ Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV).

Believe me, I’m not anti-technology. I’m writing these words on a MacBook Pro! But technology is not our master; Jesus is. Technology can be a means to a greater end of God’s purposes being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven. When technology becomes the end, however, we fall prey to our human inclinations to put self above others and entertainment above relationships, and we anesthetize ourselves against true beauty and joy. Like a drug addict longing for his next fix, we are consumed with our quest for more news, more entertainment, or more pleasure.

Laura is reading a book right now called, How to Break Up with Your Phone. It speaks to our addiction of not wanting to miss anything. So the last thing we check before going to bed is our phone, and it’s the first thing we look at when we get up. In our addiction of not wanting to miss anything, we miss a lot, especially those closest to us.

I challenge you this week to take a “phone fast” for a day or an evening and try spending that time doing something really radical . . . like talking with the person sitting right in front of you. You may just discover JOMO (joy of missing out)!

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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