COVID-19 and The Gospel

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-20

The gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit were always meant to spread like a virus, not unlike COVID-19. One person can “infect” a whole group of people. Yet, what are the preventative measures that stop the spread? Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and inoculation.

Masks = when people hide their face, when they are afraid to be transparent about their life

Hand sanitizer = when people refuse to get their hands dirty, when they want their Christianity tidy and neat and don’t want the mess that comes with the Holy Spirit and a servant-life of following Jesus

Social distancing = lack of connection, lack of community, relational distance

Inoculation = vaccines work by exposing the immune system to part of the virus without being exposed to the whole thing. People get inoculated from the gospel and the Holy Spirit when they get a partial exposure but don’t experience the whole thing. This leads them to believe they have experienced the whole thing, and they are not impressed when it is offered again. They’ve built up a hardness of heart, an immunity.

By far the strongest preventive measure against a virus is a vaccine. Likewise, the strongest preventive measure the enemy can enact against the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit is partial exposure without full exposure.

I see this with the gospel when people say, “Oh yeah, I grew up in church.” What they often mean is, “I already know all about Jesus and the church and I don’t want any part of it.” But of course, that isn’t true. They were exposed only partially to the Kingdom and all that comes with following Jesus. If they knew the whole thing, they’d want all of it.

I also see this with the filling of the Spirit, mostly from those who have some experience (usually bad experience) with the charismatic tradition. People saw a charismatic televangelist or went to a charismatic. church for a time in their life and had horrible experiences with that. They now believe they are an expert on the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. They reject so much of the Spirit’s work in the world because “they already know.” But if they really knew the fullness of the Spirit, they would be running around telling everyone about it. They’ve become inoculated with just enough exposure to leave a bad taste in their mouth but not enough exposure to see what all the fuss is about.

This is why it is vital for churches and Christians to be “all in.” When we give people a partial exposure to the gospel or a partial exposure to the gifts of the Spirit, we run the risk of eventual inoculation. We must be all in ourselves, sold out for Christ, and invite people to an uncompromised experience of the Kingdom and the Spirit.

Fully Vaccinated

I got my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine last Friday. I didn’t experience any negative symptoms except a sore arm and a little fatigue. It is a reassuring feeling to be vaccinated, but I wanted to know why vaccinated people are still being asked to wear masks. Basically, it has less to do with science and more to do with pubic perception.

Being fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after your final dose of the vaccine. If you are fully vaccinated, the chances of you getting and spreading COVID are extremely low. One study showed that in unvaccinated hospital workers 2.6% of them got COVID. Yet, of the vaccinated workers, only 0.05% got COVID. So if there was 2000 unvaccinated workers, about 50 got COVID. Yet, if there was 2000 vaccinated workers, 1 got COVID. And that was among hospital workers who were around the virus. I’m guessing those numbers are lower for the general population.

Another study showed that the viral load of those who were vaccinated and still got COVID was about 1/3rd of the viral load of unvaccinated people. This means that if you are vaccinated and happen to be the 1 in 2000 that actually get COVID, it will be an extremely mild case of it. This also suggests a significant decrease in the ability to transmit the virus.

The point is that if you are fully vaccinated, your masks are a fashion statement and a sign that you want to help reduce people’s fear, but, scientifically, they aren’t doing much. They’re like a putting up an umbrella inside a building. Vaccinated people are basically walking around with the equivalent of lace parasols on our faces.

If you are interested in reading more, go here.

Inoculation

My friends and family who are now fully vaccinated are feeling a unique sense of freedom and empowerment right now. People they couldn’t go see they are now seeing. Trips they had delayed they are now taking. Teachers are now back in the classroom. Grandparents are buying plane tickets to see their grandkids. The vaccine has now given them a superpower against COVID-19. Even if exposed to the coronavirus, they have a 90% chance of not getting sick. And if they happen to be in the 10%, they will only get a very mild case that will resolve quickly.

If you are not yet vaccinated, imagine that feeling. The feeling of freedom and empowerment. The feeling of safety and security. The feeling of being at an advantage rather than a disadvantage to this pandemic.

Christians should know this feeling well. This should be the feeling we have about having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We have been given a great advantage in this world, but many of us are not taking advantage of our advantage. We have been given an incredible dose of freedom and power, safety and security. We have the Spirit of living God living in us, changing us, freeing us from sin, empowering us to live as Jesus lived. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Romans 8:11

Imagine someone gets vaccinated and yet still lives as if they are not. This is how some Christians are living in regards to the Spirit. Or imagine getting the first dose and never going back for the second. This is how some Christians are living who have the Spirit and are saved but who do not live filled with the Spirit. The Spirit reveals things to us that only God knows. We have access to the wisdom, the knowledge, and the power of God through the Spirit. But are we accessing what we’ve been given access to?

The apostle Paul tried to tell the Corinthians just how amazing it is that we now have the Holy Spirit.

…as it is written:
What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived
[Isaiah 64:4]
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-14

Do you know all that was given to you when you received the Holy Spirit? You are now a conduit of the Kingdom of God on the earth. You’ve been given power over sin. You’ve been given the right to be called a child of God. You are a vessel of God’s power to heal, deliver, and save. The Light of the world lives in you making you the light of the world. The wisdom of God for the problems of this world are waiting to be downloaded to your heart and mind so that you can bring answers that no one else has thought of.

The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”[Isaiah 40:13]
But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:15-16

Maybe it’s time we revisit all that we’ve been given when we were given the Holy Spirit.

End of the Pandemic

I had a dream last night that I was boarding a plane with my family and no one in the airport or boarding the plane had a mask on. It was such a weird feeling yet so freeing. I’m not claiming this dream was prophetic, but it was encouraging. In fact, you don’t need to be prophetic to see that this pandemic is coming to an end. Many news outlets aren’t talking about it yet because they don’t want to give people false hope. But if you look at the numbers, it is clear.

I want to encourage you today! The COVID numbers right now in my state (Maryland) are back to where they were at the beginning of June 2020. You remember June, right? We had been trapped inside all spring but in June all the COVID numbers started dropping. Things started opening back up. We all came out of our hibernation. Not only were the numbers good in June, but they kept getting better into July. That is where all the numbers are trending right now, and it’s only the end of February. That’s really good news!

The positivity rate in Maryland is now below 3.5% and trending downward. Vaccinations are up and continue to grow. Think of it this way, if the numbers in March 2021 look like June 2020, then we can assume April this year will match July of 2020. And if our numbers are that low in April, imagine how good May will be. Imagine how low these numbers will be as we start the summer!

Students in Baltimore County Schools are starting hybrid learning in March and April. They are reintroducing the kids in phases, some at the beginning of March, some at the end, and some at the beginning of April. Hybrid means that two days a week some students will be in schools learning in person. Just the psychological boost this will create for children and parents alike will be massive. Kids will be allowed to be kids again, at least in part.

All of this paints the same picture. The end of the pandemic is upon us. It may take a few months to fully arrive, but the beginning of the end is here. More and more people will continue to be vaccinated, especially our most vulnerable populations. COVID will be reduced to what we always wanted it to be, a common virus that we occasionally experience like the flu. This is cause for massive celebration! Be encouraged friend. Get your hopes up!

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:1-5

Eyes of Compassion

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 

Matthew 6:22

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I got a taste of this at my brother’s viewing on Friday night.

We were at the funeral home honoring my brother’s life as we mingled together with friends and family from all over. Because of COVID, we all had to wear masks. So as people approached me and my family to offer their condolences, we could only see their eyes.

What I witnessed that night I had never noticed before. The masks allowed a particular focus on the eyes. I could see compassion pouring from certain people’s eyes. Everyone there was compassionate or they wouldn’t have shown up. But there were certain people who just seemed to have compassion pouring out of their eyes.

Many times throughout the Gospels the Bible says that Jesus looked upon individual people and the crowds with compassion. Jesus had eyes that exuded compassion. And certain people at the viewing that night seemed to have the eyes of Jesus, eyes full of empathy.

I shared with one of my uncles that his eyes were ones that were noticeably eyes of compassion. He reminded me that his own family faced hardship and pain when his daughter was in a car accident. And in that moment it dawned on me that many of the people whose eyes beamed with compassion were people whose hearts had been broken, tenderized by tragedy and pain. When their hearts are squeezed by a new tragedy, compassion pours from their eyes.

Jesus, may You make our eyes like Your eyes. Lord, may it be that not only do we see what You see but that when people look into our eyes, they see You.