A Word for Christians in a Politically Divided Culture

The COVID-19 crisis has been a major disruption worldwide, affecting the lives of nearly every person on the planet. Movement has been restricted, jobs have been furloughed or ended, businesses have suffered, not to mention the emotional stress it has put on the population. Almost universally, church gatherings have been limited in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.

As the crisis has continued and stay-at-home orders have been extended, the situation has become increasingly divisive, and since the responses in different areas are determined by local authorities, it has also become political.

The discourse has also shifted from simply questioning the actions of authorities, business owners, and other civilians, to questioning their motives and accusing them of everything from indifference to malice.

Christians have not been exempt from this. Differing views on the motives of everyone from government authorities to church leaders have led some Christians to view each other with suspicion or even contempt. In a highly politicized and media-heavy world it is very easy for Christians to get caught up in social and political divisions to the point where their views on these issues become their primary source of identity, and they begin to view those with whom they disagree with enmity.

The Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians are particularly important for Christians to hear and take to heart in these times:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3 NASB

Paul later warns the Ephesians not to “give the devil any opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27 NASB). As David Guzik explains,

The devil’s work is to accuse and divide the family of God, and to sow discord among them. When we harbor anger in our heart, we do the devil’s work for him.

Enduring Word commentary, Ephesians 4

As Christians our identity is found not in our opinions about politics or current events, but in Christ who gave his life for us to make us new people individually and “the people of God” collectively. A powerful example of this can be seen in the example of the people Jesus called to become his closest disciples.

Disciples from Opposite Ends of the Political Spectrum

In Matthew 10:1-4 we have a list of the 12 disciples. Two names in the list are particularly interesting: Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot.

Tax collectors were Jewish people who worked with and for the occupying Roman government to collect taxes from their fellow countrymen, which not only took money away from individuals, but was used to support the Roman occupation and its military. For this reason, tax collectors were seen as sell-outs and traitors by more nationalistically minded Jews, who despised them.

The Zealots were a political action group of far-right nationalists who were willing to use violence in resistance to the Roman occupying forces. Zealots reportedly carried hooked knives under their cloaks with which they would seek to wound or assassinate Roman officials and their collaborators as they walked in public places.

Political divisions are nothing new; they existed in Jesus’ time as well. Simon the Zealot was someone who would have killed someone like Matthew the tax collector because of their differing political and social views.

However, Jesus called both these men, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, to follow him and become his disciples. He gave their lives a new direction and a new purpose. In Jesus, they received a new identity and a new community.

Apart from Jesus these men would have been enemies, but because of Jesus they became brothers, and they set aside their differences for a higher calling and a greater allegiance: not Rome, not Israel, but the Kingdom of God.

As Christians today in this politically divided climate, may we be those who are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” “showing tolerance for one another in love,” as we have been called together in one body and given a new identity and purpose in Christ.

Hulk Hogan, Idols, and the Name of God

Recently Hulk Hogan posted this on Facebook, which garnered a lot of attention, and a reader asked me to comment on it.

In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can’t go to church”
“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Maybe we don’t need a vaccine, Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing in the world that really matters. Jesus.

Matters of the Soul and the Body

I agree with Hulk’s statement that we should take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival.

I agree with his call to repentance, prayer, and seeking the Lord from 2 Chronicles 7:14.

I don’t see why this repentance and revival would exclude the need for a vaccine however, but just as Jesus said: “What does it benefit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?”, (Mark 8:36) that question could easily be applied to our current situation: “What does it benefit a person if they survive the COVID-19 crisis but lose their soul?”

Personally, I have seen a significantly greater openness to the gospel and to prayer in many people during this crisis, and I praise God for that. I believe that God is more concerned with the well-being of our souls than with our physical comfort. At the same time, it is also the call of the people of God to relieve suffering when possible (see Matthew 25:31-46), as we look forward to the end of sickness and death forever for those in Christ because of what He accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.

The Human Heart is an Idol Factory

Hulk claims that “in three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship.”

The thing is, just taking away people’s money doesn’t make them stop worshiping money. Oftentimes it is not what we have that we worship, but what we want – that’s what it means to covet.

One of the things I learned working with refugees and the impoverished Roma population in Hungary, is that some of the people who worship money the most are those who don’t have any of it. They seek after it, believing that if they had it, they would be content and fulfilled. Some of the most materialistic people I have known are people who lacked materially. On the contrary, I have known many wealthy people who were incredibly generous – having learned firsthand that money and possessions will never fill the God-shaped void in one’s soul.

Martin Luther stated that “the human heart is an idol factory.” In other words, even if God did take away these idols, (which are all clearly still here, with the exception of sports) the underlying problem would still exist, and we would just make and find new idols to worship with our time, energy, resources, and attention.

What we need is something deeper: regeneration, new birth, a transformation from the inside out, which is the work of God in our lives.

The Name of God

I find it absurd that Hulk uses the name of God as his personal motto: “I am that I am.”

The name Yahweh derives from the Hebrew word for “to be” – which is why God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that “I am who I am” if Pharaoh asked the name of the God who had sent Moses.

To use this name as a personal motto is borderline, or perhaps blatant blasphemy, in my opinion.

In Conclusion

While it is a bit ironic that Hulk Hogan, a celebrity, is calling out the cultural idol of celebrity worship, and his point about God taking away our idols is dubious at best (if God shut down stadiums to stop our worship of athletes, how does he then reason that the shutting of churches is to be understood as punishment for people not going to church???), his core point is a good one: rather than just waiting for this to be over, we should take this time to refocus on our relationship with God and repent where necessary of giving other things the place in our hearts which rightly belongs to Him.

Online Events: Expositors Collective Webinar & Prayer Around the World

Expositors Collective Webinar: May 9, 2020

The world as we know it is always changing. We have all experienced that recently with the COVID-19 crisis. In order for us to preach and teach God’s Word faithfully in an ever-changing world, we need to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

As part of our ongoing mission to help equip the next generation of expository Bible teachers, we are excited to announce our first-ever online event: an interactive webinar on May 9, 2020 from 9-11 AM Pacific Standard Time (10AM-12PM Mountain Time)

Similar to our training weekends, the webinar will include short messages from experienced Bible teachers, and interactive opportunities to ask questions and discuss topics.

Schedule

There will be two talks, interspersed with opportunities to ask questions and discuss topics.

  • Brian Brodersen: “The Holy Spirit & Preaching”
  • David Guzik: “Consistent Message, Changing Styles”

For more information and how to join, visit ExpositorsCollective.com

Prayer Around the World Extended for Another Week

For the past 3 weeks Calvary Global Network leaders around the world have been leading live prayer on the Calvary Chapel Facebook page.

I have been leading from 1:00-2:00 PM Mountain Time each day, and it has been encouraging to see God use it.

It would be great to have you join me for these times of prayer; it has certainly been good for me to spend an hour in prayer each day for all that’s going on. I’m sure God would use it in your life as well.

Ministry in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

This past week I was honored to be interviewed by David Snead on his podcast. David is a missionary in Lviv, Ukraine – and he is one of the most organized people I know.

We had a great discussion about my background in ministry, ministering in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Calvary Chapel, and expository preaching. Check it out:

An Easter Like No Other

A Time For Celebration?

For Christians, Easter is our biggest celebration of the year. And yet, how do you celebrate in the midst of a crisis in which thousands of people are sick and dying, and millions are out of work and hurting financially?

Some churches have suggested that celebrations of Easter should be delayed until this crisis gets better. I disagree. In fact, I would say that there is no more appropriate time for us to celebrate Easter than in the face of sickness, instability, and death, because these things are the very reasons why Easter is good news worth celebrating!

In fact, this may be the one moment in all of our lives when we understand the weight of what Easter means, and the hope that it brings, more than ever.

The meaning of Easter is that the Lord of Life died in order to destroy death, and make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him and resurrected to “a better life” (Hebrews 11:35, 40).

See also: Does Easter Come from Ishtar? & Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up

How We’re Doing Church This Weekend

This year we will be having our church’s first ever Good Friday service, but since we cannot gather physically we put out pre-packaged communion supplies for people to pick up outside of the church.

We have been pre-recording our services in order to create a worshipful experience for those who watch at home.

See also: Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

Join Us for Good Friday and Easter Online

I invite you to join us online for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services online on White Fields’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

  • Good Friday: 6:00 PM Mountain Time
  • Easter Sunday: 10:00 AM Mountain Time

Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

098_PastoringInCrisis_cover.jpg
The Expositors Collective steering committee: Mike Neglia, David Guzik, Pete Nelson, Nick Cady

This latest episode of the Expositors Collective podcast is one you should definitely check out: in it Mike Neglia, Pete Nelson, and I have a conversation about strategies and methods we are employing in order to pastor, shepherd, lead, and preach during this global pandemic which has caused so much upheaval in lives and in our churches.

Pete Nelson, by the way, was the founding pastor of the church I now lead in Longmont: White Fields Community Church. Pete now pastors in Thousand Oaks, California at One Love Church. Mike Neglia pastors a vibrant, thriving church in Cork, Ireland called Calvary Cork.

From preaching through YouTube and Facebook Live, to how to use the “premiere” features on those services instead of going live, to how to do fellowship through Zoom – as well as questions about doing communion remotely and what we miss about gathered corporate worship – it is an enriching conversation.

Here’s the link to listen: Episode 98 – Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

As Mike always says: “May this episode, and everything we do at Expositors Collective help you in your private study and your public proclamation of God’s Word!”

Colorado Stay at Home Order: What it Means for Churches

Governor Polis issued a stay at home order yesterday that went into effect this morning at 6:00 AM Mountain Time and is scheduled to last until Saturday, April 11. Here is a link to the FAQ sheet from the State of Colorado outlining what this stay at home order means.

What does this order mean for churches? Here’s a brief synopsis of what we know:

Gatherings

This is not specifically addressed, but it seems to be implied that in-person worship gatherings as well as home group gatherings, even of 10 people or less, are discouraged and people should rather connect online if possible.

Recording and Live-streaming Worship Services

This is an area that many churches wanted clarity on, since it is not directly addressed. A petition even went around last night asking for clarity on this issue. Colorado pastors networks reached out to the governor’s office as well, to which this response came back:

The Governor’s office is aware that there is some confusion on this and we are working to clarify clergy exemptions on the “stay at home order.” I do know for sure that pastors & staff have the green light to go to their facilities and record content so it can be used online. They would ask that you practice social distancing with the others on your team while doing it. More details to come on other possible exemptions for faith leaders.

We look forward to an official statement, but this response brings needed clarity.

Considering that we are in a large, empty church building, I think this is fair and safe. It is worth mentioning that we would never require anyone to come help with recording who is even the least bit uncomfortable with doing so.

UPDATE – March 26 – 11:55 AM

The State of Colorado just released an updated Public Health order which can be found here. Here is what it states about churches:

Houses of worship may remain open, however, these institutions are encouraged to implement electronic platforms to conduct services whenever possible or to conduct smaller (10 or fewer congregants), more frequent services to allow strict compliance with Social Distancing Requirements.

Pastoral Care

The order states that in-person pastoral services for individuals who are in crisis or in need of end-of-life services are allowed, provided social distancing is observed to the greatest extent possible.

Benevolence Ministries & Food Pantries

Food banks are specifically mentioned in the order, as well as any services which help provide relief for those in need. Additionally, delivering supplies to other people is also allowed.

Our food pantry ministry is planning to continue providing services, and will continue to follow the protocol of sanitizing items as they are received. See: Longmont Food Pantry Opening

Closing Thoughts

My hope and prayer is that as a result of this crisis, our churches will end up more connected than before, and more focused on ministering to and praying for one another, and serving our communities.

To those in our communities who serve in the medical field, have sick loved ones, have lost jobs, are having babies, or have loved ones who have passed away: I know this is a particularly hard time for you. May God strengthen you, protect you, comfort you, and provide for you at this time.

I pray that God will use this situation in a myriad of good ways, and as our society is faced with the reality of mortality, may God use this to turn many hearts to Him and receive the gift of His grace through Jesus Christ.

Join Me Online for a Week of Global Prayer

Starting tomorrow, March 26-April 2, 2020, I will be one of several Calvary Global Network pastors hosting a live hour of prayer on the the Calvary Chapel Facebook page.

Pastors across the world will be going live at times in their respective time zones to lead prayer for our countries and communities, particularly related to COVID-19 and everyone affected by it, and to receive and pray for the prayer requests of those who tune in live.

I will be hosting the 12:00 PM Mountain Time slot. I’d love to have you join me online for that, and send me your prayer requests!

Once again: March 26-April 2 (Thursday-Thursday) at 12:00 PM Mountain Time.

First Service in New Building… Kind Of

This past Sunday (March 22, 2020) was supposed to have been our last service in the Saint Vrain Memorial Building, where White Fields Church has met since its inception, years before I became pastor.

However, because of concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak, not only are we not gathering physically out of concern about spreading the virus, but the Memorial Building is closed.

This past week, some members of our congregation were able to get in to move our things out of storage at the Memorial Building to move them to the new facility. The group also moved us out of the offices our church has been in for the last 2.5 years.

Looking at the pictures, it was a bit surreal realizing that it is the end of a season during which a lot of good ministry took place, and when I last left those places I had no idea that I wouldn’t be able to return!

This coming Sunday (March 29, 2020) was scheduled to be our first Sunday in the new building, and we were planning to kick off doing two services on Easter. Right now, it is looking unlikely that churches will even be able to gather on Easter at all.

However, I was able to go into the empty church building last Saturday and pre-record my sermon by preaching to an empty room, making this the first service in our new building… kind of.

I can’t wait for the time when we will get to gather physically again, and have a proper grand opening!

Here’s the video of the service: