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Fellowship wins, even with pandemic's shelter-in-place

The current pandemic, leading to folks practicing social distancing and several areas prohibiting group gatherings, could easily isolate us from those we love. It could keep us out of encouraging fellowship and socialization.

Our most introverted friends are joking about how they have prepared their whole lives for such a time. But our extroverted ones are moaning and groaning. Most of us fall somewhere in-between.

But perhaps we all benefit from some form of mutual interaction, at least occasionally, even if our desired doses differ. That’s probably what the Bible means, when it says:

“And let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us encourage one another with words of hope. Let us do this even more as you see Christ’s return approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25, NIRV)

How can fellow believers get together, when respected authorities tell us to stay apart?

We have to get a little creative, like my small group did.

This group of ladies, representing maybe 10 very different churches, has gathered for many years. We go to the mat for each other in prayer. We cheer one another on, but we also exhort in love, when it’s needed. We are a safe place, so this happens pretty seamlessly. And we laugh. Oh, how we laugh.

I could describe every one of these dear friends this way:

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” (Proverbs 31:25-26, NLT)

Clearly, we can all grasp the seriousness of the current situation. We understand that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NIV).

But we also remind one another that God is still God. Lately, we’ve been reminding each other of that even more than usual.

Because of this coronavirus situation, we have canceled our weekly get-togethers.

And we miss one another. So we decided to meet anyway, but in a much safer way (for the time being). Like many churches, organizations, and businesses, we took to the worldwide web.

We decided to go virtual with our Bible study, while the world rides out this pandemic.

We each downloaded a particular free app on our smart phones or tablets. At the appointed hour, the group leader opened the session. We basically video-chatted. After 30 minutes, the session timed out, and we were disconnected from the call.

At that point, several members went to our private Facebook page and began posting comments, relevant Scriptures, and worship song videos to share.

We’re still plugged in, even if we cannot gather face-to-face for a while.

It’s amazing what a difference a little time with friends can make. (I miss them again already.)

Adapted from public domain image

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God is bigger than the pandemic

 “My dad’s stronger than your dad.”

How many times did we hear that as kids?

When we consider our Heavenly Father, it’s true. Our Father is the strongest. No question.

That sounds like a platitude, especially when the whole world is focused on a dreaded disease called Coronavirus or COVID-19.

We’ve all read the news stories, seen the online posts, and received the urgent emails. Countries are canceling nearly every kind of gathering, meeting, session, or other event. In some spots, only those businesses deemed “essential” remain open.

It’s serious stuff.

What do we do?

People of faith can lead the way, or we can tremble and cower. The Lord calls us to be responsible, employing God-given wisdom and discernment. But He also instructs us to care for one another.

Where does that put us, at such a time?

I think we can’t throw caution to the wind and go out to dance in a crowd. But we still need to love people.

We don’t take unnecessary risks. We try to follow the government guidelines (See 1 Peter 2:13 and Romans 13:1.) and heed medical experts’ instructions. But we still stand strong in our faith. 

 The Coronavirus pandemic did not catch God by surprise.

Jehovah Jireh promises to provide for us. (See Matthew 6:25-27.) Can we stock up without stockpiling? That’s called stewardship.

We can reach out in all sorts of ways to those who are distressed by the current crisis.

God may call some of us to step out and provide practical helps for those who cannot leave their homes. Countless ministries are ramping up their activities to serve those most impacted by the coronavirus and related quarantines.

Many of us will find other ways to encourage and support those who are struggling. All of us can pick up our phones, tap out texts, send emails, or otherwise offer comfort and courage to one another. How many churches have broadcasted their Sunday services and midweek ministries online in these trying times?

And before we throw proverbial stones at those who are taking extreme precautions or none, maybe we can all examine our own hearts. This message hits me hard, as I wash my hands for the umpteenth time. How clean is my heart?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners;
and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
(James 4:8, NKJV)

Practicing social distancing (the current buzzword for self-imposed separation to avoid catching or sharing contagions) is the responsible thing to do. It doesn’t take an epidemiologist to do the simple math on how this thing can continue to spread, if unchecked.

But social distancing can turn us inward. Will we focus on ourselves and our own interests, or can we use at least some of this slower-paced time to turn upward? Will we stop and make ourselves open to hearing from God in these quieter moments? Many will.

God is bigger than COVID-19.

 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.
Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:27, ESV)

Our loving Creator takes no pleasure in seeing people suffer. Death does not delight Him. I believe He grieves to see His children languishing and losing battles with disease and death. At the same time, He knows (better than anyone) that we live in a fallen world.

  • Heartbreaks happen.
  • Pain is present (and constant for many).
  • Infections occur.
  • People ignore instructions at their own and others’ cost.
  • Death is real.

God has not checked out, though. No way. He’s walking this troubling road with us.

Will God keep believers safe from the pandemic?

The Lord is our healer. Plenty of people are claiming immunity-by-faith, reciting Scriptures like this one:

 “Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.”
(Psalm 103:2-4, NLT, emphasis added).

Jehovah Rapha is surely able to do that. And one day, He will. But will He choose to remove the current threat (or existing infection) for all of us?

The Lord He heals in all kinds of ways – and maybe not how we expect Him to.

 God doesn’t always remove the storm. Most often, He takes us through it instead.

I’m banking on it. Are you?

Let’s pray for protection – and not just for ourselves.

Let’s ask God to guard our loved ones. Pray His shield over medical professionals, emergency responders, and others who continue to show up for work.

May we join forces to entreat the Lord to cause this plague to pass quickly. And may He be glorified in the midst of this storm, drawing hearts to His own.

Let’s be cautious, but not fearful. Let’s try hard, but not be terrorized. Let’s be wary, but not worried. Really, there’s a difference.

 “So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10, NIV)


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Feel free to follow on Twitter. Don’t miss the Heart of a Ready Writer page on Facebook. You are invited to visit my Amazon author page as well.