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What We Have Here Is A Failure to Mistrust

by Pastor John Lawrey

where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5:20b-21

If you are following along at home, you might be wondering “Dude, where’s my country?” I won’t recite the tedious list of wrongs done in the name of coronavirus, but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest: closed and restricted churches. The salt in the wound is that blue state governors have restricted churches at the same time they have provided unfettered access to abortion, marijuana, alcohol, and the somewhat misnamed “peaceful protest.”

Something ought to be said about the blatant inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and double standards, not to mention a two-tiered justice system, but this article is about something much bigger: Will we even have a civilization at the end of this, and if so, what kind? 

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On Authority & Boundaries

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus

I want to noodle over with you the notion of authority, the right to impose one’s will on something or someone else, which also comes with the right to inflict pain upon the non-compliant. Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth, which means he has the right to impose his will on anyone or anything. He will reward those who comply and punish those who don’t.

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Holy Kissin’

Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Romans 16:16

When I got in the truck to head to the church this morning (which Violet refers to as “Bob’s house”), I left with the kind of smile on my face that can only come from being kissed goodbye by a loving, lovely wife and an adoring, adorable two-year-old daughter. On my way, half-listening to John MacArthur’s excellent sermon from this past Sunday again, half musing on church life in the era of Covid, and half wondering why I enjoyed those kisses so much, my mind began to dwell on the Apostle’s oft-repeated exhortation to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

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Essential

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Psalm 122:1

Now that we are, for better or worse, temporarily but intentionally shuttering certain businesses, activities, and institutions, and I have my fingers crossed that the civil liberties taken from the American citizenry will be handed back to us as freely and quickly as they were taken, we find ourselves categorizing certain kinds of activity as “essential” and others as “non-essential.”

The concept of essential is simple enough: In this particular pandemic, the value of certain activities continuing outweighs the progress made against the coronavirus if they were stopped. The societal value of getting your hair cut and colored is less than the value of spreading COVID-19 to everyone at the salon, so let’s just all suck it up and deal with being and looking at uglier people for a while. In our purest moments, we admit that good looks are a luxury, not a necessity. On the other hand, if we, in the name of public health, quarantine the guys who feed the gerbils running the wheels at the electric company, we’ll quickly discover the tragedy of thousands dead from COVID-19 is a picnic compared to the catastrophe of world in blackout. You think life is hard now.

A hierarchy of essential is emerging. Doctors – essential. Theaters – not essential. Grocery delivery trucks – essential. Elective surgery – not essential. Dismembering the inconvenient unborn – essential. Liquor stores – essential. Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast, served with a smile every Wednesday morning by Lois, my favorite waitress, who hasn’t bothered to take my order for a year because she already knows what I want – not essential. Lois and I, not to mention the café owner, might disagree.

Churches are now wrestling to find their place in this hierarchy – how essential are they? This is the question I want to explore for a little bit.

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Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ

But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:15

We’re living through a bit of a national nightmare right now. Maybe I should call it a bad dream, leaving room for it to get worse and then call it a nightmare. And it’s rather unsurprising that in this particular rough patch, when the pressures are mounting, some pretty deep fractures are beginning to appear in our society.

The sides being drawn up, and look roughly something like this:

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All that God Intended

The glory of young men is their strength
Prov. 20:29

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong
1 John 2:14b

Ηusbands, [show] honor to the woman as the weaker vessel
1 Pet. 3:7a

Having encouraged the young women to resist the temptation to be more than God intended, I now want to exhort the young men to resist the equally destructive temptation to be less than God intended.

I’m going to assume something, then proceed merrily along without apology:

God created men strong, and on purpose.

As per usual, the devil and a handful of minions are in the details, such as “strong compared to what?” “in what way?” and “for what purpose?” My plan is to tackle the “for what purpose?” and hopefully the other things will sort themselves out.

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It’s Going to Be Okay!

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
– David, Psalm 27:1

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

– Jesus, Matthew 10:28

I want to offer up a few words of encouragement in light of the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The ranks of the fearful are swelling, and they want to know that it’s going to be okay. So let me begin by saying I’m not qualified to offer that kind of comfort just yet, because what do I know about tomorrow except that, in the words of our Lord, it has enough trouble of its own?

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More than God Intended

On the spectrum of male personalities, I fancy myself resting far more comfortably and happily on the “medieval Norseman devouring mutton off a rusty knife” side of things than the “Ken in the passenger seat of a pink Corvette” end. So it’s a sign of God’s good sense of humor that of the six children he has chosen to give me, five of them are lovely, very girly girls, meaning I live, move, and have my being in a world of dolls, dresses, and emotional roller coasters.

I have probably witnessed (and unwittingly caused) more female tears in my life than the Average Joe (zing!), but I tell you this: I wouldn’t trade any one of my daughters for a pack of sons. And I’ve found that nothing stirs up this old crustaceous soul like the love and affection I feel for my girls, not even a pallet of beef jerky, and that’s saying something. I don’t feel the least guilt about entering the door of my little tumble-down farmhouse-castle, taking my seat at the head of our rough wooden table lined on both sides by lovely ladies, diving into a meal fit for a king, prepared by my faithful wife. These women are my greatest treasures, and I’d die for any of them in a heartbeat. Burying one of them was, as you know, the worst. Alice used to show me her broken toys and say “Daddy fix it?” and as often as possible, Daddy did. So it nearly killed me when she was broken, and Daddy couldn’t fix it.

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Surprise!

The children of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.’
Then you will say in your heart:
‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone;
from where have these come?’”
Isaiah 49:20-21

We experience plenty of various and sundry heartaches in this world, and while I wouldn’t say hearts were made to be broken (because the opposite is almost certainly true), it’s hardly a risky proposition to say given enough time (usually not very much is needed), every heart gets broken. Continue reading “Surprise!”

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