6 Stages of Processing the Coronavirus

In January 2020 I started to hear people talking about the Corona virus, but it wasn’t something I took serious. In February, I started to hear a few more clusters of people talking about the threat of the Corona virus in the United States, but I was still optimistic that it wouldn’t be a problem for me personally.

In March, everything changed. Festivals started to close, sports started to cancel, and it wasn’t long before our mayor was signing a city ordinance for us to Shelter-In-Place.

As the ordinance went into effect I was surprised by how my friends and neighbors responded to the ordinance with such optimism, and it reminded me of how people tend to process going through cultural changes.

As a pastor, I have led many people into cross-cultural experiences, and found there is a pattern that people go through in cross-cultural experiences that might apply to this season of our lives:

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Did God Bring the Coronavirus?

Recently, I was talking with a friend and they asked, “Why are we praying for God to
remove the Corona virus? Didn’t God bring the Corona Virus?”  Great question, right? After all, we know from Scripture there are times where God brings plagues upon people. See the verses below.

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Preparing to Engage God Every Day

On March 22, 2020, Austin, TX issued a “Shelter At Home” ordinance in our city during the Corona Virus spread. As a result we are encouraged not to leave our homes, unless for essential activities, and as a result we are in our house, or in our PJ’s longer than usual.

In the past, we would have gone throughout the day, or the week, and there might have been passive ways that our heart, soul, mind and strength might have been stirred for the Lord. There might have been a song we heard from someone’s office, there might have been a billboard that peaked our curiosity about the Lord, or even a friendly hello from a passerby might have been a divine hello that we didn’t know we needed. But, these days it seems like we have less of those opportunities, and if we’re not careful we will just keep scrolling our social media or watching re-runs on Netflix.

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Why Are We Praying Every Day?

On March 13, 2020 AISD issued a statement that our church family would not be able to meet in Pillow Elementary because of the Corona Virus that was spreading through our country, and through our world.

At first, it was a bit of a shock. All those apocalyptic movies I had watched started flooding to my mind like, “I Am Legend” and “World War Z.” Even my children were asking me, “What was it like when you were our age and viruses started shutting down your schools?”

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Colossians 2:16-23, “Calling Out L.I.E.S”

Colossians 2:16-17, “16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

These aren’t men, women, and children who are anti-Jesus. They are pro-Jesus, love Jesus, believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and yet they are getting distracted with these messages that “Jesus isn’t enough” and these messages are going to break down into 4 different categories:  Legalism

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Colossians 2:8-15, “Made Complete In Jesus.”

Colossians 2:8, “8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

  • In verse 8 we see the most common reason we see a spiritual lull in life is because we have distractions coming at us every day like, look at verse 8, philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men, and elementary principles of the world.
  • The word “philosophy” literally means the love of wisdom, and when you partner this word with “empty deception” it is love for wisdom that is empty and doesn’t bring about any change. It sounds wise, but it is all fluff, it’s elementary, shallow traditions.
  • These types of messages are coming at us all the time through movies, books, songs, and even our own thoughts, but in verse 8 the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossian church, “See to it that no one takes you captive.
  • The Apostle Paul is using the word “captive” as a sense of urgency, to grab their attention. The word “captive” has a connotation of a soldier losing a battle, and being carried off as a prisoner of war, getting kidnapped, being held hostage by the messages coming at us every day:

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Colossians 2:1-7, “Spiritually fighting for one another.”

Colossians 2:1, “1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,”

  • In verse 1 we are reminded that the Apostle Paul does not know the Colossian church personally. The Colossian church is started by a guy named Epaphras from chapter 1.
  • The Apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome for proclaiming the name of Jesus, and Colossae, Laodicea, Heirapolis are all new churches in the community, false teachers are wrecking havoc on these new churches, so that the Apostle Paul and the church of Colossae (1500 miles away, Austin to Boston) but still the Apostle Paul is struggling for them spiritually.

Colossians 2:1, “1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,”

  • When you see the word “struggle” in the original language it is the word “agony,” write that in your notes, because the word “agony” is an athletic metaphor of sweating, straining, and fighting to accomplish a goal, and the Apostle Paul’s goal for the church of Coloasse is to know Jesus and grow in Jesus.

Colossians 2:2-3, “2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

  • In verses 2-3 there is so much to draw out, but the first characteristic of what it looks like to spiritually fight for one another is, “that their hearts may be encouraged.”
  • When the Apostle Paul uses the word “heart” it isn’t an emotional heart like Valentine’s Day, or emotionally feeling close or distant from God, but an “encouraged heart” is an inner strength that comes from knowing Jesus and growing in Jesus that produces a strong heart.
  • In the Hebrew culture the “heart” was the inner man or woman. In Hebrew culture the heart was the reference to the inner will, or mind, so that the Hebrew culture didn’t talk about the brain or intellect, but the heart, so that the Apostle Paul is spiritually fighting for the people in Colossae to have strong hearts in Jesus.

Take a moment to examine the men, women, and children in our church family (Community group, ministry team, personal family, sitting shoulder to shoulder) and consider how we might spiritually fight for one another to be strengthened in heart.

Where are there opportunities to remind one another to place our mind on things above, not on things below (Colossians 3:2)? How can we pray for one another, agonize for one another to fill our heart, mind and soul with God’s Word? Where are there moments we can Initiate conversations and hang outs to spiritually fight for one another to have strong hearts in Jesus?

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Colossians 1:9-20, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”

Colossians 1:9, “9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”

  • In verse 9 the Apostle Paul writes these ambiguous phrases, “For this reason” and “Since the day we heard of it” so as a reader you are thinking to yourself, “What reason? Heard of what?”
  • In verse 9, the phrase, “for (this) reason” and “since the day we heard of (it)” is a throw back to the “gospel” in verse 5, so that the Apostle Paul is writing to the Colossians to say, “You got the gospel!”

In verse 9, the men, women, and children of this local church in Colossae are in Christ (1-8), but there is some insecurity in their faith in Christ, because there are false teachers in their community who are teaching that their faith in Jesus is just step 1 on their road to spiritual transformation.

It’s like when someone says to you, “You don’t know about Dave’s Ramsey’s book on personal finances?” It can come across like, “Jesus is a good start, but Dave Ramsey changed my life.”

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Colossians 1:1-8, “To the Saints.”

Colossians 1:1, “1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.”

  • When you study Scripture you always want to draw out the context of what you are reading by identifying the author, and the audience. In verse 1 we see the author is “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
  • The Apostle Paul is just a regular guy who has no interest in Jesus, actually opposed to Jesus and Christianity, and he is committing his life to chasing down Christians, throwing them in jail, and putting them to death, BUT in Acts 9 Paul’s life is radically transformed by grace through faith in Jesus, and he spends the rest of his life proclaiming the name of Jesus!

Now, when you study the Scriptures on your own there is a question that is going to pop into your mind, which is, “How can we trust the Scriptures if the Scriptures are written by ordinary people like Paul?”

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Yearly Rhythms: Wisdom Planning.

Proverbs 3:1-10, “1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. 2 For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

  • In verses 1-10 we see a pattern of instructions with phrases like, “Do not, do not, do not” and for each one there is a result like verse 1, “We will find long life and peace.” In verse 3, “We will find favor.”
  • In verse 5, “Our paths will be straight. In verse 7, “Our bones will find rest,” and, verse 9, “We will have more money than we can imagine” so that verses 1-10 it can kind of read like, “If we read the Scriptures and obey the Scriptures” then life will be great, spouse is beautiful, house is too big, and make a lot of money

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Yearly Rhythms: Celebration Planning.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2 A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Ecclesiastes 3 is considered a part of wisdom literature. Ecclesiastes is written by Solomon, who is one of the wisest people in the world, because in 1 Kings, in the Old Testament, Solomon was approached by the God of Scripture to make any request and it would be granted. Can you imagine?

Solomon could have asked for money to get helicopters, vacation homes, and have Stevie Wonder sing him a lullaby. Solomon could have asked for the intelligence of Doogie Howzer, and rock out Jeopardy every day! Solomon could have asked for all the power in the world, and do you know what Solomon asked for?

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Yearly Rhythms: Relational Planning

Galatians 6:1, “1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

  • In verse 1 the Apostle Paul is writing to a region of churches in Galatia, modern day Turkey, and in verse 1 the Apostle Paul writes, “Brethren, you who are spiritual, (those who are in Christ, the body of Christ, the local church), restore one another in a spirit of gentleness.”
  • Do you know what that means? The word, “restore” in the original language, means to “equip by exposing rips and tears in our relationships with one another.”
  • It means relationships are going to be messy. I know we don’t want relationships to be messy. We want relationships to be fun, easy, natural, and just happen, but relationships are messy. Relationships aren’t like Saved By The Bell where you see a conflict, some jokes and everything is resolved in twenty minutes. It’s messy.

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Yearly Rhythms: Financial Planning

Order the book, “Discovering Your Yearly Rhythms”

Sign up for the event:  January 25th

2 Corinthians 8:1-2, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

  • The first and second letter to the Corinthians is a real letter to real people from the Apostle Paul, and in verses 1 and 2 the Apostle Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church about the local church in Macedonia (Two churches in modern day Greece).
  • The Apostle Paul describes the Macedonian church as a people who are going through a “great ordeal of affliction” vs. 2, and yet they are “overflowing in the wealth of their liberality.”
  • The word “liberality” means “generous.”  The Macedonian church is a generous church. The word affliction means “trouble and hardship.”

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Luke 2:22-40, “Lighting the Nations.”

Luke 2:22-24, “22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

  • In verses 22-24 Joseph and Mary follow a tradition of bringing the “firstborn male” to the temple as a reminder of the rescue in Exodus when the angel of death passes over every house that is covered by the blood of the lamb.
  • In the Old Testament Israel is enslaved in Egypt, the Lord tells Moses to take the blood of the lamb, put it on the doorposts, so that when the angel of death passes over the house, he will pass over every house that is covered by the blood of the lamb.
  • And in Luke 2 Joseph and Mary are bringing baby Jesus to the temple to celebrate the rescue of the Passover in Exodus 12, and foreshadowing that Ultimate Rescue that is going to come in Jesus.

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