What do we do now?

What do we do now?

Yesterday morning I received an email update on my myPanera coffee subscription. A month ago I purchased unlimited coffee for $9 thinking that I have several meetings a week with people in coffee shops and I could save some cash if I consolidated them to Panera. In addition I’d have opportunity to be at the same place regularly and meet random people and workers which would therefore give me a chance to build relationships with those outside my circle.

What a difference a month makes. A month ago life was “normal”, I could meet with anybody, go anywhere and I didn’t think about toilet paper. A month ago Minnesota didn’t have any people with the new Coronavirus, New York had one and the whole country had about 100.
This brought to mind Jehoshaphat’s situation in 2 Chronicles.

Mr. J (Jehoshaphat) was just trying to follow God. He was doing well! It wasn’t too long before that he’d gotten tangled up with the evil king of the Northern Tribes of Israel and had been helped by God to get out of that mess relatively unscathed. Meanwhile, the Israelite King Ahab had lost his life.

Mr. J was reforming Judah, bringing people back to the Lord and working hard to be the king God wanted him to be. Then this happens:
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites, together with some of the Meunites, came to fight against Jehoshaphat. People came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast number from beyond the Dead Sea and from Edom has come to fight against you; they are already in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, En-gedi). — 2 Chronicles 20:1-2 (CSB)

This could have been a month to month problem but was maybe even a day to day problem. You wake up one morning to see a vast number arrayed against you!

Obviously he was afraid but then he does the right thing.
Jehoshaphat was afraid, and he resolved to seek the Lord. Then he proclaimed a fast for all Judah, who gathered to seek the Lord. They even came from all the cities of Judah to seek him. — 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 (CSB)

He resolves to seek the Lord. And I absolutely love his prayer:
For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do, but we look to you. — 2 Chronicles 20:12 (CSB)

There are times these days when I don’t know what to do. I am powerless against this virus that has come against my church, my city, state and country, even my planet. But I have a God who is not powerless. He has ultimate power and I look to him.

Mr. J resolved to seek God and proclaimed a fast. Fasting is a difficult thing especially if we’re a bit out of shape spiritually. If you haven’t been walking it’s hard to start running.

But, sometimes fasting can be a bit like getting a hit from the defibrillator paddles, an electric jolt needed to restart our hearts. We can get selfish, cold and hard hearted. Fasting can wake up our spiritual fervor and help us feel our need for God. Without food our bodies feel weak, frail and limited. Our God is unlimited and fasting helps us remember our place before him.

So, I’d like to call Living Hope to fast and pray.
(Those with bodily complications with food, please do what you need to do to stay healthy)

If you’re struggling in your faith this might help jump start you. If you’ve been running with Christ then maybe this will just aid you in your faith journey. I never really want to fast but it’s a good practice for my heart and I’m looking forward to beating down my flesh.

Let’s take this opportunity, this faith challenge and let’s grow through it instead of just coasting or worse falling back.

Here is a plan for our church to fast together:

Start Next Friday (Good Friday) at Sundown (7:30pm) through Sunday (Easter) at Sunrise (6:45am).

This is an incredible time of year to pray and remember why Jesus came, why he had to die and why he rose again. To mourn your sin that made his sacrifice necessary and to celebrate the new life that he brings to us!

Alongside those perennial prayers we can address the current state of the world. Here are some ways to break out some topics of prayer while you fast. (Or even if you don’t fast but choose to pray)

  • Before you go to bed – pray for our nation and world, that God would guide the leaders and those in authority to wise courses of action.
  • When you wake up – pray for our state, that God would give us ingenuity to kick start our economy in the aftermath of this time.
  • When you would have eaten breakfast – pray for your city, that God would use us as a source of medical help and knowledge during this time. Pray also for those who don’t know Christ that we would be a light to them.
  • When you would have eaten lunch – pray for your church that God would lead us through this time of isolation and help us to have community during it. Pray for your small group as well.
  • When you would have eaten dinner – prayer for your household that God would develop a stronger sense of unity and love. Pray also for your neighbors, coworkers and friends who don’t know Christ.
  • When you go to bed – pray for your own heart that God would convict you of your sin and need for a savior even as look forward to the joy and peace that celebrating Easter brings.
  • When you wake up – thank God for Jesus’ resurrection! He saved us and washed us white as snow!

May God bless you and your faith during this season as we seek him with increased fervor!

Interested in the rest of the story of Mr. J? God came through for the nation of Judah and their enemies destroyed each other. It was a great time of celebration and many praised God for his salvation! Then, life went on. Some continued in faith while others did not. That’s the way it always seems to go. The example here is faith in the face of trial.

And for us, after Easter and after Covid-19, life will go on. I’m pretty convinced that this virus will change us, our churches and our country much like 9/11 did. I intend to continue in faith in the face of this trial. Then someday I trust that I’ll be able to meet with people again and probably go out for coffee. Panera renewed my subscription for the next 90 days for free. We’ll see where we are in another month.

With you,