May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
There are no simple answers to the dilemma we are facing today as a nation.  I wish there were.
 
We have taken significant steps to “flatten the curve” when it comes to COVID-19.  What we feared two months ago – overrun hospitals and doctors decided who gets a ventilator and who is left to die without one – by God’s grace hasn’t happened here.  The number of people who have died from the virus is a sobering number, but not as high as we first thought it would be by now. 
 
The steps we’ve taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus have taken a huge toll on our economy.  More than 30 million of us are today without a job to go to or a paycheck to bring home.  The Los Angeles Times this week reported that some economists now forecast a global recession that will result in up to 420 million people plunging into extreme poverty, or making less than $2 a day.  The United Nations is now predicting that the economic fallout from the pandemic may end up killing more people than the disease itself.
 
While cable news lines up the medical experts to debate the experts on the economy about the right next steps, we need to factor in the spiritual toll that the pandemic is having on us.  More calls are coming into suicide hotlines.  There are reported increases in substance abuse and domestic violence.  Calls to the federal mental health crisis hotline are 900 percent greater than this time last year.
 
The spiritual diet we’ve been on for the past two months is a subsistence diet.  While I’m grateful for the opportunity to join together for on-line worship, and while we still have access to an amazing number of resources to help us in our personal spiritual disciplines, we are missing something that provides us with critical spiritual nourishment. 
 
What we’re missing is each other.  Spiritual growth does not happen best in isolation.  It happens best in community.  We desperately need one another to live out our identity as children of the living God. 
 
I watched a video today that helped me better understand why we’re all feeling a little malnourished spiritually.  It’s a five minute long conversation between Pastor TJ Tims and author and pastor Sam Allberry that helped me better understand why Zoom calls and social media sites leave us all longing for more.  Click on the video.  It’s worth five minutes of your time to watch it.
 
Like the Apostle John, I am looking forward to that day when we are again face to face and our joy is complete.
 
The leadership team at Redeemer will meet early next week to formulate plans for a phased re-opening of our church in the weeks ahead.  We’re hearing from a few churches in our city that have already begun to gather again for church.  Most churches we’ve talked to are still developing their plans for how to safely re-open in early June.  I’ll have more to share with you next week about our plans. 
 
But we have to keep in mind that re-gathering is going to look and feel very different for a season.  There will be people we love who, for very appropriate reasons, won’t be joining us for a while.  We’ll have to temper our impulse to draw near to one another when we gather in order to protect each other.  As one pastor said on Twitter today “I get wanting to be with your church again.  But limiting capacity by 25%, spacing families throughout the sanctuary, wearing masks, keeping children from running around, having bathroom monitors, nixing socializing & communion, etc. feels less hospitable than a livestream.
 
Please continue to pray for your church leadership, for government leaders, and for all those who continue on the front lines in this crisis, from those who are keeping the food supply chain working to those who are risking their own health to care for the most vulnerable in our city and state.  Pray for those who are working to develop treatment medications and eventually, a vaccine.  Pray that reopening our economy and re-congregating for worship doesn’t bring on a deadly second wave. 
 
And pray that COVID-19 might mark a spiritual turning point for many in our world.   Pray for a reviving work of God’s Spirit among us.  Pray that more and more men and women might surrender themselves to following Jesus as their Lord and King, and that as a result, we might emerge from this moment a kinder, more compassionate, more loving and more holy people.   

_______________________________________________________
 
 In Psalm 119:93, King David said “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.”  But Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders in His day for searching the scriptures, thinking that they would find eternal life there.
 
So is God’s word our source of spiritual life or not?  As we’ll see as we look closely at John 5 this Sunday, it all depends on how you read it and what you’re looking for.   
 
See you (on line) Sunday!
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob
 
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May 6, 2020

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