Daily Light – March 19, 2020

5 Lessons from Spurgeon’s Ministry in a Cholera Outbreak

Article by Geoff Chang

As reports of the coronavirus spread around the world, pastors and church leaders are discussing how they should respond to the outbreak. Throughout church history, many pastors have worked through similar challenges. As a young village preacher, Charles Spurgeon admired the Puritan ministers who stayed behind to care for the sick and dying during the Great Plague of London in 1665.

In fall 1854, the newly called pastor of London’s New Park Street Chapel pastored the congregation amid a major cholera outbreak in the Broad Street neighborhood just across the river.

How did Spurgeon respond?

1. He prioritized local ministry.

Spurgeon wrote:

During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying. I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow.

Spurgeon’s popularity had grown throughout the Fenland villages outside Cambridge during his pastorate at Waterbeach. Even after arriving in London, he continued to be invited to preach in those villages throughout the week. During the outbreak, however, Spurgeon recognized his responsibility to be present with the sick and dying. This was not a time to be an itinerant preacher; this was a time to focus on caring for his church and the community in which he lived. He would not outsource this task to his deacons or other church leaders, but remained in London in order to fulfill his duty.

2. He adjusted his meetings, but continued meeting.

The Broad Street Cholera Outbreak of 1854 occurred in August and September of that year, and its effects were felt in the weeks and months to come. The neighborhood where Spurgeon’s church met was not quarantined, so they were able to continue meeting throughout those months. Interestingly, no record of the sermons Spurgeon preached during those days remain. Perhaps the outbreak forced the congregation to adjust some of their previous practices, including the transcription of sermons. Additionally, Spurgeon was likely too busy in those days to edit sermons for publication.

Yet we know that the congregation continued meeting during those days, because the church’s minute books contain records of congregational meetings throughout fall 1854. In those books, amid all the pastoral challenges of the outbreak, Spurgeon and his deacons continued to receive new members, pursue inactive members, observe the Lord’s Supper, and practice all the other normal activities of a church. Not only that, but in retrospect it was particularly during this time, when news of death raged all around the city, that Spurgeon found Londoners most receptive to the gospel:

If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.

In other words, not only did Spurgeon gather his church amid the outbreak, but he saw in these gatherings a uniquely powerful opportunity for the gospel.

Given our current limitations, our greatest opportunities will likely come in the aftermath of the outbreak, when (in God’s mercy) the church is once again able to gather. Those gatherings of the church will not only be a sweet reunion of God’s people, but also a tremendous opportunity for preaching the gospel to those desperately looking for hope.

3. He cared for the sick.

As the pastor, Spurgeon not only continued to gather his church, but he also made himself available throughout the week, working tirelessly to visit the sick and grief-stricken:

In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighborhood in which I labored was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave.

In these visits, Spurgeon prayed with the sick and grieving, and pointed them to the hope of the gospel. But more than just bringing gospel content, his presence communicated something of God’s comfort to his people. Though these visits were often full of fear and grief, there were also glorious occasions of faith and joy:

I went home, and was soon called away again; that time, to see a young woman. She also was in the last extremity, but it was a fair, fair sight. She was singing—though she knew she was dying—and talking to those round about her, telling her brothers and sisters to follow her to heaven, bidding goodbye to her father, and all the while smiling as if it had been her marriage day. She was happy and blessed.

While pastors are limited in their ability to be physically present with their people in the current outbreak, they must continue to remain in touch with their people, especially those who are must vulnerable. Through the use of technology and others means of communication, we have the responsibility to shepherd our people through this trial.

4. He was open to new evangelistic opportunities.

Spurgeon did not limit himself merely to visiting members of his congregation, but was willing to visit “persons of all ranks and religions”:

All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things divine.

On one occasion, at 3 a.m., Spurgeon was summoned to visit a dying man. Surprisingly, this was not a Christian, but someone who had opposed him:

That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips.

Take advantage of any opportunities you might have to preach the gospel to those who are afraid.

Spurgeon went right away, but by the time he arrived, there was little he could do.

I stood by his side, and spoke to him, but he gave me no answer. I spoke again; but the only consciousness he had was a foreboding of terror, mingled with the stupor of approaching death. Soon, even that was gone, for sense had fled, and I stood there, a few minutes, sighing with the poor woman who had watched over him, and altogether hopeless about his soul.

Not every evangelistic opportunity will result in dramatic conversions. But during times of disease, surprising opportunities may arise. Therefore, take advantage of any opportunities you have to preach the gospel to those who are afraid.

5. He entrusted his life to God.

As Spurgeon gave himself to this pastoral work, he soon grew physically and mentally exhausted. He also began to fear for his own safety. Amid his fears, though, he learned to entrust himself to God and to his faithfulness:

At first, I gave myself up with youthful ardor to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions; but, soon, I became weary in body, and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.

I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when, as God would have it, my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Great Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore, in a good bold handwriting, these words from Psalm 91:9-12, “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying, in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The Providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window, I gratefully acknowledge; and in the remembrance of its marvelous power, I adore the Lord my God.

As we entrust our lives to God and faithfully carry out our responsibilities, we have an opportunity to demonstrate what hope and peace look like in the midst of death.

Here, Spurgeon does not promise that no Christian will ever die of sickness. Rather, the Christian “[need] not dread [sickness], for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death.”

Once again, pastors must exercise wisdom and take appropriate precautions as they care for the sick. At the same time, our security cannot finally be in those precautions; it must be in God. As we entrust our lives to him and faithfully carry out our responsibilities, we have an opportunity to demonstrate what hope and peace look like in the midst of death.

Ordinary Ministry in Extraordinary Times

In many ways, Spurgeon’s example during the cholera outbreak of 1854 follows the pattern of normal pastoral ministry on every occasion. Pastors are to be present with their people, care for the suffering, be faithful in evangelism, and model trust in God through it all. The main difference is that during an outbreak, there is a heightened reality of suffering and death. Therefore, the work becomes more intense and urgent, and the opportunities for the gospel multiply.

Certainly, our task in looking to church history is not simply to copy all that was done before. This coronavirus outbreak presents unique challenges that previous pastors did not face. We need to exercise wisdom appropriate to our current day. But the core of our ministry remains: preach the gospel.

Speaking in 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, Spurgeon gave this charge to pastors and all other Christians:

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that: “There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that he is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him. Tell them that he is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

Editors’ note: 

A version of this article appeared at the Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary.

Geoff Chang is associate pastor at Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, and is working on a PhD in church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Daily Light – March 18, 2020

The Mission Isn’t Canceled

Taken From an Article by:  Paul Worcester

University campuses across the nation are canceled due to COVID-19. For many Christian students this pulls you away from your campus ministries and the churches in your university context. Although you’re still taking classes online you may feel you have a lot of time on your hands, and no help for growing spiritually. You may be tempted to use this time to catch up on Netflix, video games, social media, or simply to take a break from the busy schedule you’ve been keeping.

(And the main points made in this article have great applicability to adults of all ages as we go through this mandated time of ‘social distancing’ and more isolation.)

That may be fine for a few days, but I want to challenge you to not waste this unique season God has provided. Endeavor to deepen your intimacy with Christ and to continue to pursue his command to make disciples. School may be canceled, but the mission isn’t. Paul instructs us:

Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15–17)

With this in mind, here are three simple ways you can “redeem the time” the Lord is giving you during this season. 

1. Don’t Isolate Yourself

The book of Proverbs says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1).

One of the enemy’s primary strategies is to get believers isolated so he can take them out. If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel you know that lions first go after the young and the sick, but most of all they attack those isolated from the rest of the herd. “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed. “The more isolated a person is, the more destructive the power of sin is over him.”  

School may be canceled, but the mission isn’t.

I once saw a video of a pack of wolves trying to attack a baby musk ox separated from its herd. As the wolves started to attack, the herd noticed and charged straight toward the action, forming a circle around the baby. They continued circling until the wolves decided to leave. Every follower of Christ needs a community like that. The best way to overcome temptation is to have a group of like-hearted people to run with. Paul warns, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). 

You may not be able to go to your college ministry’s large-group meeting, but you can still connect using technology with a few close believing friends. A weekly call with two or three others can make all the difference in keeping yourself encouraged and motivated spiritually.

2. Deepen Your Discipleship Relationships

This season is a perfect opportunity to deepen your relationships with those you’re discipling. If you’re being discipled, be sure to pursue that person to continue meeting up with you, even if it’s over the phone or Skype. 

If you are the discipler, help the other person make stretch goals in their spiritual disciplines. Goals such as praying for an hour a day, memorizing two verses a week, or fasting once a week are great ways to grow in the Lord. Give them books to read, memorize verses together, labor in prayer together over the phone together. Challenge them to take an online course like Perspectives or one of many provided by The Gospel Coalition.

If in-person discipleship groups are not possible, technology like Zoom or Google+ hangouts can be a great way to continue connecting. The last few summers our ministry has led online discipleship groups, and they’ve been life-changing. We read a book together, discuss it, memorize one verse a week, and then keep each other accountable for some basic spiritual disciplines.

This season is a perfect opportunity to deepen your relationships with those you’re discipling.

My advice for online discipleship groups is to ensure they’re small enough (three to five people) to allow for lots of sharing, accountability, and prayer. It’s also helpful to have clear expectations and at-home learning assignments. Accountability in a situation like this is vital.

3. Use Spare Time to Grow in Wisdom  

“A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash” (Prov. 15:14, NLT).

So much of what we encounter in this world is garbage. The problem, though, is that pursuing wisdom isn’t always easy. It doesn’t come from mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed. God wants to give us real wisdom, his wisdom, but we have to intentionally pray and work for it. 

Here’s a truth you need to embrace: you don’t know what you need to know to live the life God has called you to live. 

Wisdom is not simply head knowledge; it is a deep understanding of God and how life really works. It is so much deeper than mere intelligence.

Wisdom is not simply head knowledge. Wisdom is a deep understanding of God and how life really works.

The book of Proverbs was written to give knowledge and discernment to the young. You definitely fit in this category if you’re a college student. There is a built-in disadvantage to being young—not having lived long enough to know all the questions you should be asking. Ever heard the phrase “wisdom beyond your years”? There’s a reason people note it when they see it—because it’s rare. As pastor Harold Bullock says, “Teachability is the only shortcut to success in life.”

This is the perfect time to get a jump start on gaining wisdom. Let me challenge you to constantly be pumping your head with great audio resources like an audio Bible, sermon podcasts, or solid audiobooks. Bonus points if you read real paperback books. Setting goals for studying or memorizing Scripture is a perfect way to grow in wisdom. Use time that other people waste to grow in wisdom!

Paul Worcester and his wife, Christy, lead Christian Challenge at California State University, Chico, where they seek to introduce college students to Jesus and raise up multiplying disciples. Paul recently founded Campus Multiplication Network with the goal of training leaders to multiply ministries and churches around the world. Paul is the author of Tips for Starting a College Ministry and the co-author, with Steve Shadrach, of the new edition of The Fuel and The Flame.

Daily Light – March 17, 2020

Neighbor Love in the Era of COVID 19

Article by KATHRYN BUTLER, M.D.

More than 130,000 confirmed cases. Nearly 5,000 deaths. Entire countries on lockdown. Sporadic access to testing. And no vaccine. Such headlines recall the outlandish scenarios of science-fiction paperbacks, but right now they represent reality as coronavirus grips the world.

Unfortunately, responses to the pandemic also seem lifted from the pages of a sensational novel. Public reactions have veered from dismissiveness when the virus confined itself to other countries, to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks when it encroached on familiar shores. The stock market has crumbled, limping along at the worst performance in decades. Fights erupt at grocery stores over dwindling stocks of toilet paper. Even churches face strife in this highly charged atmosphere, as pastors who continue services withstand accusations of social irresponsibility, while those who cancel weather outcries about lack of faith.

The histrionics are more than just unseemly. Panic-buying depletes resource from the needy, and detracts focus from the real concern at hand, namely, how to protect those most vulnerable from COVID-19. It’s a question that troubles pastors across the United States, with those ministering in megachurches and those tucked away in the country equally struggling to discern how to shepherd their flocks through the crisis. It’s a question that cuts to the heart of Christian discipleship, as we seek to love one another as Jesus loved us (John 13:34–35).

Unless we think carefully about whom the coronavirus threatens, and respond out of love and not fear, it’s a question we risk getting horribly wrong.

Real Dangers

To understand why containment of the novel coronavirus has proved so challenging, think of COVID-19 as a common cold that targets the lungs. Coronaviruses aren’t new, and in fact they account for up to 30 percent of upper respiratory infections globally. Chances are high that at some point in your life, your stuffy nose, sore throat, and dry cough—all a nuisance but rarely dangerous—arose thanks to a coronavirus.

COVID-19 is as contagious as any coronavirus that causes the common cold. We pass it easily through droplets when we sneeze or cough, even before we notice symptoms of illness. COVID-19 differs from other coronaviruses, however, because it targets the lungs instead of the nose and throat. This explains why most diagnosed people present with fever and cough, without the runny nose and sinus congestion you’d expect from a cold. It also explains why it jeopardizes health-care systems. COVID-19 is a highly communicable virus with the potential to cause pneumonia in numbers that overwhelm hospitals. Italy is living out this threat, with the sudden surge in cases stressing its facilities beyond their capacities.

And yet, most people with COVID-19 don’t get critically sick. Eighty percent of those with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19—and likely more who develop mild symptoms, but don’t seek testing—recover at home without incident. Overall, the mortality rate from this virus is 3 percent, higher than the flu, but multiples lower than that of the Ebola strain that has ravaged Africa. Children, in particular, seem to escape serious illness from COVID-19, a surprising divergence from the U-shaped distribution of illness—highest among the youngest and the oldest in the population—that we typically observe with infectious diseases.

Most of us pocketing hand sanitizer and clearing shelves of bread won’t need medical care for COVID-19. But in our panicked responses, we risk neglecting those who do.

While the overall mortality from COVID-19 is relatively low, the risk of death dramatically rises among those advanced in age and living with chronic illnesses. Mortality shoots up to 15 percent among those older than 60 years of age, and after 80 years the death rate from COVID-19 rises to 22 percent. While the vast majority of the population, including children, will weather coronavirus infections from home, the elderly and infirmed face a high risk of death. Long-term care facilities and geriatricians recognize the dangers, have issued alerts, and recommend against social visits to nursing homes and assisted-living centers to protect those most vulnerable.

The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t which supplies to stockpile in preparation for an apocalypse, but rather how to support those at real risk for losing their lives to this swiftly moving disease.

Loving Our Neighbors

Loving our neighbors during this unsettling period requires we (1) limit the overwhelm on the medical system, so doctors can provide for the sickest, and (2) protect and support those most vulnerable to infection.

Tactics to reduce the health-care burden encompass those recommended by CDC and WHO to “flatten the curve.” As COVID-19 is so highly communicable, we can’t completely contain it. But we can slow its spread such that it doesn’t swamp hospitals and deprive patients of medical care. Many of these measures are common-sense preventative steps—washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to time it), not touching your face, staying home when you feel unwell, keeping your distance from people who are sneezing, and so on. In communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases, more aggressive social distancing measures are wise, and Daniel Chin offers an excellent review of a stepwise, systematic approach to such efforts.

The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t which supplies to stockpile in preparation for an apocalypse, but rather how to support those at real risk for losing their lives to this swiftly moving disease.

In addition, we should familiarize ourselves with CDC’s recommendations for people at high risk for infection, and ensure the vulnerable in our midst are safe and nurtured. Those for whom COVID-19 poses the greatest danger, are also those who commonly require help from others to manage daily life. CDC recommends that the elderly and chronically ill avoid crowds, close contact, and elective medical visits, but all these guidelines prove complicated when you require assistance with meals, wound care, or dialysis several times weekly.

As churches implement procedures to shield the elderly from illness, we should also remember to reach out to our brothers and sisters, to ensure they have systems in place for support that also limit their chances of infection. And if safety measures cut them off from the spiritual disciplines they hold dear, we need to connect regularly and often, by phone or internet, to remind them of Christ’s love during these trying days.

Ultimate Hope

Our hope rests not in fully stocked shelves and ample disinfectant, but in the saving blood of Christ, who gave his life so that one day all disease and pestilence will vanish from the earth (Rev. 21:4). As the headlines scroll across our screens, and anxiety mounts in our chests, let his love for us, rather than fear for ourselves, spur us to action.

Remember to wash your hands. Remember to stay home when you’re sick. And most of all, remember to do all this not out of panic, but out of love for your neighbor—the 80-year-old in the third pew, the nonagenarian in the choir, the transplant recipient at work—because Christ loved us first.

Kathryn Butler (MD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) is a trauma and critical care surgeon who recently left clinical practice to homeschool her children. She has written for Desiring God and Christianity Today, and is the author of Between Life and Death (Crossway, 2019), on end-of-life care through a Christian lens. She blogs at Oceans Rise.

Daily Light – March 16, 2020

The FAQs: Coronavirus Explained by an Infectious Disease Expert and Pastor

Article by Dr. MIGUEL NÚÑEZ

Editors’ note: 

Along with being pastor for preaching and vision of the International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo, Dr. Miguel Núñez has practiced medicine in different capacities for more than 35 years. He is board-certified in internal medicine and in infectious diseases. He was also an assistant clinical professor of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (1989-97) at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey. For this reason, the Gospel Coalition contacted him for information related to the current outbreak of coronavirus from the medical point of view and to offer some words of pastoral wisdom.

What is the coronavirus?

Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been reading and hearing about a family of viruses known as coronaviruses. There are 69 species of this virus, seven of which can affect humans. The rest of the virus species are contracted by animals—mostly pigs, bats, and other small mammals. Its name comes from the fact that on the surface of the virus there are protrusions that correspond to proteins that the virus uses to adhere to other cells it wants to infect. 

What is the history of the coronavirus?

The medical community has known about these viruses since the 1960s. However, it wasn’t until 2002 to 2003 when the general population began to become familiar with them due to an outbreak of one of the viruses that occurred in China, eventually called SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This epidemic was contained in China. According to the World Health Organization, only about 8,000 cases were reported with a mortality rate between 9.5 percent and 10 percent.

Ten years later, another strain of coronavirus emerged in Saudi Arabia, with an extremely high mortality rate of 35 percent. Fortunately, that epidemic was also contained. Unfortunately, 2,400 people were affected, of which about 800 died. This virus was called MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

We wouldn’t hear about a similar virus until December 2019. The first reports of a respiratory syndrome emerged, once again in China, specifically in Wuhan province. The virus has been referred to as SARS Covid-2, and the disease as COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease, 2019).

There are rumors that this virus has mutated, though no mutation has been recognized by medical officials. 

How far has this virus spread?

Since then, this virus has spread to more than 115 nations. As of March 11, there are more than 126,300 cases reported in the infected countries. Of these, some 68,285 patients have fully recovered, there are about 53,382 cases considered active, and more than 4,633 people have died. Of the active cases, 89 percent seem to have minor conditions, and the rest are in severe or critical conditions.

How deadly is the new coronavirus?

The average mortality rate is around 3.4 percent. The highest mortality rate was reported in Italy, estimated at a little less than 6 percent. The lowest mortality rate was reported in South Korea, calculated to be around 0.7 percent.

It’s important to note that the mortality rate of this species of coronavirus (COVID-19) is not comparable to the two coronaviruses mentioned above. In reality, the mortality of this new epidemic will probably end up being much lower than reported, since up to 20 percent of patients remain completely asymptomatic, which means they will remain undiagnosed. If the number of cases of coronavirus increases, this increases the denominator with the consequent reduction in the percentage of mortality.

The highest-risk patients are those older than 60 and those who suffer from a chronic disease, either respiratory or another type such as diabetes mellitus or renal failure.

The mortality rate may end up being 1 percent or less, according to a published article in the New England Journal of Medicine. By way of comparison, the common flu in the United States has a mortality rate of approximately 0.1 percent. However, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Atlanta estimates that in the current flu season, between 20,000 and 50,000 people will die in the United States.

How is coronavirus transmitted?

Transmission occurs through small droplets of liquid from coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted by touching objects these droplets touched. The virus enters through mucosa in the mouth, the nasal route, or the eyes. The incubation period is estimated to be between two and 14 days. 

Many wonder how long the coronavirus can live outside the body—anywhere from several hours to several days. Viruses are microscopic organisms that live inside cells. Therefore, they’re alive as long as the cell they inhabit is alive. If the environment or surface on which the virus is located is wet, or has a high degree of humidity, they may be able to remain alive for several days. If the surface is dry, the virus may die within hours.

It’s estimated that each infected patient will transmit the virus to an average of 2.6 people. Most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in people who’ve been in contact with others who had been infected by the virus. However, in several communities there are cases where the disease appeared without any contact with someone infected.

The closer you are to the affected person, the greater your risk of being infected. It should be noted that the CDC considers “close contact” to be about six feet (1.8 meters) away from the person.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

As mentioned above, 20 percent of patients will never develop any symptoms. The observed symptoms are fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are similar to those of a flu, particularly similar to influenza.

Symptoms remain mild in 85 percent to 89 percent of cases, but 11 percent to 15 percent of cases progress to severe and critical symptoms. These patients will have respiratory distress, the development of pneumonia, and even the presentation of hypotension or septic shock.

Why is the situation alarming for many?

Globally, the alarm is due mostly to the number of infected patients, not so much by the mortality rate. The increased number of patients makes the number of deaths due to this virus potentially very high.

Potentially, millions of people would be affected by the virus by the time the epidemic ends. This could produce hundreds of thousands of deaths unless we develop a vaccine or some kind of treatment soon.

Most vaccine experts say we will not have a vaccine before the next 12 to 18 months. Multiple antivirals are being tested, but there is currently no official recommendation for any of them.

What prevention measures should we take?

We recommend frequent hand washing. For medical personnel who handle cases of coronavirus, the use of gloves, gowns, and even glasses may be necessary, depending on the procedure to be performed on the patient.

It’s also recommended that, until this epidemic is considered to be under control, we minimize physical contact with other people (examples: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and so on).

As for travel safety, it depends on the destination. If you plan to travel to a country where the number of cases has increased, the recommendation is to not travel to that nation.

For example, this week Italy has declared a total quarantine. In fact, a few hours ago Italy closed most shops and restaurants, with the exception of pharmacies and supermarkets. The state of California suspended all meetings of more than a thousand people, and these measures are likely to be tightened in the immediate future. U.S. President Donald Trump decreed a few hours ago the suspension of all flights from Europe.

As believers, how do we need to think about it?

Without a doubt, we must be prudent and responsible, both in observing the recommended measures and also maintaining our health.  

The world population seems to be in panic. But for Christians, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no reason to experience such anxiety. Especially when we consider that the God of the heavens and the earth is the same God who controls every microbe, atom, or molecule.

This is a good time for Christians to demonstrate sanity, peace, and hope, recognizing that our lives do not depend on the entry of a micro-organism into our bodies. Instead, it depends on the God who determines the beginning and the end of our history on earth.

The apostle Paul calls us not to be anxious for anything (Phil. 4:6). We can call Christians to peace in the worst circumstances because of God’s sovereign control over his creation. 

Miguel Núñez (ThM, Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies; DMin, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; MD, INTEC School of Medicine) is pastor for preaching and vision Iglesia Bautista Internacional and president of Ministerios Integridad & Sabiduría in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition and vice president of Coalición por el Evangelio. He has authored several books, including Enseñanzas que transformaron el mundo.

Daily Light – March 13, 2020

Don’t Face Unbelief Alone

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

We all very much need other trusted Christians to help us fight for faith and against unbelief — and most of us know this. The problem is, the truth has a tendency to lose its obviousness to us when we most need to trust it. What we very much need, we often very much want to avoid.

Sinful desires, irrational or exaggerated fears, the discouraging and anxiety-producing pall of doubt, and the blanket-darkness of despair all have great power to distort our perceptions of reality. But when we are experiencing them, they appear and feel very real to us. Sin’s promise can look very alluring, the threats of fear and doubt can feel terrifying, and the temptation to despair can appear compellingly inevitable. When we’re in these states, we really need the help of trusted, wise brothers and sisters to discern what’s real and not real.

But when we’re in these states, that’s often when we least want to expose what’s going on inside. We know Scripture teaches us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). But when our need for this is most acute, we often experience the most acute internal resistance to pursuing it or receiving it.

And so, we must take hold of another truth: trusting in the Lord with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) is not something we merely do on our own; it has a communal dimension. We need our trusted brothers and sisters to help us trust in the Lord, even when we’d rather struggle alone.

Resistance from Within

Why can we feel such resistance to pursuing or receiving the help we really need? Three major contributors are typically pride (e.g. my perception of what’s true is more trustworthy than I believe yours will be), shame (e.g. I don’t want you to see my evil or weakness), and fear (e.g. you may reject me, or I may yield some control to you that I want to keep).

Whenever the sin of pride is present, its trajectory is destruction (Proverbs 16:18). But shame and fear are usually complex emotions, fueled partly by various sinful and/or weak tendencies in us and partly by external factors, such as damaging painful past experiences. The net effect is that these responses distort how we view those who might help us, undermining our trust in them and producing instead resistance toward them.

If we listen to the resistance, you can see the confusing, dangerous place this leads us. Sinful desires, misplaced fears, doubt, and despair undermine our trust in what God has spoken to us in his word, and pride, shame, and fear undermine our trust in our brothers and sisters. Unbelief can become a vicious cycle, leaving us isolated and increasingly vulnerable to more and more deception.

Distrust Your Inner Resistance

You can see how crucial it is, when it comes to unbelief and resisting the wisdom of other trusted Christians, that we really take seriously the biblical command to not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible’s warnings about this could not be clearer.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
     fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

Be not wise in your own eyes;
     fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
     but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
     will dwell among the wise.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
     but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
     and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:31–33)

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
     he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

Listen to advice and accept instruction,
     that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
      but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

Those who lived in the time these proverbs were written weren’t fundamentally different from us. They were subject to the same temptations to disbelieve God and felt the same kinds of resistance against seeking the sound counsel of others, whether out of pride, shame, or fear. And the proverb writer(s) calls giving in to those impulses foolish.

We are not made to lean on our own understanding. We are made to fear the Lord and listen to the counsel of those who have proven themselves trustworthy. Which means we must cultivate a healthy distrust in our resistance to trust wise brothers and sisters.

Trusting the Lord by Trusting Others

Eighty years ago, in the dangerous, disorienting, distrustful days of the Third Reich’s reign of terror, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his fraternal Christian community:

God has willed that we should seek him and find his living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, a Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. (Life Together)

This is true. A Christian needs another Christian to speak God’s word to him. We need it more than we know, and we especially need it when we’ve become disoriented regarding what’s real and true and we feel strong internal resistance to sharing it with another Christian. Because trusting in the Lord with all our heart is not something we merely do on our own; we also do it with others, in the community the Lord provides for us.

When We Are Most Vulnerable

There are graces the Lord provides to us only through our brothers and sisters. As Paul wrote, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). And “as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:4–6).

Therefore, the Lord requires us to humble ourselves and confide our sinful desires, irrational or exaggerated fears, the soul-shaking doubts, and dark despairing thoughts in trusted members of our community of faith, distrusting the resistance we feel to doing this. Because he has ordained that we receive the Spirit’s help through them. For it’s when we’re on our own that we are most likely to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – March 12, 2020

Whoever does not honor the Son …

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning study time (study, observe, apply, pray).

John 5:19-29  

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.   ESV

In the two verses right before this the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for calling God/Yahweh his Father. Just this week I heard of a “liberal Christian” who said Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. In :25-27 Jesus said “the son of man” (his favorite title for himself, which comes from Dan 7:13-14 about the Messiah who will rule over everything) is “the Son of God” and the Father has given Him/Jesus the right to give Eternal Life and to judge the world at the end of time! And if that was not enough, Jesus said if they didn’t honor Him (remember, they are trying to kill Him) neither did they honor the Father. Even people in graves will hear the voice of Jesus and spend eternity based on what He says about them! 

Lord Jesus, thank You for taking my judgment and giving me eternal life so I don’t fear Your wrath. Thank You for opening the eyes of my heart to understand who You are and what You have done for me. I desire to fully honor You at all times. Use my life and words to help many others realize that if they do not honor You as God, they do not honor the Father either. And use me to lead others to trust, honor and worship You forever!  Amen

Daily Light – March 11, 2020

Jesus’ second sign

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional study (study, observe, apply, pray). 

 John 4:43-54  

43  After the two days he departed [from Samaria] for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.   ESV

Jesus spent two more days with the Samaritans, and I’m sure those were exciting days! The woman he met at the well, and many people from the town were thrilled to have the Jewish Messiah in their midst – though they never would have thought of that before. He almost certainly healed people and taught the scriptures like they had never heard. They felt valued, and they valued Him. 

He then left the warm reception He had in Samaria and continued North to Galilee, where he had been cooly received before, because He was a local boy. Mark 6:1-6 appears to be a further explanation of this and says that because of their unbelief He couldn’t do many miracles there. It amazes me that even though He was/is God Almighty who created the universe, he “couldn’t do many miracle there”. I’m sure He had the power to do them, but He limited what He did to the faith of the people.  

I’m not sure of the timing of all this. It seems like he was doubted on an earlier visit, but that some of the people from there in Galilee saw what He did in Jerusalem, and that is why they were more favorable to Him on this visit. So Jesus said “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” But one father was so desperate he traveled the 20+ miles from Capernaum to Cana and begged Jesus to come heal his son. Jesus showed His power and compassion more than if He had gone physically to the boy. He merely spoke the word and the boy was healed “long distance” at that very moment. So both signs there in Galilee, turning the water into wine and healing the boy, showed the power of His words, and the compassion for people in their times of great need. John’s main point is that it was further evidence that He was the Messiah, and that all the people in that household believed in Him.

Lord Jesus, You cared about hurting people and You demonstrated the power to meet needs. You understand my/our weak faith when we ask for You to heal and/or help and You do not answer the way we ask. But I believe You still do care and still have the power to do anything. Help me trust You with everything, so that You are not hindered by my lack of faith. And for me, I believe You want me to show my faith primarily by obedience, rather than by my requests. Mostly, help me live in such a way that my words and actions show that I believe You are my Savior, and the Messiah – the King of kings and Lord of lords! Amen

Daily Light – March 10, 2020

“This One Thing I Do….”

Philippians 3:13,14:  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Article below: Days of Heaven Upon Earth — Rev. A. B. Simpson

One of Satan’s favorite employees is the switchman. He likes nothing better than to side-track one of God’s express trains, sent on some blessed mission and filled with the fire of a holy purpose.

Something will come up in the pathway of the earnest soul, to attract its attention and occupy its strength and thought. Sometimes it is a little irritation and provocation. Sometimes it is some petty grievance we stop to pursue or adjust. Sometimes it is somebody else’s business in which we become interested, and which we feel bound to rectify, and before we know, we are absorbed in a lot of distracting cares and interests that quite turn us aside from the great purpose of our life.

Perhaps we do not do much harm, but we have missed our connection. We have got off the main line.Let all these things alone. Let grievances come and go, but press forward steadily and irresistibly, crying, as you haste to the goal, “This one thing I do.”  

Daily Light – March 9, 2020

Salvation is from the Jews

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional study (study, observe, apply, pray). 

John 4:16-26   

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”   ESV

When Jesus told her details about her life that a mere man could not have known, she knew He was from God, but she did not want to talk about her life of sin and pain, so she asked a safe theological question about the acceptable location of worship. Jesus told her that God is Spirit, so geography is not as important as the inside of a worshipper. External rituals are not sufficient. If takes a clean and open heart to connect spiritually. But, it is not just “spirituality” that connects a person with God, it also requires truth – a knowledge of the true God and the acceptable way to approach Him. It can be from anywhere, but it is only through faith that the Righteous God will accept a substitutionary atonement on behalf of the sinner. When Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews” He was being very narrow. Other religions do not  and can not offer a sinless substitute. “Devout Samaritans” would not be acceptable unless they believed in the Jewish Messiah. It reminds me of about 35 years ago I was speaking to a group of Jewish women at the synagogue and one of them asked me if they had to believe in my Jesus to be saved. I replied that actually it was the opposite – that I had to believe in their Messiah to be saved. That is what Jesus meant by “Truth”. It takes more than good intentions and spiritual tingling. It takes faith in God’s one and only provision. Jesus said He was the Messiah and He was telling her “all things” required to be an acceptable worship of Yahweh.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for being “the Truth” and speaking the truth to that woman. Nicodemus was one of the best and most highly regarded people in Israel, and this woman was one of the worst and least esteemed people in Samaria, but You offered her the same Life and forgiveness you offered to Nicodemus. They both needed You and Your atonement. Thank You that You have given me/us the same offer that You gave to those two so long ago. Thank You for revealing the necessary Truth, and for Your Spirit transforming me/us from death to Life! What a privilege to worship You from anywhere, and to know others are also worshiping You all around the world, now and forever! Heaven will be wonderful joining others redeemed from every people group, and all worshiping You in spirit and in truth.  Amen

Daily Light – March 6, 2020

No God but One

Baal, Yahweh, Amazon, and Me

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

The oneness of God is under relentless assault today — though not in the way we might expect.

At least in the West, very few try to make a public case for traditional polytheism. There is little pressure in the mainstream to affirm many gods (at least not formally). Rather, the pressure which continues to rise with each generation, and each passing year, is the pervasive assumption of secularism — the pressure to sideline any talk of the one God and live together as though there were none.

In the ancient world, various pantheons of gods abounded. In Canaan. In Egypt. In Babylon. In Athens. In Rome. Everywhere God’s strange monotheistic people turned, they encountered polytheists. They were tempted incessantly to adopt the world’s gods to try and improve their lives. Against this pressure, the Hebrew Scriptures, again and again, assert the oneness, and supremacy, of the true God, not many gods. But today, the mounting social pressure is to believe in (or at least to live as if there were) no God at all.

As much as we may think (and keep telling ourselves) that we’ve progressed as a society, in the end, our modern secularism shares a common root with ancient polytheism. The two amount different guises for one fundamental rebellion. Secularists are the new polytheists.

No God Today

We have Amazon and Apple. We google and tweet. And one of the great delusions of the modern world is that we tell ourselves, in subtle and overt ways, how much wiser we are today, and how foolish our ancestors must have been. We assume the dead, who cannot defend themselves, must have been far inferior to us. While outwardly we may seem to be progressing through technology, inwardly however we are wasting away, generation after generation, under the ongoing curse and devolution of sin.

Two psalms begin with the basic declaration of folly not against polytheists, but against secularists:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:153:1)

If anything, we are deeper into Romans 1 in our day than the ancients who dreamed up other gods. At one level, at least, they were honest enough with themselves to perceive “eternal power and divine nature . . . in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). Not that they weren’t fools themselves (Romans 1:22–23). We, however, dig new and deeper depths of folly when modern secularists and materialists “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) to such a great extent that they acknowledge no divine power in this manifestly designed and personal world.

If the fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” then how much more the one so bold as to say it with his mouth, and pretend to live like it?

Many Gods Then

Before the Scriptures establish threeness in God, they start with his oneness (especially in the Old Testament, and clearly confirmed in the New). From the very beginning, the one true God reveals himself to his people, and the nations, despite their speculations, as the one and only true God. The first claim of the first document in the Scriptures is not ambiguous: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Any “progress” we might sense in the Scriptures from “henotheism” (the worship of one god, while not denying the existence of others) to genuine “monotheism” is not progress in divine revelation but in human understanding. The God of the Bible does not reveal himself as just one among others, en route to making more exclusive claims later on. He did not share with other gods in creation. He does not share with other gods in ruling his creation. He alone is God. Any traces of so-called henotheism are described (Genesis 31:33–35Exodus 18:11), not prescribed.

Stubborn and prone to relapse as God’s people may prove to be, God’s own revelation is clear from the start. From the very first verse, the God of the Bible is in a class of his own. He is the Creator. “In the beginning, God.” He alone is God; there is no other.

Monotheists All the Way Down

The mention of monotheism, which is not a biblical term, raises the question today of what kind of monotheism? Is Christian monotheism fundamentally different than that of some ancient Greeks, or that of Islam?

As Christians, we are monotheists all the way down. We believe in and worship one God. And we are monotheists who receive the one God as he has revealed himself to us, rather than determining through our own reasoning whether his oneness means he cannot also be three as well. In one sense, Christians are very much, we might say, strict monotheists, in that we do not fudge or compromise at all with God’s oneness. There is one God, and no other gods besides him.

However, compared with non-Christian Jews and Muslims, we might say we are monotheists with an asterisk — though not because we’re open to polytheism in any sense. We believe that the one God has revealed himself supremely in the person of his Son, in the man Jesus Christ, and in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. There is one God, who has shown himself to us as tripersonal: Father, Son, and Spirit. There are not three Gods, but three persons in one God. And when we turn to the world that exists, a world of both unity and plurality, neither more ultimate than the other, we find how neither polytheism, nor mere monotheism — nor secularism — explains our world like the God who is both one and many.

No God but Me

But if ancient humans were, in fact, on the whole, no dumber than us moderns — and likely less foolish in many ways — what was the allure of polytheism? And what is the allure today for more than a billion Hindus?

Perhaps it’s the sneaking suspicion in fallen humans that our lives are too complicated for just one God to handle it all. To bring it closer to home, we professing Christians should ask ourselves, in our age of specialization, do we assume that the one Creator, and the one Bible, and the one church and her pastors, need to stay in their lane with regard to so many of our modern problems? Our secular age conditions us to run to other gods, to the experts and specialists, to handle the various aspects of our personal lives. And at the level of social discourse, to explain away what God might be doing in wildfires and volcanoes and hurricanes and heat. Today’s answer, of course, is climate change, and nothing more — no space for a warning from the one God of heaven who commands all sinners to repent lest we likewise perish.

Even deeper than the seeming complexity of our lives, and our penchant for specialization, is the moral convenience of sidelining the one God. Because we ourselves want to be God, at least in the ways we so choose. We want to have control. We want to be our own authority. Beneath the veneer of polytheism is another form of monotheism called autotheism: the pretense that I am God.

Polytheism, without exception, glorifies the flesh. Polytheism keeps me in control, as no god can claim my all. Polytheism keeps each god at arm’s length, enough to keep me comfortable. As does secularism. It’s a new dress on the same ancient rebellion. Both polytheism and secularism, in the end, reduce to the evil root of pride and self-worship. Different confessions, but the same heart.

One God Forever

But for thousands of years, the one true God has confronted the evil of our self-worship with the invitation, and summons, to worship the one for whom our souls were made. When the one true God calls us to worship him, and him alone, he is bidding us to enjoy the glory and joy for which we long and cannot experience by turning inward, or elsewhere.

The fundamental confession of God’s first-covenant people was Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And there is no fundamental difference for us today in the age of the Spirit.

The oneness of God calls for a oneness in us. The one true God is not divided. He is one. So also he bids us not be divided but one — to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. To have him as our one Lord, our one Master (Matthew 6:24Luke 16:13), our one God — and his Son our one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

In a world tempting us to bow the knee elsewhere, or inward, at every turn, the one God calls us to make him wholly, in theory and practice, our fundamental allegiance and our greatest treasure.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.