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Don't Waste Your Quarantine

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At the time of this writing, the state of Illinois has at least 5 more weeks to shelter-in-place from the devastation of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.  If this news is sinking in to the point of panic and desperation, you should really call someone. Don't try to deal with the shock and languishing alone. Don't be too proud to ask for help like a meal. Even roped off from each other like this, we can still hold through this both as humans and as a Christian community. Don't let yourself be lost to others. 

There are a myriad of ideas that you can find for occupying your time just by scrolling through your social media or doing some simple searches or even watching the news. I won't intrude on those ideas. I'm more interested though in what's happening to your soul and how you're handling what seems to be "more" time. 

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

(Ephesians 5:15–16 ESV)

  1. Draw closer to God, and he will draw closer to you. He isn't as far off as you may think. God isn't a divine patrolman only monitoring what you're doing. Though he knows, he's near because of relationship. There is intimacy to be hand with the Almighty that you don't yet know about it. Give him the time of day, and you'll see.

  2. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. More on this below, but "mind your head" (as they say in the UK). If you don't make a plan for how you're going to use your time and your screens, you'll likely give in to almost anything that comes across your mental table. Plan breaks against and from distractions. Just because the walls seem to be closing in on you, doesn't mean they actually are. Redeem the time has the idea of buying it back. Make time your servant. Boredom doesn't have to fought. It can be plainly avoided. Schedule more rest time while God is allowing this forced Sabbath. But don't think for a second that God's Law is cooped up in a box somewhere (like we are). His rules stand fast even during this difficult time. Be renewed in the spirit of your minds (Ephesians 4:24).

  3. Draw closer to one another. This almost goes without saying. There seems to be more time so that we can casually re-connect or dive deeper with family and friends. While everyone might be living the introvert's dream these days, we cannot be relationally isolated. Don't wait for someone to reach out to you (as if they owed you). For older people, this may be a good time to fumble around with the technologies to get closer to the younger people in your family or church. For younger people, it could very well be therapeutic to your 'system' to write a short card or letter to a relative or an older person in the church. God knew that his image-bearers at this point in history would be going through this global quarantine. His image in us is resilient enough to still reflect the radiance of relationships. Go for it!

  4. Question yourself before you post. While there's alot of good stuff out there being produced around the clock, there's that doubly more junk to sift through. Junk in the sense of morally reprehensible or questionable, but 'junk' in the sense of time wasting. I thank God especially for trash collectors these days, but can you imagine what would happen if they stopped coming by? We don't really have internet trash collectors (thanks, Freedom of Speech!), so you've got to do your own filtering. Be rigorously discriminating. In addition to the verse quote above, how about the one below? Ask yourself if it's really worth it to post whatever it is you feel like post. Give yourself a limit. Remember: other people are either going to be bettered or potentially battered by it.

This quarantine isn't to be wasted. Make the most of it. Ask someone to hold you accountable for the next 5 weeks. if the last five have been a wash, then, suit up! Go to war and have fun!

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

We Become What We Worship

Everyone worships something. 

There is no immunity from worship no matter what your view of God is. Specifically, the point is that we naturally “worship” what we love. Biblical scholar G.K. Beale has a whole book on the theology of idolatry in the Bible titled We Become What We Worship (no light reading for sure). Dr. Beale didn’t come up with this nifty title on his own. I imagine he was inspired by Scripture:

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” 

(Psalms 115:4–8 ESV)

When Westerners think of idols, we may think of figurines or statues typical of the Eastern (or even Southern) Hemisphere peoples. We might think ancient; but not modern; primitive; not industrial; or even superstitious; but not reasonable. 

As sophisticated urbanites who see National Geographic-esque portrayals of tribal deities in the Majority World, we might think: “Not us.” But if the Bible written so long ago and is sufficient and relevant for us today says much about idolatry, should not we assume that idolatry is our problem, too?

Jesus said it in different words: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If your cell phone gets lost, your wifi goes down or your Ring doorbell glitches while you’re out of the house, we may get a glimpse into your heart. 

The late revered Dr. John Calvin has famously been quoted to say: “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge [factory] of idols.” In his day and age, he may have been saying this in the contextual “stew” of Romish and Popish idolatries. But he goes on as if he were sitting with us today:  

The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labors under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth. That idolatry has its origin in the idea which men have, that God is not present with them unless his presence is carnally exhibited.

Idols don’t just appear (Exodus 32:24) or drop out of the sky (Acts 19:35). They are formed and fashioned. They are conceived as the psalm above attests. And then they are cherished and coddled. They are bowed to. In other words, they are worshiped. But they aren’t so adored neutrally. 

In our day and age, idols are anything that emptily and/or ignorantly substitute for God. It can be a thing, an idea; an imagination; a person. It can be a whole complex of these. We may not personally take a hammer to anvil along with some silver and bang out something that we literally genuflect to. But, we constantly are capable of pumping out affections or allegiances toward things that comfort, amuse, distract or secure us.

This is exactly what Dr. Beale says in book:

“People will always reflect something, whether it be God's character or some feature of the world. If people are committed to God, they will become like him; if they are committed to something other than God, they will become like that thing, always spiritually inanimate and empty like the lifeless and vain aspect of creation to which they have committed themselves.”

As Christians today, we are like those to whom St. Paul wrote: “ you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). We are no longer slaves to any other god or idol. But, our hearts (to Calvin’s point) still have potential to reenact our former slavery. Though we are saved from bondage to any idolatry, we are not immediately saved from the attraction to some idols. With the saints of the ages, let us fight the magnetism by “hating worthless idols and simply trust in the Lord” (Psalm 31:6).

Posted by Will Pareja with