This is my first post.
Most people want their lives to count for something. Something deep inside them wants to make some kind of difference in the world, to leave a mark, a lasting legacy. It is a longing for significance to do something “great.”
But for most people this pregnant desire miscarries because they don’t believe that what is truly great is great. They believe in the fool’s gold of false greatness achieved through personal achievements.
Have you noticed that in the Bible, God largely ignores all the events and people that would have garnered the headlines of the ancient world and would have had all the Sunday morning pundits of that age earnestly discussing and debating? For the most part, God ignores the “great” people.
He’s just not very impressed with the empire builders, great political leaders, military geniuses, philosophers, poets, writers, artists, architects, entertainers, and other historical high-achievers. When he does mention them, frequently it’s to expose the ridiculousness of their inflated false sense of personal greatness.
Pharaoh in Exodus and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel are the poster children of false greatness. They at least get a biblical mention, though perhaps they would have preferred obscurity. God doesn’t even waste his ink on most of the rest.
When God’s eyes ran to and fro throughout the earth to give strong support to the one who was great in his eyes (2 Chronicles 16:9), the worldly greats did not capture his attention.
Who did capture his attention? People like Abraham.
By worldly standards, what did Abraham really achieve during his lifetime? What did he have to show for his life when he died? Not much. He had a few children, owned one tiny piece of property (a grave-cave) and some wealth in livestock. And yet Abraham, by God’s standards, was one of the greatest men who ever lived.
What made Abraham great? One thing: Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6). He believed God with his whole being. He banked his life on the belief that God existed and rewarded those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
He believed in God’s promises so much that he did not even have to receive what was promised in his lifetime (Hebrews 11:13). And his belief in God led him to obey God’s call on him to leave his kin and culture and go live in a foreign land as an alien and exile for the sake of God’s glory and his future purposes (Hebrews 11:8–9, 13). And Abraham’s faith-filled obedience to seek God’s kingdom first changed the course of human history — and is still changing it.
Note this: Hardly any of Abraham’s earthly contemporaries is remembered and none, except those who shared his faith in God, continue to make a difference in the world.
What great pursuit are you devoting your life to? What is it that you want to achieve? What do you really believe will make the biggest difference in the world? How you answer these questions will dictate how you will invest the one life you have to live.
Don’t believe the promises of false greatness. Nebuchadnezzar was about as high an achiever as a human can get and his greatness was piddly compared to Abraham’s. Give up the pursuit of piddly greatness! You’ll never find it in the achievements the world admires most.
The truly great people in God’s eyes are not the great achievers but the great believers. They really believe God and therefore seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). They know that they have no greatness of their own — all greatness is God’s — so they are free to be the servants of all (Mark 9:35). Because they know that here they “have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14) their eyes are set on the city with everlasting foundations (Hebrews 11:10).
That’s where they lay up their treasures (Matthew 6:20), and so they are happy to forego them here as God calls. And the great believers are willing to go into foreign lands and live on the promises of God for the sake of God’s purposes to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 28:14, Matthew 28:19–20).
The true greatness of the glory of God and his global purposes is the burden and call of this book: Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. It is a call for us to give up pursuits of piddly, ephemeral delusions of greatness and to live the truly great life of radical faith in God, following him as he leads into all the world in order that the gospel will be preached to and believed by every people group on the face of the planet. This is what God is up to in the world. All the events that capture today’s headlines will one day look like historical footnotes in comparison.
In the end, the great believers are the truly great achievers. They build the house that God is building and therefore the greatest house and only house that will last (Psalm 127:1). What they have to show of their lives when they die may not look like much. But what they have built will go on growing forever. It will make an eternal difference; it will leave an eternal mark, the longest-lasting legacy.
Don’t let your desire for greatness miscarry. Make your life count for the one thing that really matters. And let this article help inspire you towards true greatness.
By Jon Bloom
86% of choir members got infected with COVID-19 after church practice: report
A new report from the Skagit County Public Health Department in Washington state published by the CDC Friday, shows how quickly the coronavirus spread after a choir practice became a “superspreader event” for the disease that infected 86% of attending members and killed two of them.
Now state health officials say the findings in the report, based on the experience of Skagit Valley Chorale that normally rehearses at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church on Tuesday evenings and once a month on a Saturday morning, could have significant implications for future church gatherings.
“It’s really important that people realize that by meeting, by gathering, 86% of them could become ill and the results and aftermath of that is hard to fathom,” Skagit County Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand said in a King 5 report.
The report from the health department showed how the 122-member chorale was likely exposed to a “superemitter” of the virus who attended choir practice on March 3 and March 10.
“One person at the March 10 practice had cold-like symptoms beginning March 7. This person, who had also attended the March 3 practice, had a positive laboratory result for SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing,” the report said.
Of the 78 members who attended the March 3 practice, 51 or 65.4% of them got infected with the virus. All but one of the infected individuals from the March 3 practice were among the 60 members who also attended the March 10 practice, 86.7% of them tested positive for the disease. Among the 21 members who only attended the March 3 practice only one of them became ill.
“The 2.5-hour singing practice provided several opportunities for droplet and fomite transmission, including members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice. The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization,” the report said.
“Certain persons, known as superemitters, who release more aerosol particles during speech than do their peers, might have contributed to this and previously reported COVID-19 superspreading events,” the researchers added.
They explained that the findings from this event shows “the high transmissibility” of the coronavirus as well as “the possibility of superemitters contributing to broad transmission in certain unique activities and circumstances.”
“They were sitting closely together and spending time there and then they would switch chairs, share snacks, and they might have touched surfaces other people infected touched,” Lea Hamner, co-author of the report and communicable disease and epidemiology lead at Skagit County Health told King 5.
All of this activity occurred at a time when Skagit Valley had no reported cases yet even though the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Washington state on Jan. 21.
In a March 23 statement, the Skagit Valley Chorale said that during the dates they were holding rehearsals, schools, restaurants, churches, bowling alleys, banks, libraries, theaters, and other businesses also remained open.
“The advice from the state of Washington was to limit gatherings to 250 people. There were no recommendations from Skagit County Health Department regarding meeting sizes, but they did state that people over 60 should avoid ‘large public gatherings,’” the group said.
Still, the chorale’s board of directors tried to be careful. They urged all members to stay away from rehearsals on March 3 and March 10 if they showed any symptoms of illness, no matter the cause.
They also advised anyone who felt their health or safety was in jeopardy to not attend.
“Each member was left to determine for him/herself whether to attend. At no time was anyone pressured to attend if they were uncomfortable doing so,” the group said.
Despite the precautions taken, however, very few of the chorale members were spared from contracting the virus.
As a result of the high transmissibility of the virus the researchers recommend that people avoid face-to-face contact with others, not gather in groups, avoid crowded places, maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet to reduce transmission, and wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor in California and the author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, argued in a New York Times op-ed Thursday that while some churches are pushing to reopen despite the lack of a vaccine for the coronavirus — and there’s no guarantee that there ever will be a vaccine for COVID-19 — most churches are taking the virus seriously.
“While pastors defying closure orders have grabbed headlines, the reality is that over 90 percent of pastors and church leaders complied with shutdown orders in March and many are still waiting until later in May and into June before resuming public worship — even in states where restrictions are weakening,” he wrote. “Most pastors that I have engaged with take seriously the responsibility to navigate this national tragedy with wisdom, compassion and patience.”
In Alabama for example, even though Gov. Kay Ivey is now allowing churches to resume meeting, many churches in Alabama continue to use online services and plan to wait a bit longer before reopening for in-person services.
The largest church in the state, the Church of the Highlands, will continue to emphasize watching online services and Pastor Chris Hodges, said there were no plans to return to in-person group worship before May 31.
Ivey’s pastor, the Rev. Jay Wolf, pastor of Montgomery First Baptist who advised her on church safety issues, told AL.com that he believes it will be no sooner than May 31 before in-person services begin. Even then, he said, it might not even be safe for a large church to meet in person.
Bishop Stephen A. Davis, pastor of the 5,000-member Refresh Family Church, formerly known as New Birth Birmingham, told AL.com that right now, “We still think it’s too risky.”
“We’re waiting another couple of weeks just to be safe,” Davis said. “Just because the state reopens businesses doesn’t mean it’s safe to bring that many people together.”
BY LEONARDO BLAIR