Updated: Jun 2, 2020
(Note: This blog entry is not about health-related issues. As I am also a pastor, I am writing this entry more from a christian, spiritual angle. If that does not interest you, know that you will not offend me by not reading further.)
During the corona virus pandemic, the Lord has shown me that symbolically this season is a season of the cardinal—the redbird. As I have observed the cardinal bird and noticed its quick changes in direction, the Lord has taught me to carefully watch and follow Jesus and Father God and the Holy Spirit fully during this time. There will be unexpected turns, so I am to grab their coattails and hang on. They know the way through this.
I have been learning different uses for the word “cardinal”—as in “the cardinal thing” or “the four cardinal virtues,” and a synonym of this usage means “the hinge of a door”...or in other words, the “pivot” (1). During this season, the cardinal prophetically represents the pivot, the pivot point(s), being nimble and ready to pivot quickly.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV).
For us to be successful during this unexpected and unusual season, we must be able and willing to pivot quickly and regularly as we follow Jesus. His thoughts may not be our thoughts, and His ways may not be our ways.
God may ask us to pivot when we have a perfectly good plan in place.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10).
In 1983, the Lord gave the lead pastor of Abundant Life Church a pivoting word that changed our church’s vision from a new building program for a successful, growing church to moving the ministry into Springfield. It was radical and earth-shaking for those of us who were there at the time. It was as radical as the Lord changing Paul’s missionary team’s vision from going into Asia to pivoting and going to Europe (Macedonia). Now, in retrospect, we can see the fruit of Paul’s pivot…and ALC’s pivot. We will live long enough to see the fruit of the current pivots that the Lord is doing in our personal lives, and in our church, our businesses, our city, and our country.
Humility is the way forward as God leads us where we may not want to go.
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Fighting the current pivots of the Lord in this season would be as silly, unwise, unfruitful, and potentially as disastrous as when the people of God (Judah) tried to stave off the impending invasion of the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar. The prophets kept telling the people that the Babylonians were coming (in this case, as a result of their sins and not turning to God). The prophets told them not to fight...if they tried to fight, it would be a disaster for them. Some fought and, for them, it did not go well. Others yielded to the Lord’s word through the prophets and were led to Babylon as slaves…a place they did not want to go. While there, those that yielded became prosperous and were fruitful (2). Some even rose to power and prominence while in an undesired foreign land (3). Eventually, after 70 years of exile, the Lord led them back to their home country (4).
When Business as Usual is Not Business as Usual
I recently read an interesting article about Seattle’s response to the corona virus (5). In February 2020, there was a positive case confirmed in Seattle. Even though the residents of Seattle were aware of what the corona virus had done in China, they were making plans for March and beyond as though it would be business as usual. During a routine leadership meeting at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on February 25, an epidemiologist was allowed to attend. As he spoke about his concerns that what happened in China could happen in Seattle, the meeting’s focus changed drastically. The people in that meeting, upon hearing a scientifically prophetic possibility, realized they had two options: plan on business as usual or pivot into an entire different plan for their corporation (and the city of Seattle).
The Director of the Research Center immediately contacted other city and state and business leaders with this possible life-changing information. Incidentally, Seattle is home to many Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, and Starbucks (just to name a few). According to the article, an amazing thing happened—many of the business and government leaders heeded this word and immediately started shifting (pivoting) their businesses toward averting a crisis in their city and state. Amazon and Microsoft, long-term cut-throat tech rivals, came together with others as a coalition trying to save their city. One company that makes furniture for Nordstrom’s and airplane parts for Boeing shifted their production lines to produce PPE supplies. The University of Washington, which has one of the nation's leading virology labs, shifted its focus to fighting the corona virus. Others donated large amounts of money toward fighting this new virus (6).
Within days, more cases that were already in the community began to reveal themselves. The war was on for Seattle. Seattle did suffer, but the early pivot response of business, government, and scientific leaders helped to blunt the devastation that was at their door. It is estimated that Seattle had about a 6-8 week jump on containing the corona virus (as compared to the national leaders) due to their early pivot.
As I read through this article, I realized the power of what can happen with an early pivot in the time of a crisis. Seattle, known for tech and innovation and progressive thinkers—but not known for being a godly or Jesus-following city—heard a prophetic whisper and pivot responded. We, as Jesus followers, can learn from their example. It would truly be shameful if “the world” pivoted at the voice of the Spirit, and God’s people did not. Let us turn to God (pivot) and cry out for His direction and mercy. Let us turn to Jesus with all of our hearts and follow Him fully. Let us not assume that typical Christian or religious answers will suffice in this pivotal season. Let us, as the church, not be shamed by the world’s pivotal unity as we continue to fight our own individual agendas. Repentance and unity among the U.S. churches can turn our nation to God (7). Repentance and unity among churches in a city and region can turn that city and region to Jesus, resulting in many coming to Jesus and churches growing during this pivotal season (8).
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). If Jesus and His followers are anything in this world it is light. Humble acts of loving service can illuminate a pathway that glorifies the Father during this dark pandemic season.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 102. (FYI: Four of the cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.)
See Jeremiah 29.
See the biblical stories of Daniel and Esther (and Joseph in Egypt).
Read Ezra and Nehemiah.
Fortune, May 2020, “Seattle Under Siege,” pp. 60-68.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, continues to donate large sums of money to public health causes and to corona virus causes. It is reported that Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, has devoted 1 billion dollars of his equity to corona virus relief causes.
See unite714.com. See 2 Chronicles 7:14.
See John 17:23 (vv. 20-23).