Good Things From Closed Churches

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The ongoing hoopla about closed churches during a national pandemic is, ironically, nearly ungodly.  Protesting government officials, threatening lawsuits, and wasting money and energy point to a self serving faith, not selfless faith.  Is it really God’s call to rebel when our resources should go to serve?  Many churches, run on a business model, have their own bottom line motivation.   Closed churches though, can serve to refine and grow our faith more than ever.

Firstly, separating ourselves from the social gathering of others, the planned format of worship and social chatter can clarify our foundation of faith.  Do we find our spiritual fulfillment in our social gathering, singing, and sermons or does church serve to embellish the intimacy we have already with the Lord?  Do we have intimacy with our Savior, as a Bride to her Bridegroom?

Intimacy is measured in private, not corporate settingsClosed churches should lead to open prayer closets – that’s where our true spiritual life and growth take place.

Secondly, our gatherings are not squelched due to oppression or persecution but for a global health crisis.  When life drastically changes, shouldn’t we then beseech God for His change in agenda?  If sovereign God shuts down normalcy, shouldn’t our hearts be shaken toward Him and His word?  God is speaking into hearts during this pandemic with a call to press into His word.   We need to hear Him speak to us without a choir, pulpit, coffee hour or book table because thirdly….

all those things may be gone.  One day we may have to stand alone and know what we stand for.  Pandemics, crisis, wars, calamities…birth pains…do we know the scriptures well enough and understand eschatology – the study of the end times – to gauge our life in this crucial ticking clock?

The Apostles’ message of salvation did not go forth without proclaiming the truth of Christ’s return.  That anticipation is the framework from which Christian life was grounded.  Today, however,  everyone wants to ‘be saved’ by ‘praying a prayer’ but few understand the deep reality from what they are saved!  We are saved from the coming wrath of God, an unpopular and nearly forgotten truth.

The Body of Christ has a joy not found in happy-clappy songs, motivational sermons, or social group activities.  Perhaps there’s a place for them but our joy must transcend anything and any relationship in this temporal world.  If the Bible is true and it is, worse days are coming.  Covid-19 is merely a test run for what the word of God proclaims prior to Christ’s return.

With the pandemic of apostasy, closed churches may be God’s hand in drawing us alone to Him for His counsel, His healing, His leadership and His revelation of where we stand as His Bride.  After the Lord’s sacrifice for our sin, His call for His people is to be ready, be alert, and be watchful,  with lamps filled with oil, anticipating the Bridegroom…

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory unto Him!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready…”  (Rev 19:7)

The world may shut down but heaven will not.  I pray that we as a people press in, find our sanctuary at home with the Holy Spirit, and hear what the scriptures proclaim about our day, our calamity, and His return and His call upon us.

“He who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)

Maranatha! 

 

 

Inside Israel

We recently returned from a robust trip to Israel.  While our itinerary was jam packed, certainly every site we saw is a well tracked path.  So, I will not post pics of Masada, Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea or even the Armenian Quarter  (ok, maybe one)…

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Yousef*, our Arab Christian tour guide, expounded a depth of spiritual and historical knowledge as a native with 20 years experience leading Americans through Israel and Palestine.  He introduced himself as a “true believer in Jesus Christ” and often taught scriptural truths as related to various historical sites. It was obvious that he had a love for all the people we encountered – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, and Druze – rich or poor.

It is not only what Yousef shared of Israel that still stirs my heart but what he revealed about us.

Yousef challenged the group at every Christian/religious site, “Can anyone describe what happened here?” “How was this place significant to Jesus Christ?” “Who was Herod the Great?…”  Either most of the group was shy or had little Biblical foundation.  While traveling at great cost and distance to see religious sites, most of the group was either unwilling or unable to converse in Biblical truths.

Yousef shared his experience during the tumultuous ‘Second Intifada’, 2000-2005, a time of violent uprising between Palestinians and Israelis.  He left Israel during that time, traveling to USA to possibly relocate to relative’s homes.  Job opportunities were sparse for him but what he recalls to us is this:  “I visited their church and was sure they would be focused with concern and prayer for the crisis in Israel.  When I came to the meeting however, they were all talking about which pizza had the best cheese.”  I felt a collective inner shame for the sated Body of Christ, isolated and disinterested in the suffering of distant brethren.

Our tour ended with an exhortation and plea,  “When you go home, open your Bibles, read them!  Let all that you’ve seen bring the words to life.”  Referring back to his time in the United States Yousef opened his heart, “I left the States in 2005 – I missed the dirty, noisy streets of Jerusalem!  I love this country and had to return….but now I regret it.  There’s an undeniable stirring, an certain unrest and hostility.  I tell you for sure, it is not ‘if’ war breaks out here, but ‘when’.”

As elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Syria, the Christian population is suffering and shrinking.  Once 20% in Palestine, now Christians are 1%, fewer than 10,000.  Many may be ‘nominal’ Christians but even still my heart was burdened.  With the nonstop traffic of tour buses from all over, I wonder how many of these sojourning Christians will seek and receive a burden for these brethren?  Multitudes flock to religious icons and shrines, but how many will align with the burden of Christ’s heart for His people?

If we will “open our Bibles and read them” we too will see, it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.  If we take our salvation with certainty, we must take the prophecies of scripture with like conviction in our hearts.  A celebrated authority will arise, the charismatic Antichrist.  Betrayal, violence, and chaos are destined for Israel.  Yes, God Himself with be their victory and triumph, but what is our role as Christ’s Body in the world?

I loved every bit of Israel and my visits to Palestine.  I want though, more than any itinerary and tour, to realize what the Holy Spirit is showing me – Lord, align and press in my heart your truths and views of this great land.

Go to Israel while you can.  See everything, there’s so much!  But let the Holy Spirit be your inner tour guide and open your spiritual eyes with heaven’s view!

(*not his real name)