What’s REALLY Killing Our Churches

God is, in no way, deterred by a virus, a riot, or ‘oppressive legislation’.  In fact, scripture boldly testifies that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.  His precious and powerful Spirit moves triumphantly through our desperate cries and prayers.  Dependency is a major pillar of faith, so essential that the Lord will cause and/or allow confounding situations and calamities to draw us into His word and prayer.

It is not possible for COVID or any government restrictions to curtail the move of God nor diminish His purposes but He may well be using these to expose the foundation of our faith.  Just what is it built upon?

American churches and spiritual revivals seem to be at a tail end, working hard to pump life into the fading godly reputations.   The ‘smoke has left the temple’ but where is our grief and contrite heart?

All-night prayer meetings and three day fasts humbled and united brethren in godly churches, charging them with great expectations from God.  The Holy Spirit brought direction, the Lord’s purposes became clear.  There was revelation to God’s word.  What happened, seemingly so fast?

We can learn from young King Uzziah….

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success….His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.”   (II Chronicles 26 excerpts)

Gone are those prayer meetings.  Undoable are those fasts.  ICHAOD is juxtaposed upon the billboards yet goes unnoticed.  The Glory of God is replaced with marketing strategists, digital strategists, community interest groups and food giveaways.   No virus is curtailing God’s move and certainly no government – in the most restrictive and oppressive countries the Holy Spirit is mightily gathering souls for God’s Kingdom!

We squandered our ‘spiritual wealth’ – our dependency upon, our intimacy with, our abandon to God – to wade in a spirit of Laodicea.  Neither ‘hot nor cold’, we were ‘wealthy’ and self sufficient until a virus interrupted our church business.

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With enough lawyers, donors and publicity, ‘We Can Do It’, but we’ll be ‘doing it’ without God’s Holy presence.  “The flesh counts for nothing”, Jesus said.  

Can church shut downs or worldly oppression of any kind diminish the longing of the Bride for the Bridegroom?  Won’t it all only quicken our hearts to seek Him and deepen our yearning for His coming?

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

Lord, am I getting ready or am I still clamoring for the temporal things, reaching back for gone seasons and past movements?  I pray that You call us and draw us as Your flock, open Your word to us.  Let the world ‘take away’ as long as You pour in with greater measure!

 

Prayer in the Plaza

Many readers, family and friends may remember our community battles here with Columbia University’s ongoing land grab in New York City, posted here ,  here, and here    for example.  Commandeering housing and small businesses, they set their sites on our street to take a stretch of it for their ‘plaza’.  While the community fought to save our street, the wheels of political and financial power spun against us.  Soon part of our street was closed and the work began.

However, as believers, we grip a hold of God’s sovereignty, even in times of loss, defeat, and disappointment.  “Who knows”, I thought in the end, “maybe we can use the plaza for a Christian event or something…”.  Admittedly I was sour to them though as they closed the street and began their work, “I won’t step one foot onto this plaza!”

That was last year.

All of that is inconsequential to the crisis here in NYC with Covid-19, deeply shaking us all.  While close friends are suffering with this illness, community members have died, and friends and relatives go bravely to work in hospitals and correctional facilities, I prayed, as many do, what might I do, Lord?  Yes, we help those who are affected, sharing and delivering groceries but how can the Lord be exalted?

While praying one morning, it came to me that the ‘plaza’ is adjacent to the hospital.  All the students left weeks ago, it is just a vacant area with chairs, tables and planters.  Ambulances speed by, hospital staff scurry to work….I need to be there, I need to press in and pray and take a stand for the Lord!    

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I sit right behind the sign

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My daily prayer meeting, 10-11am, includes me and the Holy Spirit – and others who are joining in from their homes.  Prayer points include:

  • Prayer for nurses and doctors, EMS, hospital support staff – firstly for brethren who are serving, may the Lord undergird them, speak words of life to them overflowing to coworkers and patients.  For all those who have heard the Gospel, who may have an ember of faith, may the Lord fan those embers into flames and ignite a living faith.  Lord, let them sleep well at night, give them rest, encourage them in every way.  Speak to those who don’t know You, draw them to Your word and let them find strength in You.
  • Patients and their families –   Be a source of healing, Lord, physical, emotional, and spiritual.   Lord, many are now at the edge of eternity.  I pray that there may be a harvest even now, let a believing nurse, attendant, or food service worker speak an apt word, an appointed word.  For those patients suffering who have heard the Gospel, Father in heaven, fan those truths within them and bring them to repentance and safe into Your arms.                                                                                       I pray for their families who tragically say goodbye at an ambulance, never to see their loved one alive again.  Comfort them Lord, and draw them to You.
  • Encouragement for support staff in health care and law enforcement –  they are often hidden away from limelight – food workers, custodial and maintenance staff, nurses aides, secretaries/receptionists, suppliers.  Draw them to You Lord, let them find their strength in You.  Put a song in their heart as they work, often behind the scenes.
  • For law enforcement, NYPD, NYFD, DOCS, and security teams – encourage them,  strengthen them Lord, protect them from criminal assaults and virus infection.  I pray for the believers within, such as Correction Officers for Christ and those in the NYPD,  let Your Holy Spirit pour forth through them, sharing Gospel truths even to the inmates.
  • I pray for all those passing by –  hospital staff, dog walkers, residents –  Lord, let them read the sign and kindle their hearts to ‘PRAY’,  let that word stick to their hearts and follow them.  Let them begin to think of You.

There are many other points to pray as the Lord leads.  Over all this I am also praying…Lord, don’t waste this affliction.  Bring our community, our city, our state, our nation to repentance.  Confound our self-reliance and our pride in this time of shaking and turmoil…in Your mercy turn our eyes upon You. 

This can be our finest hour to rise up and honor God through this darkness.  May the Lord loosen our grip on this world,  give us greater hunger for His word and deepen our devotion to Him.  May our remaining days count for Him and fulfill His purposes – no matter how big or small they may seem.