When I think about this season the planet is in-- this historic, incredible, too-big-to-comprehend season-- I am filled with conflicting emotions and ideas. Our Creator is perfectly loving and wise in all His ways, and He is absolutely aware and active in this place, and it's an honor to be alive right now: I was chosen, you were chosen, to be part of this crazy chapter in the life of the planet. He built us with exactly what we need for this season. He knows.
But there's also that nagging fear of Covid19, of the difficulties facing our students (especially the little ones) and their families, and the sadness that comes with isolation in a society that loves big events, big meetings, dinner parties, game night, and communal everything.
But right now it's 1:18 on a Sunday morning. I can't sleep. I'm thinking about the church.
And when I say "the church" I don't mean the particular church that I go to, necessarily-- I'm thinking of the Church world-wide.
I'm thinking of this thing I keep hearing my favorite teachers saying: be careful about what you put into your mind. Be careful about how much information you are absorbing from the world right now. Be careful where you spend your time meditating. Bill Johnson said it a couple of weeks ago: "If you have more input from mainstream media than from the Spirit of God, your discouragement is self-inflicted." The bible says in Philippians 4,
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
Another version says, "meditate on these things."
It's not that it's wrong to have information. I don't think He has called us all to flee to the mountains and never acknowledge the world around us-- there are important, critical, amazing things happening right now that we must be awake for and aware of. No, it's important to know about things that are happening.
But the question is, and I'm asking the question of myself, how much time are we spending meditating on those things and not pulling ourselves and those concerns into His presence?
Because just knowing stuff and diving deep into anxiety is doing no one any good.
So here's where my mind is at now 1:27: what in the world is the church doing?
And I don't mean, "Why in the world is the church not meeting in her buildings?"
In point of fact, don't tell anyone, but I don't care one thing (at the moment) about going back into buildings if it's just more of the same. World wide: what are we doing?
Here's a question to ask ourselves-- all of us: five year olds, teenagers, youth pastors, elders, bishops, clergy of all collars-- how have we spent the last few months?
It's like the Lord took His finger and pressed PAUSE on the planet, told us to hunker down and be still and just wait for further instructions. But God is the perfect Father/teacher/manager/architect/director/bestfriend/everything: He's always doing more than one thing and not one moment is wasted. So what do we do with months stuck in the house?
Perfect opportunity to get close to God. Perfect opportunity to pursue Him in ways we haven't done since we were brand new to the faith. Perfect opportunity to get serious about holiness.
There is big talk of churches (specifically, one big one out in California) who have chosen to go back to meeting in their spaces. They are loudly defying the government, crying foul against an "oppressive regime" (air quotes around my own interpretation) that is threatening to steal our rights, make being a Christian illegal, etc. I haven't heard anyone use the "how to boil a frog" metaphor yet but it would be a good one (you're welcome to it if you need that argument).
I don't mean to appear to be one of those people that some will say isn't paying attention while the world is burning down around me. I'm aware that there is insanity playing out in both the seen and unseen worlds.
But I would sincerely ask this question of my brothers and sisters-- and I'm not being sarcastic or argumentative-- what have we been doing since March 13?
Did we start strong, aware, having communion every day/once a week as families? Did we pick up our abandoned bible studies or commentaries (I keep promising myself that I'm going to read Watchman Nee's Spiritual Authority one day...), start journals, intend to host socially-distanced neighborhood bible studies? And then, as the sense of crisis abated, or maybe we just got acclimated, we lightened up? As we started seeing toilet paper and hand sanitizer return to our grocery shelves, did the bubble of panic ... subside?
Here's what I'm asking: I want to know what you and I are DOING.
The bible says that the Lord is coming back for a bride who has made herself ready. One of my mentors, Jackie Sheppard, said something to me about this during one of our marathon kitchen table conversations many years ago. She reminded me that in a wedding, the bride is responsible for getting herself ready, not the groom. He takes care of groom stuff. She asked me if I've ever seen a groom coming into the bridal chamber before a wedding. He's not supposed to-- she makes herself ready.
The bride's responsibility is to make herself ready.
The Church is the bride-- and you and I are part of that. It's not the responsibility of Certain People in the church to make us all ready-- it's each one of us, individually.
Maybe my thoughts are jumbled up here-- let me try to land this plane:
While we are arguing about what the government is or is not trying to do to The Church, there are millions of souls crying out for hope. While we are typing angry missives on Facebook, Twitter, blogs (doh!), or recording conspiracy videos for YouTube or wherever, there are people who are looking for one morsel of freaking hope to cling to.
And we are hogging it all. Hoarding it. We have shelves of hope in our homes-- we have fourteen versions of the bible scattered throughout our houses, countless unfinished Bible study workbooks, and access to more excellent teaching across the globe via livestreams than we have time to watch, and we are determined to make a stand and meet in our buildings and turn on the lights and sing the same worship songs and rally the troops from the pulpits to defy the godless governors who are attempting to convert our nation to agnosticism but for what purpose?
Tell me, Church, where is the cry for personal holiness? Where is the movement to confront and demolish strongholds in our lives, in our families, and in our communities? Where is the movement that must start with every individual believer that will show forth the fruit of fearless humility and zeal for the Lord Himself? Where is the rallying cry to confront racism in our hearts; pornography that is trying to steal our men; and unbelief that quenches any sense of authenticity and power in our worship? How are we, the Bride, pursuing holiness as a Body to make ourselves ready for our Bridegroom?
As it is, we have done the thing we have always said that we hate: we have erected country clubs in our neighborhoods. We have pulpits filled with men and women who are not even certain that they believe in God anymore because they have been so abused and so defeated by parishioners who are mean and critical and easily offended. We have churches with beautiful sanctuaries and facilities but who have lost sight of the mission: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We tolerate all kinds of sin in our congregations and because we fear men more than we fear God, we are sitting in pews next to brothers and sisters who are drowning, silently crying out for a lifeline, for someone to reach through their veil of shame and cry FREEDOM with our own testimony (Rev 12:11).
Instead, we look away and [sort of] play nice.
We would rather gossip about someone's sin than to get into the pit and pull them out of it.
Having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3).
Instead of focusing the bright beam of our anger and frustration on the sin in our own lives and the constant attack of the accuser of the brethren, we are on the war path to sit in pews. To get back to...whatever it is we were doing in March. Why?
Understand, I love corporate worship. The bible says that we must not neglect the gathering of the brethren. I am aware of the huge gift it is to be a believer who lives in a nation with religious freedom.
But that's just it, Church: we are free to practice our faith. The government that is telling you-- rightly or wrongly, who knows?-- to stay home on Sundays is not telling you that you cannot be a believer. They are not confiscating our bibles. They are not forbidding us to have house church or worship together in our living rooms or yards.
But are we?
Are we having Zoom bible studies? Are we interceding on the walls of our cities? Are we pursuing God while we have unprecedented access to time alone?
Church, we are fighting the wrong fight. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. Our battle is not with presidents, governors, mayors or each other.
We have been called to prepare ourselves for the Bridegroom. He has called us to walk in holiness. We've been called to tell the good news of what He has done for us and make disciples. He has given us everything we need-- heck, He even tells us in John and 1 John (2:27) that the Holy Spirit Himself is able to teach us everything we need to know.
So there it is.
It's 2am now and I still have so many thoughts in my head, but this one persists: seek God while He may be found (Isaiah 55). He doesn't live in our brick buildings with steeples on them. I'm sure He likes them, but He says that He has taken up residence in us (Ephesians 3:17). How are we maintaining these temples? What sins are we allowing to live in the holy place that is our hearts? Why are we so concerned with proving points and asserting rights while we continue to entertain or just ignore habitual sins in our personal lives that render us powerless?
This is what is eternal.
God, I am so grateful for your patience. I am so undone with gratitude for your patience with me. Thank you that there is not one political figure or any person in authority of any kind who intimidates you. Thank you that you are full of shalom. I thank You for holding back what I deserve and pouring out mercy instead because Jesus took all of what I deserve with His perfect life.
Help all of us, Lord, It's so hard to see through the smoke on this planet. Help us see what You are doing, and help us to train our sights on the proper enemy: everything that would separate us from You. Help us to cultivate kindness and walk in humility and abolish everything in our own lives that causes us shame and makes us walk away from You.
Help us to see the perfect Father that You are.
Help us to trust You.
Help us to make ourselves ready for You.
We cry out to You for a cure to this virus-- we want what we had: freedom. But God, help us not to waste this time while we wait. God, help us to lift our vision higher-- to not be so earthbound that we get lost in planet skirmishes that block the lost from seeing and finding You. The fact that You haven't revealed a cure for the virus tells me that the other work isn't done. Thank you for what feels like an extension on the assignment. I trust Your sovereignty.
And I can't wait to raise my voice in song to You with other believers. It's all I ever want to do. But help us not to miss what you are doing while we wait.
"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3)