Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Moment in History for the Church

Everybody has their idea about what it means to live the new normal. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for most of us to adapt to a new way of getting through the day. For most Christians, the compulsory changes to our society have become more urgent than our traditional customs. In a way, that’s okay. Potentially causing harm to our neighbors certainly wouldn’t promote the cause of Christ. And so, we wear our masks and keep our distance. No harm, and it might save a life.

While our world has been at war with a virus, other battles have flared. Social tension and racial division demand a reaction from Christ’s followers. But have we allowed these challenges to sweep us into the world’s frenzied response? Or are we stayed on the gospel, remembering our calling? 

Perhaps within the church, the old normal wasn’t what it should have been. We’ve been caught up in the concerns of this world for a long time. Maybe our new normal should be to avoid the political rant and point to the coming King. To rest from the fear and proclaim the victory. To resist the fantastical schemes and rely on the truth of the scriptures. So many reports are clouded with misinformation and cloaked by trepidation. It’s too much to process and if allowed, it will consume our thoughts and impede our mission.

While we’re social distancing, we need to remind ourselves and others of the spiritual distance. The truth is, we remain far from God without the freeing power of the gospel. While we’re fixated on washing our hands, we must remember to wash our hearts with God’s Word, with prayer, and with a right mindset.

We consider those trips to the store essential, and delight in the treat of eating at a restaurant. But church? For a great many of our brothers and sisters, online church has become the new normal. It’s safe and acceptable, but this new habit of some might mean a rare return to the gathering of saints in the house of prayer.        

Right now, distance churching is necessary for a lot of people. Of course, we can’t judge. It’s a personal decision made under unprecedented circumstances. But if we’re able to join others in worship, perhaps we should, even if we have to wear a mask, sit six feet apart, and greet each other with a wave instead of a handshake. While the fearful people of our communities are counting positive test results, we can
let them know by filling our church parking lots that we are still counting our blessings. We can assure them the church isn’t closed, that they’re welcome to join our modified assemblage.

Our gathering together offers a witness of peace and stability. But what about the rest of the week? The reset of the world, if that’s what this is, might mean a reset for the church. For whatever time is left for us here in the place, we must remain, or perhaps we must become, a highly devoted church. To that end, it might be better to resist the fight that is not ours, to avoid making an enemy out of a neighbor, a friend, or a fellow believer. And it might be prudent to curb the endless flow of information that may or may not be true. It’s all so distracting.

Of course, we have to know what’s going on. Some awful things are happening, and we should do what we can to protect those around us from sickness and to calm the unrest in our towns and neighborhoods. As believers, we need to hold each other up as we face mounting adversity. No denying it, evil has us surrounded. While we don’t have to accept it as normal, we do have to endure it, at least, for a while. Good thing we’re not in this alone. God is for us, not against us. The enemy is Satan and he’s destined for defeat. As believers, we must stand together. If possible, in person. If not, then in our hearts and in our prayers. We can’t allow this pivotal moment in history to tear us apart.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I'd Like to Tell You Jesus is Coming Soon, but...

Perhaps within every generation of Christians, at least some are imbued with an expectancy that the return of Christ could be imminent. The hope did not die with the earliest believers, but was passed down through the teaching of scriptures, and the pondering of anxious saints. 

Today, some understand the future event one way, while others find the comfort expressed in certain Bible passages to mean something else. But most, if not all, within the denominations and dogmatic currents of Christianity still believe that the Son of God who said He would return, will indeed, return.

Many of us have found recent events rousing the anticipation to a level not experienced for a while. But we have felt it before. Then things settle down and we find ourselves in wait mode once again, considering our Redeemer must be tarrying a little longer. 

Earlier this year, I stated in a blog post entitled The Art of Crying Holy, that I feel like my Deliver is coming. I made that proclamation pre-COVID-19, pre-protests and riots (no, they are not the same thing) and I stand by it. But maybe I’ve always felt it. Maybe I’m simply one of those who carry that burden of imminency. So, no, I don’t know when. Nobody does.

Surely, past disasters left many hoping and praying for the Rescue. In ancient times an earthquake, like the one in Ephesus in 262AD, might have left the early Christians considering the end was near. They were cut off from the rest of the world and didn’t know, at least for a while, that it wasn’t the entire planet that was shaken. 

In modern times, disasters, and social atrocities committed by one group against another, have been broadcast to the entire world. I can only imagine how observers in the Christian community must have watched and waited expectantly for their Messiah during WWI and WWII, during pandemics much more deadly than this present one, or during times of social upheaval that left so many homeless and hungry.

But a world at war is not the end. It may happen again. In fact, it may have already begun. A plague is not the end. Nor is an economic downturn. Nor is widespread social unrest. People have always found a reason to believe it was time for Christ to return. Our current confounding predicament has caused some of us to consider the lateness of the hour. In a series of blog posts from the latter part of 2019, I wrote about the potential of another civil war in America, including a post entitled Racism: The Church, the Media, and the New Definition of Racist. Some of what I wrote about has ramped up. I didn’t think the devolution would come on this quickly. It’s almost like it was orchestrated.

I’ve read so many conspiracy theories that I believe I’m now suffering from what’s been tagged Crisis Fatigue. I don’t know if the coronavirus was engineered. I don’t know if there are people in high places who want us to hate each other and fight in the streets. I don’t know what the future of the U.S.A. looks like. I don’t know if people like me might be loaded onto a train and delivered to a camp set up to retrain deplorables. I don’t know what Jesus meant when He said, “I am coming soon.”

Here’s what I do know: God is more powerful than any plague. It’s the devil who spawns hatred. The action of my faith will not be swayed by politics or public opinion. My destiny is in God’s hands. And the end times began when Jesus made the statement that He’s coming soon. What’s two thousand years to God? It’s a breath, that’s all. But the Day is closer today than yesterday. My Deliverer is coming, and so I wait expectantly, joyfully, and with certainty. I won’t rely on my own understanding. Or my own strength. Or my own righteous indignation. The battle is the Lord’s.

The end is predetermined. The enemy is not my neighbor, or any of my diverse brothers and sisters in Christ, or the angry citizens of my country who peacefully stand against injustice. Please know, justice is coming, and His name is Jesus.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12