Churches across the Inland Northwest face a baffling predicament.
How do we balance the imperatives of loving God and proclaiming the gospel when we cannot gather, and our buildings are closed to our own members, let alone the neighbors we want to serve?
This predicament is a godsend to the church.
The coronavirus pandemic is pressing us Christians to practice what we’ve long preached: The church is not a building, but a people set apart by God for His glory in the world.
“Keep a Christian from entering the church sanctuary and you have not in the least bit hindered his worship. We carry our sanctuary with us. We never leave it.”
A.W. Tozer, a Christian pastor and author, spoke those words some 50 years ago. Still, they ring true today as they’re put into practice by Christians who, like everyone else, never contemplated such strange and trying circumstances.
In this long season of social distancing and self-isolating, Christians have an unprecedented opportunity to draw near to the Lord in their hearts daily, not merely in a building for an hour once a week.
How many of us have craved time – time to slow down and pray and meditate on Scripture, unhurried time to really seek God – and now find ourselves with more time than we ever imagined? We are stewards – not merely users – of this unscheduled time our God is giving us, don’t you think?
It’s instructive that our favorite psalms in Scripture were written and sung by those living in hardship, danger and uncertainty, not ease.
“O God, You are my God,” sang Israel’s king David. “Early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”
Think about that last part.
Some of the most joyful words ever put to music, Psalm 63, were written while David was in the desolate Judean desert, running for his life from a turncoat son who’d conspired to steal the throne.
David sorely missed the comforts of “normal life” in Jerusalem, he longed for the fellowship of God’s people in the temple and he had no clue what awaited him around the corner.
Surely, we can relate to missing “normal life” and Christian fellowship. Surely, we can relate to that sustained sense of unease that comes from wondering what’s around the corner for us.
But like David, we know that God has purposed to keep His people secure in His love, no matter what He ordains for their earthly circumstances.
“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,” sings David in the desert. “My lips shall praise You.”
David’s heart enjoyed the covenant love of the God who had chosen him, blessed him and sustained him, knowing that love was as unchanging as God Himself.
Christian, are you not also a recipient of God’s covenant love in Christ?
The God who chose you, who sent His Son, Jesus, to live for you, die for you at Calvary and rise again to give you His life – this God has promised never to leave you nor forsake you.
Friends, our lives of genuine faith, lived out in real life, are the clearest sermons we’ll ever preach.
In ancient times, the Scriptures say, people were drawn to Judah because they sensed that God was with His people (2 Chronicles 15:9).
I pray that God will use His church today in such a way.
Though we cannot gather as we’d like this Easter, though we cannot serve in the ways we’re so accustomed to serving, may it still be said that our neighbors are drawn to Christ simply because they see that the Lord is with His people.
May others see in us that He is risen. He is risen, indeed.
Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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