Gathered

Let me begin this way. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

Since March 8th, 2020 this country has gone through some of the most severe tests in the nation’s history. I’m not trying to minimize any healthcare crisis, political crisis, or military crisis our country has faced in the past. Fighting for freedom and attempting to dispel injustice around the world is what America has done since its inception. Wars and rumors of wars will continue. The tremendously complex organisms that operate together today to sustain life on earth are precariously at risk on a daily basis, and this will not change either.

Yet there is one very dangerous aspect of what is going on in our lives, right this minute, that has the potential to alter our reality forever. You might think I’m talking about the looming presidential election. You might think I’m referring to replacing a new Judge to the Supreme Court of the United States. But I’m not.

The single dangerous aspect I’m addressing here is the church. For far too long in America those who would call themselves “Christians” have led a pretty cushy, non-persecuted life. We have all taken for granted that our freedom of religious expression while protected by our Constitution would last forever. Consequently, like blind and deaf sheep we have wandered seriously and dangerously close to the precipice of destruction.

Consider first how a judge this past week upheld Los Angeles County health restrictions and issued an injunction prohibiting indoor worship at MacArthur’s congregation, Grace Community Church. Even this famed pastor, author, teacher is now being tested beyond his wildest imaginations. What was John MacArthur’s response?

He told Laura Ingraham on Fox News The Ingraham Angle, “… My biblical hero, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Apostle Paul. And when he went into a town, he didn’t ask what the hotel was like – he asked what the jail was like because he knew that’s where he was going to spend his time. So I don’t mind being a little apostolic. If they want to tuck me into jail, I’m open for a jail ministry. I’ve done a lot of other ministries and haven’t had the opportunity to do that one, so bring it on.”

Consider second a young pastor in Mount Juliet, Tennessee who is literally being attacked daily because his church erected a tent on their land to hold services, since they couldn’t use their building. Did you know people are driving from all over the United States to attend GlobalVision Bible Church, so they can be in a place of worship – not restricted by masks and social distancing? They are. I’m thinking about going myself.

Consider third, my conversations with three separate men in ministry regarding their take on the governments restrictions on church and worship. Even now, to my knowledge, all three of these churches are practicing social distancing, requiring attendees to wear masks, while limiting singing and worshiping like we used to do. When I spoke with these men I was struck by what I considered a very confusing and frustrating mixed message.

On the one hand, each of these men of God, spoke of the dangers of the China virus. And hear me carefully, I am not suggesting it is not dangerous. However, I prefer to believe the hundreds if not thousands of scientists and doctors now on record stating this virus is treatable, and that only those with complicating issues should have died. In fact, there are doctors who have successfully treated people with extreme issues who have survived and live to tell about it. My point is that fear should not be the determining factor in our message to the Church today. And pastors should lead from a position of faith, not fear. I’ve already mentioned two of the most significant voices in America today who are doing just that.

So, on the other hand each of the men I spoke to continue to talk about the power of God, the truth of the Word of God, and how each of us must be faithful during these difficult days. I love these men. I believe with all my heart that each of them is a true and faithful Christ-follower. I know without doubt each is called to ministry and desires only to bring glory to God. Yet, the message is still mixed. Here’s why.

Either Jesus’ own statement is true or it isn’t. There is no gray area here. If we gather in worship, believing when we do that Jesus is present, why should we promote fear? Of anything? Including the China virus. When Jesus is present the very power of God resides on earth. In each fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ resides the very power of God in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it would. Is He a liar?

Pastor Greg Locke preaches that the power of God in America today is in the “Gathering.” I happen to agree because I happen to believe the bible. In the Acts version of the church the power of God fell in mighty ways when they were “gathered” according to God’s command. When the church did church together, God moved in miraculous ways. And when judgment from God came to the church, it came when they were gathered. Read the bible in the Acts of the Apostles and see if with your own eyes!

Today the church of Jesus Christ needs one singular message – Jesus is LORD, and still saves! The message should not be a mixture of “be afraid but be faithful.” All across this nation we need men and women of God to stand up and declare the truth. We need voices bold and beautiful sent to lead people back to faith in a defiant stand against the voices of fear. This country may never again look like it did before March 2020. But I have a vision of a better version of us together and gathered. I have imagined God’s people standing strong, unified, hand-in-hand, voices lifted high in praise to the LORD JESUS, worshiping without fear, in His presence. It looks something like this:

Revelation 15:3-4

3And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
            
      “Great and marvelous are Your works,
            O Lord God, the Almighty;
            Righteous and true are Your ways,
            King of the nations!

      4“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
            For You alone are holy;
            For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,
            FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Do you believe the statement of Jesus?
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

The power is in the gathering.

Wacko Rhetoric

Last year I watched the entire production series of a fascinating futuristic pseudo-science show called “Fringe.”  It explored the theoretical concept of parallel universes.  The main idea being that multiple universes exist, but in each one you potentially live a very different life that the one you live here and now in your present reality.  It’s kind of out there, and challenging to think through, but weirdly entertaining at the same time.

During this time of craziness going on in our current reality, my wife and I discuss regularly how we feel caught up in a Fringe alternate universe.  It seems literally everything going on today looks nothing like last year. Even this year, before the world plunged into fear over the China virus, in January and February things seemed so “normal.”

We’ve tried to stay busy, by reading, puzzling, and doing some projects around the house.  We especially like White Mountain puzzles, with their whimsical themes.  One particular puzzle comes to mind as I think about our alternate universe experience.  It is called Wacky Packages. It’s as if someone took all the packaging of the products you and I grew up with, and in an alternate universe sort of way, turned them into a Fringe product.  Just look closely at these labels and you’ll see what I mean.

wacky packages.png

So, here’s the thing.  In what universe does a peaceful protest look like a third world war zone?  Today it just seems to me we have moved outside of the “normal” into the realm of the “abnormal” with no clear direction on how to return.  At what point in time did the term “Nationalist” (meaning patriotic and committed to American ideology) turn to mean “racist” (systemic racism)?  Today’s cancel culture can take anything an individual says and in a Fringe moment turn it to mean something else.  Then the cancel culture expects that person to apologize, and pay restitution and reparations, or else.  Or else those who want to cancel you, me, and our way of life, will protest, riot, loot, and kill to prove just how wrong you and I are.

Maybe it’s just me.  Perhaps I’ve taken too long to become “woke.”  You know what the word means right? Type the word into BING and you’ll read this definition: “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.”  Similarly GOOGLE gives you the exact same thing.  But Merriam-Webster gives us clarity, saying, “Woke is a slang term that is easing into the mainstream from some varieties of a dialect called African American Vernacular English (sometimes called AAVE).”  Well, no wonder it has taken me so long.  I am definitely out of touch with AAVE.

I’ll tell you what I am in touch with.  I have, for almost my whole life, relied on the continuation of truth derived by reading the Word of God.  I know what it says in both a general and a specific way.  For example, in a general way, without specifying a time, God’s word says that in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” Matthew 24:12.

But God’s Word is also very specific at times.  For example, very specifically the Bible says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

You want to be woke?  Fine.  But if you want to WAKE UP… then turn to Jesus.

Jesus is the answer for the world today.

How do I know this?  Because it seems our people are more concerned with 9,210 deaths from Covid -19 which actually occurred with no related other causes, than we are with the 60 MILLION abortions that have occurred in the United States of America since 1973. (click the link)

I would say “the love of most has grown cold…”

One last PROMISE from God’s word.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Call out to the ONE whose name you bear, humble yourself, pray, seek HIS face, turn from this wicked world, and hear Him speak your name today… and just possibly heal our country in the process.