There are some verses that have been on my heart for quite some time, but I have hesitated to post them here because I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Isn’t that a scary thought — that I could have a portion of God’s Word on my heart, meditating on it, being convicted by it, and too afraid to put it out because of people’s feelings?
Hebrews 10:23-25 says:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For the over a year now, we have lived with Covid-19 – and, yes, there are those who have died as a result of it, too. I do not seek to argue against the virus or against those in government positions who have made mandates and recommendations as they saw fit in their positions. I am not waging war for or against vaccines. I am not diminishing the fear and caution that we have all struggled with. And I am especially not taking lightly those loved ones who have lost their life due to this virus or those who have had to make difficult decisions in the name of protecting those who are at-risk – those who would quite possibly die if they ever contract this coronavirus.
But I cannot help but see a trend – a trend of returning to “normal”, whatever that is. There is talk of states being fully opened for the sake of the economy. School has been in session for nearly a full year. Many have never stopped going to work – essential or not. Stores have been backed and crowded for months now. And, through all of that, these verses from Hebrews 10 have been on my heart.
I am afraid that we have wavered from our the confession of our hope and forgotten that “He who promised is faithful”. Did the same God who prophesied at length about so many things miss the global pandemic of 2020-21? Did He cease to be faithful this year or take a break? The obvious answer is no. Hope in Him “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
I am afraid that even though I try through writing devotions and posts like this, times of teaching and leading in worship, and opportunities that I have had to preach and proclaim to others about Jesus that I have neglected to “stir up” many of my brothers and sisters “to love and good works”. My fear of hurting people’s feelings who are making hard choices due to this virus has caused me to be silent – or at least quietly careful.
I am afraid that we are “neglecting to meet together” and that over this past year our neglect has grown into “the habit of some”. Thankfully, Christ Community has not closed her doors during this pandemic. This is not to criticize or condemn those churches who have made hard decisions. This is not knocking the various creative means of live-streaming, drive-thru-ing, parking lot or outdoor services, or any other means that people have tried to allow people to gather in difficult times. It is simply saying that we have held to the belief that gathering together as believers in worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords – of “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – is essential.
In regard to staying open, it has been a blessing that there have not been any mandates against the church in our state. Yes, there have been government recommendations that gathering be limited and that people be cautious. But haven’t there been recommendations about tobacco and alcohol and driving speed – each of which are accompanied by rigorous laws – that have been ignored for years and all of which carry high mortality rates? There are churches in California that have had to fight lawsuits from their cities because they believe the church is essential. Just this past week, GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada saw local authorities build a fence around their church building so that they would no longer gather together.
Yet, we, in our freedom, have not remembered that we are free to worship – free to gather – not because of a benevolent and constitution-respecting government but because of a gracious and loving God who freed us from the bondage of sin and the death that accompanied it (Romans 6:23) and told us to “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Government mandates and/or recommendations have not slowed the gathering of believers in persecuted countries. When the governments in those countries arrest, beat, torture, imprison, and, yes, even murder believers, their zeal to gather – their zeal to “not [be found] neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” out of grateful hearts to the One who died and rose for their salvation is not diminished one, single bit.
More than anything, I am afraid that we have forgotten that we have stopped looking and remembering that “the Day is drawing near”. We have gotten so wrapped up in fear and death and surviving that we forget that “He who promised is faithful” and that He – King Jesus – is coming back! And we have forgotten that, while we are waiting for His return, He has given us a mission. He has given us a “ministry” and “message of reconciliation” to remind people that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He has called us to be “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us”, begging and imploring people “on behalf of Christ [to] be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
I am afraid that, just as we have forgotten His second coming, that we have forgotten what He accomplished for us when He came the first time: “For our sake He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Brothers and sisters, I think it’s time for Christ’s ambassadors to come back to our embassy – the local church to which He called – yes, called – you to be a part of. The local church – the local body of believers to which you were called to be a member – has been missing appendages that God intended for that local church to function as His body in the community where He planted it to be a lampstand (Revelation 1:20) “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).
While I am afraid of these things, I serve a God who is greater than my fear. It is my prayer that He helps with your fear as well me with mine.
I hope you can see my love for you in these words, and I genuinely do not want to hurt your feelings or to hurt you in any way. My words may be inadequate to relay my heart, but God’s Word does not come up short or “return to [Him] empty, but it shall accomplish that which [He purposes]” (Isaiah 55:11).
Here are the songs we’ll sing tomorrow:
- Romans 8:12-18 —
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
- Chain Breaker —
- Goodness of God —
- Acts 2:22-24 —
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
- Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me) —
- So Will I —
- (invitation) Grace Has Called My Name —