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glory to god book

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The past two days have been a bit of a valley. Like most people I know, I’m not a fan of disappointment and it seems that disappointment has been a reoccurring theme as of late. Let me explain.

It’s been 68 days since I stepped foot in a church building. That’s 1,632 hours since I kneeled before God in a sanctuary, asking Him one last time if He was absolutely sure this was His will. (He was, by the way). 68 days.

When I walked out with my last box that day, I really didn’t have a clue what was coming. I had no idea a government shutdown of the entire country would happen just two weeks later. I had no idea that church doors would become off-limits to us throughout many states, including my own. I had no idea that I would be left in this perpetual state of emptiness for an indefinite period of time. Nope. I only knew I needed some time away.

I understand that for a lot of people, worshipping from home with their home church is not a big deal. For some people (and if you read social media it’s more like “most” people), worshipping from home is not much different than worshipping in person. In fact, several have stated that they prefer worshipping at home because it’s easier. It never occurred to me that our worship was supposed to be easy. I always thought it was supposed to be a sacrificial part of our lives. But perhaps I have been wrong. Regardless, it appears that the concept of online worshipping has become the preferred method.

It’s not my preferred method because it’s not how we were created.

In the beginning, God created man. We know that Adam was made in the image of God to glorify God. But, as Genesis tells us, God saw that man needed a companion because there was a lacking completion with just man. So God created woman and upon seeing the two together, He was pleased.

Since the beginning of time, men and women have been in communion with one another. All through scripture we are shown the importance of community with one another. Even Jesus Christ required a community – at first choosing 12 disciples to live among, teach to, and talk with. Even more impressive is the fact that Jesus didn’t pick and choose who He communed with. He was (and continues to be) available to everyone.

But here we are in 2020 and we live in the United States of America, where our Constitution absolutely guarantees our freedoms and rights and yet we are not allowed to worship together in person. And many are okay with that.

Before I get accused of not caring about the vulnerable population during this pandemic, let me state quite clearly that I absolutely do care. I also happen to believe that we are a population of people with intelligence. Just because someone is medicare age doesn’t mean they no longer have an IQ. They are quite capable of making healthcare decisions for themselves in regards to going out in public. Those who are immunosuppressed are very educated in what is safe and what isn’t for their bodies. So, stop right there if you’re getting ready to slam me about being callous or uncaring.

For those of you who live outside of Kentucky (where I live), let me just give you some insight as to where my state stands as of mid-May. Kentucky didn’t just flatten the curve, we inverted the curve. Many of our hospitals in the state are laying off massive amounts of employees (doctors and nurses included) because their beds, outpatient clinics, and same-day surgical centers are empty. In a couple of higher population areas there has been a steady amount of COVID cases but not one single instance where there wasn’t a bed or ventilator available. We did exactly what the President of the United States asked of us – we kept the hospitals from being overrun with cases. Instead, they have trickled in at a rate that is manageable.

And yet… our governor will not allow people to live within their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. We are not allowed to attend church in person.

Ok, so let me clarify here. The governor has said churches may open their doors May 20 (that’s not a Sunday, by the way so it’s actually May 24) but with stipulations and then more stipulations. These go WAY beyond the requirements for other businesses.

No singing! Seriously, no singing.

No hugging, standing next to each other, holding hands, shaking hands, fist bumps, etc.

All family units must be 6 feet apart from other family units.

33% capacity. (So, I guess it’s a lottery system to get into church now)

No wind instruments.

Only one person at a time in a restroom and then staff must disinfect before the next person can go in.

The clergy must preach with a mask.

No coffee (because obviously we all sit around sharing each other’s coffee cups) or donuts.

No clusters of groups in one space.

No nursery.

No Sunday School.

No youth group.

Did I say no singing? Oh, yes I did. But I mean really, no singing?

This list is not complete but you get the drift. Our governor does not want us meeting in-person to worship. He is instead stomping all over our freedoms in order to show his muscle. And people are applauding his behavior, which is absolutely your right. But these “restrictions” are destroying me and many others.

Somewhere along the way, it became acceptable to trample mental health in the name of fear. It has become acceptable to watch people quickly sink in the quicksand of hopelessness and despair in the name of “protection.” It has become acceptable to watch people’s livelihoods implode in the name of health. It has become acceptable to justify suicide, violence, depression, addiction, and other mental diseases as okay as long this virus stays around. Does that make any sense? No! Having physically healthy people is useless if we become a society of mentally unhealthy people. And yet, mental disease is on the rise at a faster rate than I can fathom all because of despair.

There is only one cure for despair. Jesus Christ.

Church is more than a place to go on Sunday mornings. It SHOULD be a place to surrender all of your fears, your struggles, your doubts, and your pain. It SHOULD be a place that allows you to receive hope and encouragement while growing your appetite for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. It SHOULD be a place where you are challenged and made to be uncomfortable in your complacency. It SHOULD be a place where you acknowledge your sins and recommit your life to God as you repent. It SHOULD be a life-changing place each and every time you walk through the doors. That was the purpose of the original church and a true Bible-teaching church still believes in that purpose today. You cannot make disciples of Jesus Christ while living in sin, hopelessness, and complacency.

The church is more essential than any business I know. It offers life-sustaining, eternity-promising, redemption-giving information that no other place is equipped to do. Yes, you can read the Bible for yourself. You can sing hymns in your home. But if that’s all that is required, why did Jesus urge his followers to join together? Why did Jesus see the importance of touch? Why did Jesus see the importance of community? Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch the leper. He wasn’t afraid to be around the demon-possessed. And he never taught us to be afraid, either. Yet, here we are… cowering in our homes afraid.

Yes, I’m disappointed. I disappointed that I don’t have a church to attend because there are none open. I’m disappointed that so many Christians are ok being just ok. I’m disappointed that it’s been 68 days and likely much much longer.

I’m sitting on my deck as I write this and thinking that it could easily become a worship space, full of people gathering together in anticipation of encountering the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it’s just what I will do, invite over a dozen or so people who, like me are desperate to live as God intends for us to live – in community together worshipping Him. I think that it’s just what people need. I know it’s what I need. I’ve said before that I am church “homeless” right now. When God directed me to leave the pulpit I was serving, my denomination as a whole left me. The emails, texts and personal confrontations have been like one assault after another It’s been eye-opening, to say the least. “Friends” are now only names of what once was. “Colleagues” see me as the enemy. Silence is profound. And yet I hear the words given to Ester and it’s as if God Himself is speaking them loudly to me right now, “If you don’t speak up now, {they} will somehow get help, but you and your family will be {destroyed}. It could be that you were made for such a time as this!”

I may be on my own. I may be without a tribe to walk with. But I believe that these words ring true … truer than any words I can cling to at this moment … I was made for such a time as this. And I will glorify my Lord.