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In 1996 I began to pastor New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. The population around our church was significantly black, but our church was not. I embarked on a journey to see that change. It was not an easy task. As our church became more diverse, I began to encounter opposition I had never experienced before. Our family even received death threats! At one point I was so discouraged and angry that I went to my friend and mentor Crawford Loritts and asked for his advice.
Revival must change our hearts AND our actions. A global pandemic … racism, hatred, killing … our nation on fire … And the Supreme Court has allowed government authority to have over churches. Churches are not seen as essential now because they have not acted essentially in the past. We don’t really need churches to reopen. We need them to restart—different than they used to be.
The loss of hearing is debilitating. Our ears are one of the primary gates that give us the ability to know and respond to everything. The eyes, the nose, the mouth all aid us, as well as the sense of touch. But hearing is foundational. There are different levels of hearing. We hear thousands of sounds every day with no response. Our minds are conditioned to tune much of this out. We’ve labeled it “background noise.”
It begins in the crib. We hold things tightly, like a pacifier or toy. Progressing through each stage of life, we always find a new object to grasp: a baseball bat, a diploma, keys to car or home, our wallet, a job, a relationship, our independence. The objects are endless. If we will follow Christ, He will gently but firmly be about the business of showing us anything we are holding tightly that is detrimental to our lives and His purpose.
Last week, I began this series of blogs by suggesting three questions for every Christian to consider as we navigate forward in reopening churches: What should never restart in your church? How important is the concept of safety in your church? When does honoring government dishonor God? Obviously, there are many other questions that need to be considered. But today, I simply want to suggest that one question may rise above all of them as the most important: WHY should your church reopen?
“Let us be concerned about one another … not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB). This seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? There are good reasons to miss corporate worship. But we are not to miss it habitually. No, this verse was not written during a global pandemic; but it was written against the backdrop of severe suffering. Then and now, wherever Christians face persecution, they endanger themselves, their families, and others every time they meet. Yet they meet anyway.
In human history there are always constant waves of sin and obedience, blessing and judgment. King David had known an incredible forty years as a leader who ruled in the fear of God and with great humility. Correspondingly, God had granted the Israelites four decades of blessing and victory against their enemies.
There is nothing quite so devious as moral impurity. But there is also nothing quite so predictable. Our great Enemy knows that he doesn’t have to be creative with immorality. The bait is so strong that it just needs to be placed within our reach. If we do not immediately apply God’s remedy, we will be ensnared. Sweet for a moment, the end results are always excruciating.
We must ask ourselves what is God saying. Listen as John Avant and Ronnie Floyd share how to live with purpose during this time.
Everyone gets hurt. If you haven’t been hurt yet, just keep breathing … it will happen. Once hurt, you must decide how you will respond. And you really have only two choices—to forgive or to take revenge. Revenge has many forms. You can withdraw, ignore, retaliate with words or actions, gossip and slander to tear someone down, and on and on. But what you’re saying is this: “You’ve hurt me; therefore, I’m going to take this matter into my hands and hurt you back.”
What is happening to churches in the midst of the Covid-19 Crisis? Join Thom Rainer and John Avant as they talk about what God is doing in churches across America.
Those who understand realize that God’s presence is the greatest of all treasures. If you have His presence, you have everything you need—wisdom, joy, power, peace, direction, love, life itself. But if you do not have His presence—if He is not with you—you have nothing that is valuable or that lasts.
One of the most wonderful things about the Bible is its reality. It depicts man as he really is, with all his doubts and fears and questions. It shows us ourselves … and then it shows us our all-sufficient God.
Your answer to that question determines everything about you. If you believe God answers prayer, you will pray often and experience all the benefits of that arrangement with Him. But if for some reason you think that prayer is meaningless—a mere shout into the wind—you will never communicate with God. And you will miss everything that matters and lasts.
It is sad to lose something we value … Our health. Our relationships. Our financial employment. Our possessions. Our house. Our ability to be with others. But there is one loss that is greater than all the rest: The loss of God’s presence. If you have Him, you have all that matters and lasts, for everything flows from the presence of the Lord. But if you do that which aborts the presence of God, you will lose the Source of everything valuable and secure in this life and the next.
There is a phenomenon happening right now during the coronavirus crisis that we must not miss. God is systematically stripping away every idol we worship—and He’s doing it all across the world. Taken away from us are our gods of sports, entertainment, health, wealth, position, and power. One by one, we find that the things we looked to for life and meaning suddenly gone, stripped away by a marauding army of germs we can’t even see.
Hard times happen … places where our back is against the wall and there seems to be no solution, nowhere to go. When our way has been thwarted or the path seemingly closed. When everything seems impossible and confusing. So, what do we do?
Gratitude is one of the most foundational components of authentic Christianity. It is the humility that recognizes that what God has done for us is undeserved. It gladly acknowledges, with an open heart and mouth, that everything we’ve received is from God. I have often said that I can tell you how proud a man is by how much or little he prays. But I can also tell you how proud a man is by how quickly or slowly he gives thanks—to others and, most importantly, to God.
We are living, right now, in a Great Awakening. All the signs are there—churches full of revived Christ-followers who will go wherever He leads, even unto death; believers who love each other deeply and live in unity; bold sharing of the gospel. And, as a result, millions coming to faith in Jesus!
“Whatever you fear, you will serve,” said Rebecca Pippert. If you follow this logic, you will see how completely your fears rule you. Fear drives your thoughts and actions. It controls your life. Proverbs speaks of one of these fears and its consequences: