As soon as the news of limited gatherings hit the news cycle, my heart was so grieved. Because I know. I know how much we need each other. I know how much I need you!
I agree with what many are saying….The church is not a building. The church is the people. But, there is power when those people are assembled. And God is the one who created the assembly.
It wasn’t until I was 40 years old, and my husband was dying of cancer, that I really understood the value of the Body of Christ. But, let me just tell you that in the valley of the shadow, God revealed to me why He designed the church. And, I’ve never been the same. I’ve literally given my life to the church, now, because I know that I can’t make it without it.
I sat and looked through photos for a while today. I really miss Clay during times of crisis and I’ve been remembering so many things about his life over these past several days. These are just a few of my favorite pictures that tell a beautiful story of how powerful the assembled church can be. It literally carried us.
Our church has been working so diligently to figure out ways to gather together during this pandemic, while following the governmental recommendations. Someone asked me yesterday, “Are y’all afraid to not have church?” My response in the moment was “No.” Followed by an eloquently worded explanation of why we believe it is important to gather. But, later when I was reflecting, I thought to myself that the answer is actually, “Yes!” I’m fearful of what we will miss if we are unable to gather. Because I know the power of an assembled church.
After a long week of planning and preparing at the church, I was literally exhausted last night. We had called a prayer meeting in our sanctuary, and I knew only 50 people could enter, so I waited to see if there was room for me. I walked in at 6:40 to find 34 people spread out all around the room. They were worshipping, singing, talking to God. Some were crying out. Some were praying for others. Some were quiet and still.
I immediately just began to cry. I was so comforted by the presence of God in that room. And, though I had been in prayer all throughout the day, it was different. It is just different when you gather in a room with other believers who are seeking God. I was able to sit in my exhaustion and just listen to the prayers of the people around me, and I was lifted up.
I was strengthened.
I was encouraged.
I received help from God.
I received boldness in my prayers.
I was broken for the lost and those who are unable to see the reality of God in all of this.
I was broken for the Christians who will lose faith during this trial.
I was sad for those who have never known the presence of God the way I felt it last night.
Y’all, I want so desperately for the world to know Jesus the way I know Him. Please don’t misunderstand this. I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve just come to a place of desperation. A place where I knew I wouldn’t live if I couldn’t find Him.
And, in that desperation, He taught me the power of His presence. He brought me into His Hiding Place. The shelter of His wings. The secret place.
But there have been times when I was so broken, so weak, so burdened, that I needed my friends to carry me. You know the story of the lame man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus? So many of you have been that friend to me over the years. I can remember so many Sundays or Wednesdays when I barely made it to the church and couldn’t wait to get to the altar during worship because I needed the presence of God that lives in the beautiful people who are there worshipping God with me. And, they came. They surrounded me in prayer. They lifted me up so I could get to Jesus.
God made us for this. He made us to love one another and help one another. He put life in us so that life can flow out and minister to others around us who desperately need hope.
So, friends, please see it. Please realize that the lack of ability to gather is a desperate thing. It is not something to be taken lightly. The Bible says, “as the day approaches, gather all the more.” Because God knew we would need each other.
And, I beseech you, pray against the hardening of your heart. Pray against the tendency of our flesh to become stagnant and comfortable. If we are home watching church online for weeks, how easy will it be to just continue that and convince ourselves that we’re fine watching from home? Don’t give in. Let there be a burning in your heart to gather with the people of God. Don’t grow comfortable. Don’t be satisfied.
Let’s call out to God and believe Him for miracles and a cure. He can stop this disease. But, if He doesn’t, He can keep our hearts from growing cold. Pray that He causes you to long for the church more than ever. Let this time away from one another cause you to desire it all the more. You should miss it.
I love this video of one of the many nights our house was filled with people who just wanted to worship God with us while Clay was sick. We did this often. In a time of great need, our love for the world faded and our love for the body of Christ grew. We would have had a worship service in our home every single night. Life stopped. Everything was about Jesus. The things of the world didn’t matter anymore….only the work of God.
I’m praying for you, believers. I’m praying that your faith will be strengthened during this time. I’m praying that fear will not take root in your life, but you will be bold and courageous for God. I’m praying that our love for the things of this world will grow cold. That while sports and entertainment is taken from us, we won’t miss it. But, that we will crave the gathering of the church.
Please don’t become complacent. If we retreat to our homes and binge on Netflix, we are going to be useless to God in this desperate hour. Recognize that this is a spiritual occurrence and God has a plan. He desires to receive glory through this situation. How can He receive glory through you? What does He want to accomplish in and through you? Ask Him. Don’t let this moment pass you by. Engage. Pray. Seek.
The world is reeling in fear and confusion. The lost are so afraid. Bring them hope. It lives in you! The hope of glory – Jesus!!! Let the world see His life in you right now. Lower each other through the roof, if needed. But, whatever you do, get people to Jesus!
I’m so excited about what God will do through this momentous event. We are going to see the glory of God, friends! I love you!