Imagine this scene in you mind for just a moment. Gather every trace of Scripture in your home, every tract, every Bible-based motto or picture occupying a spot on your wall, every devotional or inspirational Christian biography found on your bookshelf or nightstand. Collect all those treasures and create a neat pile on your kitchen table. Find a box of matches, light one, and ponder this devastating and somber thought: imagine the realization that on some dark day you might actually lose the freedom to surround yourself with the comfort of God’s Word. Sound far-fetched? I used to think that the possibility of losing the freedom to worship, a freedom hallmarked by our Founding Fathers and defended by generations of brave men and women, was unimaginable, could never happen in America. With a heavy heart I must admit that my naive confidence has been somewhat shaken.
I watched a heart-wrenching video this week, a video of an elderly pastor, a faithful defender of Scripture, a workman who built a strong, powerful ministry devoted to spreading the Gospel, a patriotic, law-abiding citizen…a man reduced to tears. We have all had our worship experience turned on its head due to Covid; we have all sacrificed our treasured fellowship on the altar of safety; we have tempered our outreach and commission to those communities around us. But although a level of normalcy is returning for some of us, not for this dear man of God and his congregation, as they face continued forced closures, unrealistic regulations, and unimaginable fines. The light of the glorious Gospel is being snuffed out when the comfort of God’s Word is most needed, and the pain of that devastating fact has broken the heart of that faithful servant of God,
When God’s people returned to their Promised Land of Canaan after years of exile in Babylon, they proceeded to rebuild their temple and the walls protecting the holy city of Jerusalem. Returning to their temple practices would not be an easy task. Not only had a generation passed since these exiles had been able to practice the regulations tied to the temple, but they had also lost the fluency of their beloved Hebrew language. With that backdrop, Ezra the priest gathers his people and reads “the book in the law of God distinctly,” taking that long-neglected scroll and clearly explaining it to the common people, a people who responded with “great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.” Revival broke out, producing heartfelt confession, wholehearted worship, and a refreshing resolve to bring a wayward nation back to God. How could they have drifted so far from the God of Israel? It could never happen in our country…or could it?
I understand that safety measures MUST be in place during times of health emergencies, and I subject myself willingly to all mandates ordered in these unprecedented times. We live in perilous days, faced with a virus that can be deadly. To protect myself and those who cross my path, I wear my mask, I socially distance, I don’t take needless risks, I subject myself to those God has placed in authority over me, even when I vehemently disagree with them. But human authority NEVER outranks the direct commands of God set forth for us, His children. That is the line that cannot be crossed. Let’s be cautious to protect our religious freedoms. God commands us “not to forsake the assembling” of ourselves together, to “continue thou in the things which thous hast learned,” and His command trumps any policy of man. As we see our precious religious freedoms decaying, let’s bathe our country and her leaders in prayer, begging God to preserve and restore the freedoms that we may have unwittingly taken for granted.
Not only is a health crisis upon us, but also a fierce spiritual battle for the soul of a nation, as we witness our emboldened enemy, Satan, attempt to snuff out God’s Word and it’s impact in our country, all while sowing division among the people of God. With humbled heart and bowed knee, let’s beg our Father to “heal our land,” physically and spiritually. May God’s mighty hand of influence in our country never slip away, and may His church stand strong while staying safe.
II Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, an turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
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