A Strong Wind Blowing

Like last fall’s leaves being blown around by the winds of spring, there are a lot of things swirling around in my head and in my soul.

 

Let me just list them and I’ll try connecting the dots later.

 

Last week, Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner wrote a blog post about why this COVID-19 pandemic is happening and what we can do about it. He pointed out that a lot of our world’s idols have come crashing down, there is a message for us in these events, and the solution is repentance and trust in our Lord.

 

I started reading a book entitled, “You Found Me” about how to reach the unchurched and others. In the very first part of the book, author Rick Richardson shares sobering statistics about the decline in church attendance and membership in America. The church in America appears to be a lot like Lazarus prior to Palm Sunday at this point.

 

And speaking of Lazarus, Kinship Christian Radio recently began playing a new song by the group Cain called “Rise Up” which is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Here’s some of the lyrics:

“Can’t you hear the voice of Jesus calling us?

Out from the grave like Lazarus

Rise up, rise up, rise up!”

 

A quote from A.W. Tozer pops up on social media: “Keep a Christian from entering the church sanctuary and you have not in the least bit hindered his worship. We carry our sanctuary with us. We never leave it.”

 

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. In that whole story of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the part that always sticks in my heart is when the Pharisees tell Jesus to silence the crowd cheering for Him and Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40) That particularly struck me again this year when it was coupled with 1 Peter 2:5:

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

 

I cannot stop thinking about my beloved brother in Christ, Pastor Secundino Ulloa, (a.k.a “Papa Cundo”) who pastors the Altar of Jehovah Church in Sabana Perdida, Dominican Republic. I and two others from Kinship Christian Radio were in the Dominican Republic last year. Papa Cundo has been a pastor for over 40 years and, of all the people I know in all the world, I cannot think of anyone who embodies the Holy Spirit more than this guy. Even though he speaks almost no English and my level of Spanish proficiency is approximately equal to any given one year-old in his congregation, his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control are gloriously evident in everything he does and says.

 

During my time in the DR last year, there was a particular day on which a conversation was going on with a number of people about what causes the Church to grow. By a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, I actually silenced my opinion on the subject long enough to ask (through our interpreter) that very question of Pastor Secundino. He said there were three things that caused the Church to grow: “The Holy Spirit, prayer, and the church going out beyond the walls of the church.”

 

That very night, Pastor Secundino took us to a location just half a block from where the Altar of Jehovah church is located. There is an intersection of two streets there, and in three of the four corners, there are “tiendas” which are little stores where people can buy many things. One of those things is alcohol and on this night (as most nights) many people were sitting on those three corners drinking and engaging in various forms of ungodly behavior I need not list. The people of the Altar of Jehovah church had picked up their stage and their sound equipment and many of their chairs and had set up their church on the fourth corner. They were singing and praising God and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ right their in the midst of a whole lot of people who really needed to hear that message.

 

When Papa Cundo says something, it’s not just talk.

 

And, in my mind and heart and soul, I see all of this as connected.

 

With churches no longer able to meet within the walls of the church building, churches must now be the Church. And by that I mean the Church Universal. Now is the time to realize that it was never about the pews and the stained glass windows. It’s about bringing the real and genuine love of Jesus Christ and His Gospel of truth out into a world that has been shaken to its core. It’s about being the living stones of the new temple that sing His praises and cannot be silenced!

 

Just in the last three weeks, we have seen the people of God change how they worship and pray so that anyone anywhere in the world with a phone can participate and hear the Gospel. God’s people have stepped up to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to bring joy and appreciation to lonely and isolated people in nursing homes, to tell people we took for granted our whole lives that we appreciate them driving trucks and stocking grocery store shelves and cleaning up public places and working long, stress-filled hours to care of the sick.

 

The Church is starting to look like Lazarus rising from the tomb and casting off the grave clothes.

 

We have had to be inventive, innovative, courageous –and we have had to exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control in order to make it from day-to-day. We have become conscious that God does indeed provide both our physical and spiritual daily bread on a daily basis. We have become grateful for jobs we used to complain about.

 

Almost all of the things we have taken for granted since our births are things that are being brought to mind. While there is a list of “essential jobs” it is becoming painfully obvious that we all really do need each other.

 

We have had to concede that we really can get along without a lot of things we used to hold in higher positions in our lives than we did our God.

 

It’s not easy.

 

But if this momentary affliction increases love, gratitude, and praise of God, if that brings about the awakening, repentance, and revival so many of us have been praying for for so long, it shows that God can and does cause good to arise out of evil.

 

Yes, a strong wind is blowing. And if it sweeps away a bunch of old, dead leaves so the new and fresh and beautiful flowers of spring can burst forth in all their glory, then AMEN and HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12:28 (NLT)

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