Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

How Will the Church Emerge from COVID-19? ~ My Wish List May 16, 2020

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine. The year was 1776, the same year the thirteen American colonies broke from their mother country and declared independence as a free nation. They were brave men and women who fought for what they believed in, who they were, and the future they desired. Their trying times gave birth to the greatest nation on the face of the earth—the United States of America.

Our trying times should give birth to something greater as well. We should never be the same person when we come through trying times and out on the other side of pain and struggle. God allows such times because they test us to see what we’re made of. Are our hearts right before Him? Are our motives for a worthy cause? Do we want the thing bad enough to sacrifice something to obtain it?

I can’t help but wonder what changes COVID-19 will bring to us. For some reason God has allowed it, and it has and will affect so many things about our lives—what we do, where we go, how we act and react to a new normal. And then there is the Church—will the Church of Jesus Christ emerge better than we were before COVID-19? Could God be using these trying times to iron out our wrinkles so we will be ready for the Bridegroom when He comes? And what might the new normal for the Church look like?

 

 

I have a few things I would like to see change ~ my wish list, if you will.

Number 1: Christians would be one with each other, just as Jesus is one with the Father. If God has done anything in this season it is to marginalize the denominational lines that divide us. These divisions of separation need the searing hot iron in God’s mighty hand to smooth out those deeply embedded creases. Our pet doctrines need to melt away or at least be shelved. (I won’t be holding my breath on that one.) Our prejudices and jealousy must not exist in our new normal. All arrogance and pride should be gone as we emerge from this pandemic storm.

Number 2: Another change I would like to see is the leveling of the playing field among Christ’s followers. During this time, we see famous spiritual leaders, teachers, televangelists, singers, writers, speakers, etc. now standing shoulder to shoulder beside the weakest among us. We all recognize our desperate need for Him. We all feel the same stress. We all feel the same uncertainty. We all feel the same neediness. Our one heart’s cry that rises to the heavens in true harmony (something that doesn’t happen often) is this: “Oh God, we need YOU!”

If we’ve learned anything during this season of unrest, it is that the church building is not the church. Our denomination is not the church. Our platform and style of worship is not the church. Since those things are not the Church, then it seems apparent that we must now figure out what the Church of Jesus Christ is actually supposed to be.

Could it be that a conceit for our way of doing things and a disdain for other’s way of doing things will have no place of expression on the other side of the pandemic? Oh God, may this be true! Lest we stand together as one unified body of born-again believers, our religious freedoms will vanish before our eyes.

Could it be the efforts to grow our church, our brand of Christianity, our form of worship will cease and be replaced with all of God’s children serving Him and each other in one accord and waiting before Him? After all, wasn’t that the atmosphere that set the stage for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts? Wasn’t that the very match that lit the fires of revival and church explosion? It was!

During this season of seeking the Church’s true place in God’s Kingdom, it should be the desire of our hearts that we emerge from COVID-19 as a changed people—less divided, less critical, less proud, and more like our Savior who gave up everything for us? Do we owe Him anything less?

As the Church seeks to find our new normal, may we keep in mind that before the Church can love the world, we must first learn to love each other.

Somehow, I believe that Jesus’ wish list for His Church may look a lot like mine.

Blessings to all as we face the new normal of Christianity. ~ Janie

 

Re-centering After COVID-19 May 8, 2020

Several years ago, while visiting my hometown in Texas, my husband and I decided to visit Magnolia’s Market in Waco. This must stop-and-shop location was well worth the effort; however, it caused us to return home a different route through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex than the one we knew. Having a GPS in the car, I plugged in a destination and off we went. Everything worked just fine…that is, until we hit some construction work and found ourselves moving at a snail’s pace.

My husband decided to re-route us by way of a no-name road. The GPS struggled with that abrupt change in plans. It continued to flash and speak the word “Re-centering” as if we were about to drop off the earth. When my husband got us back on the right path, I turned off the GPS; but the word “re-centering” stuck with me.

Actually, that seems to fit where we are right now—in the midst of a pandemic where all of our plans have changed. Let’s face it, it is just plain hard to stop in mid-stream, mid-dream, mid-plan, or mid-year, and not be able to do what we intended. It feels wrong somehow, but sadly none of us can do anything about it.

Or can we? Could we perhaps “re-center” our plans and our lives? Maybe. None of us like hard times, but we can be thankful for the results that follow.  In 2005, Casting Crowns released a song called “I Will Praise You in the Storm.” It reminds us that we can praise God in the storm because of the serene, breath-taking quiet that surrounds us and tells us we are safe after the storm.

So here we are, COVID-19 dwellers in the midst of the perhaps the worst storm we have ever faced. Still, we can anticipate a calm after this storm passes. Standing on the other side of the pandemic, we will most likely be able to see the hand of God in it all—the pain, the heartache, the fear, the losses, and the gains.

Our prayer should be to ask God to show us what we need to see from that after-the-storm perspective. What did we learn? What was the take-away? What do we now know that we didn’t know before? How was my life enriched? How is my course changed? How will eternity be impacted? Will I be a different person than I was before the storm? The possibilities are enormous!

I’ve heard it said, “No one wants to go back to the way things were.” It’s true, most people don’t want to go back to work as normal, life as normal, or even church as normal. I pray the heart-cry of every child of God is that we no longer want a mundane state of living. Many of us were driven by our schedules that allowed little or no time for God or family. That busy, relentless treadmill-life demanded we answer its every beck and call to bow before the things of the world. We were too rushed, even in our church services, to wait upon God for barely a moment of silence.

It could be that God Himself jerked us to reality. You see, to fill our lives with the things of the world is a lower state of living than God desires for us. Yet, we did it year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day.

In Luke 15:11-32, we find a wonderful story about a prodigal son—the one who wanted his inheritance early—his cut of the family farm. He got it and then squandered it, spending his life on wild living.

A good question may be to ask ourselves: Before the pandemic, how was my life being spent? I think some feel that we have spent ourselves, and now we’re tired, we’re worn, we’re out of luck, out of ideas, and perhaps out of hope.

When the wayward son got to that place, he took a job he never thought he’d have—working in a pig pen. All the props had been removed from his life. Props are things that hold us up, help us look normal, tell others that we’re doing great—while we are dying on the inside. There’s nothing left to hide behind, no mask to cover the reality of where we are—busted, broken, and needy!

Yet, the best part of the prodigal son story is that smack-dab in the middle of the pig pen, he came to himselfhe remembered who he was. He was indeed the son of a loving father. Oh, dear ones, so are we sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who is waiting for us to come to ourselves and remember who we are.

In this powerful story, once the young man woke up to his current surroundings, he had to do something about it—he had to arise and go to his father. And so must we go to our Father, fall at His feet, and tell Him we have sinned.

Every person’s pig pen will be different. Yours will be made of the things you chose to dwell in—and mine will be made of the things I chose. We will each have eaten our fill with the choices we made, the lusts we sought after, and the things of the world that allured us there.

The good news is that what awaits each of us is all the same! We will be met with the loving arms of our Father, who has been heart-sick since the day we left home; we’ll be clothed in a fine robe and shoes for our feet; and lastly, our Father will put a ring on our finger signifying our birthright status!

In this moment of quiet, in mid-pandemic state—with movie theaters closed, ball-fields unlit, concert halls dark, stadiums empty, and the church doors locked—can we wake up and recognize where we are? Can we see the tragedy of pig pen living and filling ourselves with the husks of the world? Can we leave that place and return to our Father?

Railroad with woman

Actually, it’s not all that far from where we got off track. It happened so slowly that we barely noticed it along the way. Can we admit where we mis-stepped and made bad choices and then turn towards home? Our Father is watching and waiting, with His gaze fixed upon the road that will take us there.

In 2020, every person on earth has received a wake-up call, along with an invitation to take a fresh look at their lives to see how it is being spent. We are offered a chance to respond to a Father who is awaiting with open arms to welcome us home.

What we do with our wake-up call is up to no one but us. I wonder, will we “re-center” our lives during this opportunity? Can’t we just leave the husks behind and go? You bet we can. Let’s do this! ~ Janie