We answer to God almighty and choose to follow the laws of the land until they go against our biblical and spiritual beliefs. Our country was founded on religious principal and the freedom to practice as you choose. I am in no way asserting that everyone must attend church, though it is my belief that church helps make life better for so many people as they grow closer to God. However, I am asserting my opinion that people can attend church with just as much risk as grocery shopping, getting a haircut, or other public activities.
The church is to help those in need.
We are already gathering routinely, assembling food baskets in large groups and disseminating these items throughout our region. People are responding to the homes of the sick or home bound to help ensure needs are met. This is acceptable to our state government, but the nurturing of spiritual needs in person is unacceptable they have declared. People can go shopping at leisure and can without restriction shop and purchase items from the store, but God forbid that they assemble in a church with more than 10 people there. This is where the line must be drawn. It is unacceptable to discriminate even in a time of crisis making gathering as a church more restrictive. There must be an equal playing field.
If you do not agree with this belief, you have the right to your opinion, that is the beauty of America.
Speaking of America, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Now I recognize the rights have a level of ambiguity when it comes to times of crisis and declarations of emergency. Once we step into the realm of unfair restrictions during the crisis in comparison to other businesses, it becomes apparent our “best interest” or our “safety” is just the correct phrase to use in order to restrict or limit religious influence in the state. This sounds much like the phrases used in Nazi Germany as they deceived the people to commit horrific acts.
We still use precautions when providing food baskets, supplies or other necessities to those in need, home bound, or who are sick. We do not host the other extra activities which we normally have at the church and may not for some time to come, but it is unacceptable to forbid our church to gather in a group greater than 10. I am certain there are more than 10 at the grocery store and hardware store right now.
We know our church, our community, and the people who have been sick, who are at risk, and who have recovered. We trust them to make the best decision for themselves. The state government is not only chilling our constitutional right to assemble, but they are asserting they know our community better than us and their decisions are better than decisions we can make for ourselves. It is difficult to agree with that when the curve is not spiking, when thousands of extra temporary hospital beds have never been used and we can open other businesses before churches.
Jesus loves the little children of the world. He doesn’t just love you if you are sick. He loves everyone. That means as a church we are called to support everyone, to include the sick, needy, home bound, and people needing spiritual nurturing. Mind you people are still suffering from other medical concerns which need attention as well as mental illness. As Christians our fundamental belief entails church attendance and spiritual nurturing to get closer with God and make our everyday life better.
We are working hard to fulfill the request in the scriptures having given tens of thousands of dollars in assistance to people to include volunteering, errands, and whatever else we could to help meet needs due to COVID-19. We cannot allow government officials to tell us how to exercise our faith, and to tell us that watching online or interacting with the church online is just the same, or a perfect replacement to in person attendance.
This is part of our foundation of worship not to mention separation of church and state.
Some of the following scriptures explain our practices in church service which cannot be restricted by the government as far as social distancing is concerned. This is by no means all of the scriptures but instead a taste:
Church attendance is necessary
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) says:
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Praying for people by laying on hands:
Mark 16:15-18 (NLT) says:
15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
Greeting one another when they come to church:
1 Peter 5:14 (NLT) says:
14 Greet each other with a kiss of love. Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.
Jesus warned against the religious mask ensuring we are not contaminated by phoniness:
Luke 12:1-9 (MSG)
1-3 By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.
4-5 “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
6-7 “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.
8-9 “Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels?
We as Christians are to follow the laws of the land when they are not in conflict with the bible:
Romans 13:1-7 (MSG)
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
We as Christians follow the law until it does not allow us to exercise our faith:
Acts 5:27-29 (MSG)
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!
For these reasons we have resumed church services. We urge folks who are sick to remain at home and engage with us online and through the other means we have established. We trust people to make the best decisions for themselves and their family to attend church and enjoy the love of Jesus by joining our service!
Psalm 46:10 “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth. - The passion translation.
I totally understand there are new stresses in our lives with coronavirus and all of the restrictions. However, this isn't the end of the world. Jesus is our strength and in Him I put my trust. We can sit and do nothing during this time and miss one of the greatest opportunities ever.
Let's do something! One of the greatest immediate impacts you can have is on your own family.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ASPE released the following 9 factors which produce strong healthy families. ( https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/research-successful-families )
There are plenty of things you can do in your home to strengthen your family. I want to challenge you to do the best your can and then allow God to fill the gaps. This can be one of the greatest times and resets your family has ever experienced. Let's do this together!
Many people have asked if I would provide some encouraging scriptures as we battle coronavirus or COVID-19. This isn't a conclusive list, but I believe it is a good start in encouraging one another with scriptures:
Many people have asked me, what can I pray? I always want to say that God hears our prayers and they never have to be fancy. However, at times like these sometimes we can struggle with what to say. Jesus said you have not because you ask not, so let’s make sure we are asking. We are also told to come boldly to the throne. So here we are:
Jesus, thank you for being my savior and giving your life just for me. I’m forever grateful for this gift and all gifts you give me. I declare you the God of the universe, the name above all names, and I come before you and thank you for my many blessings. I forgive all who have committed wrongs against me so my prayer is not hindered and I ask you to forgive me of my mistakes and shortcomings. I pray for all the decision makers in the world and ask you to fill them with wisdom and understanding so they may guide us for our best interest. Thank you for providing food and I ask you to continue to provide for me. Continue to provide finances for me, let your angels surround and protect me from all harm. Keep my body healthy and fill me with your strength. Help me to be wise and not fall for deceptive traps, but stand firm to glorify you. Help me to draw closer to you and I commit all my actions to glorify you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
No matter what, everyone has battles in their lives. The bible never mentions that people are exempt from trouble, struggles and hard times. Instead it gives us insight into individual lives showing parables, promises and victories with the help of Christ. This is for us to understand God’s promises and gives us a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. God also sends angels to surround us and protect us as we continue on this journey.
He is growing you, strengthening you and setting you up for prosperity. Hardship isn’t to destroy you, it is there to complete you. To whom much is given, much is required. As He blesses you, you will continue to be tested so you are equipped. Smile through the trouble, things are getting better every day! I pray for God’s grace to cover you and strengthen you every day. May you find His complete joy as you are grown through this journey we call life.
Everyone has a desire to be happy. It seems as though life’s circumstances and the attacks of evil constantly push against us. It can be incredibly draining and soon we find ourselves overcome with sadness. Following Christ doesn’t mean we don’t have sadness, instead we learn how to deal with sadness that our joy may be whole. John 18:6 talks about Jesus being arrested and the guards falling to the ground under His power. I’m sure that wasn’t a happy moment, but God surely was in control.
In Genesis 28:15 God promised Jacob to watch over him wherever he goes and he will never leave him until God’s promise is fulfilled. God promises happiness to everyone. I do believe it is a choice but it isn’t easy. Remember God is watching over you and is with you wherever you go. I believe with all my heart, you are going to be OK and you will be happy. If there is anything we can do to help, please contact me. Lastly our doors are always open for visitors. If you haven't been to the church in a while or ever, come on in.
We all find ourselves in the position from time to time hoping for the miraculous. Whether it's a loved one who is sick, someone hurt in an accident, a financial breakthrough or a relationship restoration, we all hope for a significant change beyond our control. Sometimes we simply hope. Other times we pray. We may even find ourselves worrying more than we are hoping and praying. Abraham and Sarah wanted a child so badly they took matters into their own hands only to discover that wasn't what God promised them. Moses tried so hard to lead the nation of Israel and when they found themselves looking for water, he skipped what God told him and instead did what he knew would work.
God wants miracles for everyone. He proved this when Jesus fed over five thousand people miraculously. We are all tempted to help God out a little and do what we know will work, but we end up missing the complete blessing. I know it's hard, but we must trust, believe, pray, hope, give and be obedient. Your miracle is coming. God is paying attention and it is just for you. I pray blessings over your home and may God continue to guide and protect you while you wait for your miracle. If there is anything we can do to help, please contact me. Lastly our doors are always open for visitors. If you haven't been to the church in a while or ever, come on in.
Life is hard no matter who you are. Every household has their own set of challenges. Esther broke customs to approach her husband to make a change. She was afraid, but he accepted her input and it changed a nation. Deborah was a leader and commanded an army at a time when women were considered second class. Joseph went to prison for a crime he didn't commit and eventually became second in command over Egypt. All challenges are stressful but Jesus promises sufficient grace and strength in our weakness, not our perfection. We pray blessings over your home.
The Bible does not discuss valentine. Valentines day has evolved over time and now the primary emphasis which is somewhat commercialized revolves around expressing love to the ones you are intimate with. This would be a demonstration of fulfilling the commandment given in John 15:12 which is to love one another. The expressions celebrated on Valentines is only one aspect of love, but I will save that discussion for another time.
Some think people who go to church have to be righteous or better than others morally. Others fear attending because of past mistakes. Church is a place for all the wounded to come and heal knowing nobody is perfect. Perfection is the element of God working in you. Our community church holds each other up as we journey through a difficult life relying on God to meet our needs. Feel free to contact us for prayer. I pray you find peace and comfort in the midst of your circumstances.
Philip Lukens is the senior pastor of the Carr Community Church. To receive updates please enter your e-mail address below and click subscribe.
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