Monday, June 1, 2020

What Do the Times Require?

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.'"
Matthew 21:12-13

"We want more men and women who walk with God and before God, like Enoch and Abraham. Though our numbers at this date far exceed those of our evangelical forefathers, I believe we fall far short of them in our standard of Christian practice. Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the simplicity of home life, the high tone of conversation in society, the patience, the humility, the universal courtesy, which marked so many of our forerunners seventy or eighty years ago? Yes: where is it indeed? We have inherited their principles, and we wear their armour, but I fear we have not inherited their practice. The Holy Ghost sees it, and is grieved; and the world sees it, and despises us. The world sees it, and cares little for our testimony. It is life, life–a heavenly, godly, Christ-like life–depend on it, which influences the world. Let us resolve, by God’s blessing, to shake off this reproach. Let us awake to a clear view of what the times require of us in this matter. Let us aim at a much higher standard of practice. Let the time past suffice us to have been content with a half-and-half holiness. For the time to come, let us endeavour to walk with God, to be ‘thorough’ and unmistakable in our daily life, and to silence, if we cannot convert, a sneering world."

– JC Ryle –​

As you read the above words, were "amens" flowing from your lips?  Were you nodding your head in agreement?  Did you think the author was alive and speaking in our time—in 2020?

Yes.  I was.  And, I did.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the end and saw that it was JC Ryle who penned these words.  JC Ryle was the Bishop of the Church of England in Liverpool for the span of almost 20 years.  JC Ryle was born on May 10, 1816, and died on June 10, 1900, at the age of 84—lacking a few days, that was 120 years ago.

The burden on his heart is conveyed by his words, and today, almost 120 years later, I echo them.
My heart is so heavy over so many things right now, including the lackadaisical condition of God's church.  I wonder - could the reason He is not allowing churches to open back up at full-speed be because He is STILL trying to get our attention and show us that some things need to change?  Maybe He doesn't want us to go back to "business-as-usual." Yes, I said "business" because that is exactly what far too many of our churches have become.

I repeat JC Ryle's words again, when speaking of God's people who have passed off the scene,
"We have inherited their principles, and we wear their armour, but I fear we have not inherited their practice. The Holy Ghost sees it, and is grieved; and the world sees it, and despises us. The world sees it, and cares little for our testimony."

I'll admit, I was very upset the other day when I heard that the Supreme Court ruled that churches cannot yet meet at full capacity.  Not that I want people to be careless and start gathering in large crowds, putting the vulerable at risk, if there is still any hint of danger.  Not at all.  But, I do NOT like the thoughts of nine people wielding that much power and infringing on our rights to hold church services.  They deny this privilege, yet they allow bars, liquor stores, and pretty much everything else to open at full capacity?  Seriously?  There is no denying that this is absolutely wrong, and I just hate it.

At the same time though I realize that there is a Higher Power than the Supreme Court, no matter how much authority they take over our lives, and if HE did not grant them the power they have, they would have none.  "Jesus answered, thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above."  John 19:11

If God withheld life and breath from any one of them, they would have no power to retain their spirit and would have to succumb to death, just like the rest of us.

"There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death."  Ecclesiastes 8:8

God holds the power to the Ultimate "Supreme Court," and what He allows is all that will be allowed.  So, I have to stop and ask myself, is there something HE is still trying to get across to us by not allowing churches to fully reopen—are there changes He is wanting us to make before we do?  When I ask these questions, a myriad of answers start flooding my mind.  I would hardly know where to begin to express it all, but suffice to say that I do believe God has a reason for all that is happening, and I also believe it is His desire that we all examine our hearts and lives during this time.  The old "normal" has been completely shaken up and rearranged, and I believe there is a Divine purpose for that.

The New Testament church started in an upper room inside a house.  Jesus didn't tell the disciples to go to a big megachurch filled with thousands of people and if they did that, the Holy Spirit would come to them.  He told them to tarry in Jerusalem, and there they stayed inside a house on the second floor until the day of Pentecost when the promise was fulfilled.

The original Christians worshipped in simplicity.  They worshipped with their whole attention turned upon the lone Galileean Who had just suffered untold anguish, bled, and died for their sins.  They often had to hide and keep their worship hushed, due to the threat of persecution.  They weren't worrying about bigger worship centers, more small groups, forming bowling leagues, and drinking Starbucks before service.  They met together so they could earnestly pray, to remind themselves of all He had taught them, and to make sure they were ready for His second coming, which even in their generation, they assumed would be soon.

Somehow we have become so laser-focused on numbers and how much money we can raise and how many "campuses" we can build, as if we think we have to do big things to "earn" vistitations from the Holy Spirit in our worship.  All along, the promise has been given, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."  Matthew 18:20

I often wonder if Jesus were to walk into many modern church buildings and see how entertainment-obsessed we have become, observe our money-making initiatives, and watch how lightly we approach prayer and worship, would He draw out a whip and drive us all out?  Does He want us to go back to that kind of "normal?"

How I long to see a deeper reverance for God!  How I wish we would fear Him as He should be feared!  How I yearn for the heart of those first Christians in that upper room!

We say we want to see a great revival.  Great revival will not come without a major humbling of ourselves before God.  Are we really learning anything right now?  Everything we have, including our religious freedoms, can be snatched away from us in the blink of an eye.  It is time to get low before God and ask Him what He is trying to say during this season.

I don't want to waste this opportunity while He is knocking on my heart's door.  I don't want to come out of this unchanged.  I want to dig and search after Him until I find out all He wants me to learn.

Our world, as we all know, is in such a state of chaos.  My heart literally breaks when I think of the man who was ruthlessly murdered by the hands of a police officer just this week.  I can't even explain how I felt when I heard that George Floyd was calling for his mama as he died.  Just unbelievable.

I am also appalled at the horrific reaction of those who protest what happened to George Floyd.  Just because one police officer does something so wrong does not give anyone the right to disrespect all of the rest of law enforcement.  It is just despicable to watch what is happening right now.

There is heartache everywhere we look.  From the virus to violence and everything in between, we see much to be concerned about, as the world around us searches for hope.  Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  He is the only One who can relieve the sadness, remove the pain, and heal the hurting.

"For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."
Isaiah 66:2

My prayer is that we would all kneel before Him with a "poor" (humble) and "contrite" (remorseful, penitent) spirit and sincere "trembling at His Word" and seek Him with our whole hearts about changes He may want us all to make.  Maybe it is time that we shake off religion and start seeking deeper relationship.  What a glorious thing it would be to emerge from the pandemic with a renewed reverance for God, a magnified carefulness in our Christian walk, and a heightened awareness of His soon coming!  Can you imagine what our collective worship would look like if we did?

23 comments:

  1. Thank you for this thought provoking and soul searching post. We all need God's mercy and love transforming our lives, so that we can be who He wants us to be. May we patiently wait and trust Him as He works all things out for His honor and glory. May souls be saved as they 'see' the love of God in our lives, and as we love others. ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Thank you so much for your heart for God, Lorraine, and for your kind comments. May the Lord bless you and keep you always.

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  2. Yes, maybe it's exactly the time to shake off religion, and develop a sincere, humble relationship with our Lord and Savior, Cheryl. These times are heart-wrenching for all of us. Only Jesus can give comfort and peace to our hurting hearts. I'm praying it's God's will that this nation, with all the freedoms we are granted, rise like a phoenix from the ashes of despair.
    Blessings!

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    1. I'm praying, too, Martha. It is just awful to see all that is happening, and I do believe God wants the church to lead our nation - not the nation lead the church. May He help us all. I so appreciate your encouraging comments!

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  3. Amen and Amen Cheryl. These are terrible times indeed that we're all living in. Dennis and I have been talking about exactly this as we try to decide our plans after retirement. We will most likely be moving, but hopefully, also traveling around the country. I so want to find a church wherever we end up that truly teaches the word, sings the old familiar songs and prays with conviction, knowing that the Lord of the Universe is listening to our hearts cry.
    I fear the reverence is gone and we'll never find a place. I have felt closer to the Lord during this time of the virus that we have been forced to stay home. We have found several churches that we listen to their sermons each week. We pray together and take communion together each Sunday. God has been my focus instead of "the church".
    You have made me thing my dear friend. Thank you.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Dear Betsy! Thank you SO much for your sweet encouragement. It truly meant so much to me! My heart goes out to you and Dennis as you continue to seek God's will. May He just always lead and direct your ever step as you walk forward into this new season. One thing for sure, even if you don't find an actual brick and mortar building that is the right fit for you, you will still be able to enjoy the online communities you are involved in. That is what Kevin, Zach, and I do, too. We stay connected with our online church and take communion together right here in our home, and it is SO precious. God meets with us every, single time, as we worship Him together within the walls of our home. I am SO thankful the Bible says where "two or three are gathered together in His name" He will be there. I am so thankful you have felt closer to the Lord through this time, and I believe God will continue that same process in your life. The lessons we are all learning will remain with us. I believe Jesus is coming very, very soon. You can almost feel it, can't you? Soon, none of us will need to worry about where we will worship or when we can meet together again under a physical roof because we will all be gathered together around the throne of God worshipping at Jesus' feet for all eternity! I will be so grateful to finally be able to meet you, my dear friend. Keep encouraged. I am praying for you often and believing God to see you through it all. Heaven is waiting for us, and what glory that will be!

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  4. And praise the Lord we serve a high power Cheryl. That old Eastern sky about to split and the trumpet gonna sound girl! Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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    1. Yes, it is! Jesus is coming soon, and all of this pain and heartache will be far behind us. What a day of rejoicing that will be! Hugs and blessings to you, too, Cindy.

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    2. I just keep wondering why the Lord tarries but I know that He is giving everyone opportunity to come to know Him as Christ. But....One day He is going to say, "Son, go and get my children". Lord have mercy, now I have the Holy Bumps!

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  5. Thank you Cheryl. I found my own heart convicted by the quote from JC Ryle. I sense the call to redeem my time and focus on prayer. Im sure you do also. There is no peace around us in the world but I hear the Lord reminding my heart of Proverbs 18:10....we have a refuge. Praise Jesus,
    Hugs from Shirley

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    1. Oh, it surely convicted me, too. YES, redeem my time and spend much time in prayer. We are surely living in the last of the last days. Praise God, you are so right, we DO have a refuge. He is our only hope. Hugs to you, too, Shirley.

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  6. Cheryl, these times have been so difficult. What is God saying, we must be still and listen. Our world is in a mess and Jesus is the only hope and answer.

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    1. They surely have been so difficult. YES - to be still and truly listen with completely open hearts! God bless you, Pam.

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  7. That is a wonderful and convicting quote by JC Ryle. It is certainly one to read and pray over as we examine our own hearts. I love to read the old writers; their wisdom always impresses me. Yes, I pray this pandemic does change us, individually and corporately, and that we learn what He is trying to teach us. I am thankful that among this, and all the events of this past week, He never changes and we have a solid Rock to cling to. xo Deborah

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    1. I love that quote, too. Yes, the wisdom of those old-time writers was so deep and meaningful. thank you for your kind words and support, my friend. Much love and many blessings to you!

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  8. Cheryl, I too am so very disappointed in the church these days. Where's the power? You referred to the Upper Room, only 120 people and the Holy Spirit filled them to full. We need that boldness today as we fight this horrific enemy in our nation. May our Christian leaders be like the Good Shepherd and protect the sheep so they don't scatter. May they not care only about making money and a name for themselves.

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    1. Where is the power, indeed???? Oh, if only the leaders would be as you described! It is all very disheartening to me, to be honest. I have to just continually elevate my eyes and fix them on Jesus. That is where I should be looking anyway - not to men who people have put up on pedestals. God bless you, my friend.

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  9. Hi dear friend! I lost count of how many times I said "AMEN!" as I read this post!

    Thank you for never shying away from the difficult conversations, but standing firm to defend the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, ALWAYS with humility. Your beautiful testimony of seeking your own heart on what is to be learned in situations is such an encouragement to all of us. Too often, and I am the chief sinner here, we don't look inward to ask those tough questions, and I need to do that more often.

    I was so distressed when I heard someone comment that because our church didn't do the modern day praise songs that the Spirit wasn't present in our church. She scoffed at the old hymns using that as her litmus test by deeming our church dead spiritually. That just gutted me. The old hymns are rich in Scripture where the Holy Spirit resides. This person was caught up in the entertainment of another nearby church and wanted that for our small, humble congregation, but attempting to do so with a misguided idea that unless you are doing praise music the Holy Spirit isn't present.

    Worship isn't about music, it is about laser focus on our Lord and Savior, sitting at His feet and soaking up all that He has for us to learn.

    Sending you much love and gratitude.

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    1. Thank you SO much for understanding my heart, dear friend! That is so awful that the person said the Spirit isn't present in your church just because you don't do things like other modern churches. Those old hymns are precious and were inspired under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and should not be so easily and casually discarded. AMEN - worship is about laser focus on Jesus! Such a great way of putting that into words! I am so grateful for your heart for God and your constant encouragement to me. I am sending much love and gratitude to you, too!

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  10. Dear Cheryl,My How my heart burned within Me as I read these words of sound wisdom..How true we Need the fear of God and love of God deep within our hearts daily..May God help Us all.America NEEDS GOD!!! So do I..Our freedom of worship I feel is on some real shaky grounds now..A Preacher in the state of N.C. was going to sue the Governor about stopping churches to reopen..The Governor threw up his hands and said I want fight it anymore go back to church.So ours opened today but I was to sick to go which broke my heart..I want to grow so close to Jesus that I can feel His heart beat for Me..I NEED Him I guess more than anyone does..My battles get stronger and harder each day of my life..A Dear friend told me this week her heart hurts for Me said she has never seen anyone fought any harder I am sure many are but I feel my pain..So when you think of me Just tell Jesus on Me ok.The song on last post I LOVED at Wit's End Corner I stay there and I have never heard that song before..Thanks for all the good encouragement you give to Us all.God bless and hold you real close daily..Love Loads,Elaine P.S. Once I was in a deep battle and darkness was all around Me and I asked God for some answers and He gave me a song called Dig Alittle Deeper..Go down alittle more and touch the Master like you never have before and that was a blessed answer..

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    1. The fear of God is what is SO lacking, my friend. You would think God would have people's attention through all the things that have happened, but sadly, I see the opposite effect. People's hearts seem to be hardening. I am glad your church reopened. That is a step in the right direction. We all need Jesus very desperately and He is surely our only hope! The song you wrote sounds so beautiful! Keep encouraged and looking to Jesus and don't give up! Heaven will be worth it all, and I believe we are all almost home. The signs of the times are everywhere we look, and I would not be surprised if Jesus split through those clouds at any moment. We have to keep looking forward to that day with bright anticipation and know that this life is so temporary and almost over. What a day of rejoicing it will be when we are all there with Him for eternity! Much love to you, and please know I am praying for you.

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  11. Dear Cheryl ... this right here is so urgently needed --> 'There is heartache everywhere we look. From the virus to violence and everything in between, we see much to be concerned about, as the world around us searches for hope. Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only One who can relieve the sadness, remove the pain, and heal the hurting.'

    May we turn to Him for comfort, wisdom, clarity, and the ability to listen and love well.

    Bless you, friend ...

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    1. Yes, my friend, so true. Many blessings to you during these difficult times!

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