I stood on one of a thousand sun-bleached hills in Rosebud County, Montana. The day was exceptionally mild. The sun shone and shadows were long. I had arrived in the wee hours of the morning, with my son Drew and my brother Steve. We found ourselves in the middle of a real-life nightmare.
At noon the day before we had received word from the local sheriff that my father had "gone missing" while hunting with his "friend." Today finding him in this vast, almost featureless terrain seemed an impossible task. The nights since his disappearance had been frosty, and he might easily have died of exposure having survived an injury. The uncertainty was torturous. We spent the morning bouncing across the countryside in a jeep, frantically scouting the landscape for any sign of my father. It was entirely possible our searching would prove futile. We were hunting for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I prayed, "Lord, please let us find him!"
Around noon we noticed the search helicopter silhouetted against the bright mid-day sun. As it drew closer, landing in the adjacent field, my heart pounded wildly. Bill, a friend helping with the search jumped out, jogging toward us: "We found Doc...he's didn't make it."
The THIEF had struck, stealing a faithful husband, loving father, doting grandfather and beloved veterinarian. I had wanted to protect my firstborn from the agony of this moment, but Drew had insisted on traveling with me to Montana for the search and hoped for rescue. Drew was "Papa's boy." Now, in gut-wrenching shock, we stood next to my father's uninhabited body. Despite the sinister circumstances and unanswered questions surrounding his death, I was grateful to have found him. The gift of closure is denied to many in similar circumstances. We prayed together, giving thanks for the indescribable gift of Dad's life...and the assurance of his unwavering faith in Jesus.
The official government requirements for meeting border on the absurd. We are obliged to book ahead. As we arrive a friendly greeter stands at the door offering, not a handshake, but a generous dollop of hand sanitizer. I reluctantly don my disposable mask, knowing I may not enter without it. The floor is marked with directional arrows to ensure "social distancing." We are shown a map of the seating arrangement and choose our socially distanced seats.
As the service begins we are reminded that those of us in attendance may not sing with the prerecorded worship music, but must confine ourselves to meditating on the words as they are displayed on the screen. I find myself singing beneath the mask. If I don't sing, surely the rocks will cry out!
The scene is strangely redolent of a poorly written pantomime. The reluctantly masked actors are silent. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I am CONSUMED with a perfect storm of GRIEF and OUTRAGE! Where is the Church Militant? Where are the soldiers of the Cross? I want to stand up and scream:
*What has happened to the Church?
*When did we allow the enemy to consume us with fear?
*When did our allegiance shift from our Captain to the unwitting
servants of that cunning conniver, the devil of hell?
The Bride has been bound and gagged
And we are worshiping the devil by default!
In his book "Worship As David Lived It" Judson Cornwall reminds us that:
FEAR AND FAITH
ARE EXACTLY THE SAME ENERGY
RUNNING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS.
Faith says, "I believe God."
Fear say, "I believe the enemy."
In August of 1527 the Bubonic Plague reached the small village of Wittenberg, the home of Martin Luther. Eighteen villagers died in the first seventeen days of the plague. Luther, married with a small son and a pregnant wife was encouraged to flee. Luther was not immune to fear, but chose faith, remaining in the village throughout the plague to serve the people. He wrote the following in a letter to a friend:
Perfect love CASTS OUT FEAR!
Jesus' resurrection has removed the sting of death and the grave's victory!
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!
Let us worship the Lord our God and serve HIM only!
Held captive in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden image, reserving their worship for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Their faith had them cast into a fiery furnace, but the Lord delivered them!
It is high time that we too take a stand, refusing to bow to the idol called Covid. Let us entrust ourselves in worshipful obedience to the Lord. He is perfectly sovereign and GOOD in ALL His ways! We are precious in His sight and we have been bought by the blood of the Lamb!
He is WORTHY of our praise!
"Oh Church Arise and put your armour on
Hear the call of Christ our Captain
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We'll stand against the devil's lies
An army bold whose battle cry is love
Reaching out to those in darkness!"
(by Keith Getty)
Soli Deo Gloria!