It is likely the most willfully ignorant who would deny that we are entering a period of inflation. Various issues are causing this, such as rising fuel costs and a growing sector of society preferring unemployment to gainful employment. To illustrate this, look no further than our ports. There are dozens of ships parked off our coasts with an insufficient workforce to unload the products at the docks. COVID-19 indeed gets its share of the blame for this but, despite the pundits, cannot account for it all. Thus, we are beginning to see shortages of certain products and empty shelves in stores. For example, we will be running out of certain products again while it sits on a ship just hundreds of feet from our shore. Thus, we may well experience deprivation in the shadow of plenty.
This deprivation happens with greater frequency within our collective spiritual lives. For example, how many households own unread Bibles? I would venture to guess that there are many. So here we have people sitting in the presence of plenty but suffer for a “lack of knowledge” (cf. Isaiah 5.13; Hosea 4.6). The Israelites ended up in captivity because of a similar choice of ignoring God’s Word. We cannot suppose that a gracious-but-just God would allow those of us living under the New Testament to skate when committing the same offense. Jesus depicted a Judgment scene in His Sermon on the Mount. Do you recall what He said to those crying, “Lord, Lord?” God only allows heavenly entry to those doing the Father’s will (Matthew 7.21-23). And where do we learn of God’s Will? Peter says that God has given us all things about life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3ff). And Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are God-breathed [inspired] (2Timothy 3.16-17). Lastly, Jesus confirms this Word as truth (John 17.17). Indeed, God has left us with a book into which even the angels desire to look (1 Peter 1.12).
So why do people suffer spiritual want? God’s Word sits like those cargo ships, within reach of those who would profit from it. The problem lies in the lack of readers on this side of eternity’s shore. Oh, there are excuses, to be sure. For example, “I’m too busy and cannot find time to read.” Or “I get enough instruction during church services.” But their stores are increasingly empty of what the spirit most needs. Unlike our current economic situation in the United States, where reliance on imports leaves us in a lurch, there is a different reality in the spiritual realm. Since we refuse to partake of the plenty God has supplied, the devil gladly steps in and stocks our shelves for us with the sensual. Since our focus is on the immediate, we don’t notice we’ve traded our soul for that which will destroy us (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 9.25; Luke 12.16-33).
Get to work (2 Timothy2.15)! Grab that Bible and unload its truth into your heart. Don’t suffer deprivation in the shadow of plenty.
Yesterday was an emotional day. As expected, our attendance was a fraction of our normal size. The current threat is not yet over, but it was a stride toward what we pray is an imminent return of many more. Even from behind the masks and with the required social distancing, the joy and excitement was palpable. From preschool children to even a few octogenarians, our local brethren once again were able to do as God’s people have done for 2,000 years. We had others, mostly in higher risk categories or in daily contact with those who are high risk, who parked outside and tuned in via FM transmitter. They were in proximity with each other and able to fellowship with those around them and many on their way into and out of the building. A great many at home tuned in to the Live Stream and let us know of the hope and joy they feel that we’ve taken this step, several letting us know that as soon as is medically safe they will be there, too.
Our godly, wonderful shepherds have agonized over how to “return to normal” legally, wisely and safely. At the heart of most of their discussions and “church business” is how this “layoff” or separation or disruption will effect the faith and dedication of us sheep. Their hope is that we will view this situation as one that, for a time, made us a church full of “shut ins” that we could accommodate through virtual services (and later drive-in services) to help keep us connected rather than seeing this as the permanent arrangement or to excuse choosing other activities over assembling when there is no such crisis in place.
None of us knows the future, and it is hard to predict how every individual will respond post-pandemic. But, the heart of each of us will be at the heart of the matter as we prayerfully decide the timetable for our return. To shape and guide us on that spiritual journey, God has given us insight into the hearts of His saints through the centuries to influence our spiritual hunger. Here is but a sampling:
David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Psa. 122:1; notice also Psa. 27:4).
Zechariah: “The inhabitants of one (city) will go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go (some versions: “Let me go too!”)'” (8:21; the whole chapter is beautiful)
Luke: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42; context shows them together day by day publicly and privately)
Hebrews’ writer: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24, in the context of the assemblies).
But it’s the sons of Korah’s words in Psalm 84 that I want to close considering.
He saw assembling as “lovely” (1)–Appealing!
He saw assembling with “longing” (2)–Attractive!
He saw assembling as “logical” (3)–Appropriate!
He saw assembling as “lasting” (4,10)–Advantageous!
He saw assembling as “lavishing” (note “how blessed” throughout)–Abundance!
The separation and disruption was not of our choosing, but it might have and adverse effect upon us and cause us to forget the blessings of being together in praise and worship to our God. May the inspired words from saints like these help us fortify our souls as we anticipate the time when we are able once again meet each other in His presence for worship!