The Lord has His way of getting our scattered thoughts and priorities focused back on the Kingdom.
For me, that was a brief encounter with the dark specter of the coronavirus. After feeling extremely fatigued with some joint pain at work a week before Christmas, I tested positive for COVID-19. Within a span of about 72-hours I cycled through 9 of the 11 major symptoms, but relatively mildly. By Sunday morning, I was completely asymptomatic.
Personally, there were three lessons learned from this brief bout with the virus.
That my trust and reliance in my own health, immune system and precautionary measures to combat infection by the coronavirus were totally misplaced. We are to trust in One alone, the almighty God!
The brief exposure that I had to the symptoms of the virus gave me a new compassion for those engaged in a much more mortal combat with this intruder, where fear becomes an overwhelming factor in the battle.
Most importantly, this encounter with COVID-19, reinforced to me once more, the fact that God is in control of every circumstance in our lives. That is not to say, that as Christians we will never experience affliction or trials, but rather that as our Lord so aptly assures us, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
What I didn’t realize at the time, as important as these lessons were, that it was during the next 10-days of being in quarantine that the Lord would begin to reveal some of His plans for the church, particularly in Africa, and by extension the role that He would have Livingstone Missions play in this next sovereign move of God.
Many people have expressed their thoughts on what God is going to do during the transition between 2020 and beyond. I respect there right to do so, and I am not going to bring any of those opinions into question. Rather, I will try to convey as best as I can, the relevant, non-personal parts of what the Lord revealed to me during those 10-days of forced isolation.
Let me start with some excerpts from a recent article in “The Week” online magazine by Bonnie Kristian:
“America is still a "Christian nation", if the term simply means a majority of the population will claim the label when a pollster calls. But, as a new Pew Research report unsparingly explains, the decline of Christianity in the United States "continues at a rapid pace." A bare 65 percent of Americans now say they're Christians, down from 78 percent as recently as 2007. The deconverted are mostly moving away from religion altogether, and the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated — the "nones" — have swelled from 16 to 26 percent over the same period. If this rate of change continues, the U.S. will be majority non-Christian by about 2035, with the “nones” representing well over one third of the population.”
“Smaller details from the study are equally striking. Protestantism lost its narrow claim to an outright majority of Americans' souls around 2012. While older generations remain at least two-thirds Christian, millennials have an even 49-49 split of Christians vs. “nones” (40 percent) and those of other faiths (9 percent).”
“In broad strokes, this decline appears to keep the U.S. trailing just behind Western Europe's religious and political evolution - the end of Christianity as a default faith and a move toward polarized left / right politics that can be roughly characterized as socialism versus nationalist populism.”
The cold reality of the numbers quoted in this article are certainly concerning, and whether you believe that we are on the cusp of a major revival in America or that we will continue to see younger generations leave the church by the droves, the trend in the first twenty years of this new millennium has been overwhelmingly negative.
What I believe the Lord has been revealing to me in this season (perhaps the last six months) is that our concern with the political / church situation in America is myopic. Christianity has never been about a particular nation or an empire, it has always been about the Kingdom of God. This is not to say that we are not to have a concern for the spiritual condition of our own nation, but that we have got to be extremely careful that we don’t buy in fully to the idea of “American exceptionalism” as touted in nationalistic political circles. Nationalistic patriotism is to a large extent contrary to a Kingdom mentality. Much as we love this nation it is disingenuous to assert that it is special or unique to God, over and above any other nation on the earth, or can you point me to chapter and verse that states the same? The only nation (“ethnos” – ethnic group) that God asserts as special are the Israelites, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6). That’s pretty clear. No?
Don’t lose hope, however, because God has also chosen you, if you have knelt before Him in fear and trembling, confessed your sins and believed in Jesus the Christ as your Lord & Savior!
Because the Bible also tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10). As the Body of Christ we are now a holy homogenous nation (“ethnos” – ethnic group), from every tongue, tribe and nation!
Why am I belaboring this point? I believe that it is vital that we understand the concept of the Kingdom of God, as opposed to the concept of the kingdoms (nations) of the world. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever.’” (Revelation 11:15)
We need to understand that the prophetic future of every individual nation is to be absorbed into the kingdoms of this world which ultimately will stand in opposition to the kingdom of Heaven. At the “end of the age”, the kingdoms of the world will in turn be purified by fire and consumed into the kingdom of our God. Without understanding of this Biblical concept, we cannot begin to comprehend what God is doing in this season. As believers, we don’t belong to any nation, we are citizens of the Kingdom!
Father God has always raised up and recognized cities, nations and regions as light bearers to the kingdoms of this world, but as hearts grow cold towards Him, he removes the lampstand and raises it up elsewhere.
For centuries the nations of Europe burnt bright as bastions of Christian thought and practice, and then slowly the light waned, flickered and burnt out –
in France in the mid- to latter half of the 19th Century, the events of the French revolution, helped to create the socio-political, economic, and religious landscape of modern Europe: the rising political and economic power of the middle classes, liberalism, political democracy, rationalism, humanism and modern nationalism;
in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century, as modernism and liberal theology sought to align religious thought with current thought and to solve issues raised by the modern culture. The study of Christian doctrine was transformed into the psychological study of religious experience, the sociological study of religious institutions and customs, and the philosophical inquiry into religious knowledge and values;
in Britain in the mid- to late 2oth century, post-war generations moved rapidly away from Christianity and into a kind of intellectual and philosophical abyss void of any religious thought or debate, contenting themselves with a philosophy of ‘live and let live.’
For hundreds of years, the United States of America has stood forth as the bearer of light, a place of refuge for the politically and religiously oppressed and the greatest missionary sending nation ever! But where are we today?
The most recent count of babies that have been aborted since the infamous Roe vs Wade decision in 1973 is around 60,000,000. Yes, 60,000,000!
Six states have abortion until viability laws which allow late third trimester abortions.
Gay marriage is held in high esteem.
In complete opposition to simple biology, Americans are now allowed to choose their gender or opt for no gender at all.
As we read in the article by Bonnie Kristian, the Judeo-Christian world view is plunging out of favor and will soon become the minority opinion in America.
The coronavirus pandemic has also demonstrated how quickly state governments would move to close churches and restrict the rights of believers to educate, raise and care for their own families.
On the political front the nation is moving left at a rapid pace led by the millennial generation – left is where, the ideals of Karl Marx reside. Marx saw religion as harmful to his revolutionary goals, as it prevented people from seeing what he perceived as the class structure and oppression around them, thus religion stands in the way of socialist revolution!
So where is America today? Or more relevant where does the church in America stand today? Does our focus remain on Jesus and Jesus alone, or are we distracted by the political, social or economic threats that surround us?
I fear we are becoming like the church in Ephesus who our Lord proclaimed over as recorded by John in the Book of Revelation, chapter 2, verses 1 – 5:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name and have tried not to grow weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love! Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
What do you think holds back judgment in America today? Surely it is His Body. But, have we allowed the collapsing values of America, the political turmoil, the current coronavirus pandemic, the economic regression, the threat of socialism and the threats to religious freedom to take our focus off the Kingdom, and more importantly off the King.
Do we look to Fox News or to social media for the solutions or do we practice meditating on His Word and seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading in these troubled times?
I do believe that the Lord is taking us into a period of trial in this nation. The opposition to Judeo-Christian values will increase exponentially, but even in these days of oppression, God has set Kingdom parameters in place –
by the establishment of a constitutionally conservative bench in the Supreme Court (it is conceivable that at least portions of the Roe vs Wade judgement will be reversed during 2021 term of the Court).
and by the recognition of Israel’s right of existence, by the moving of the U.S Embassy to Jerusalem, as well the brokering of peace accords with some of Israel’s Arab neighbors.
The next two years, at least, may well be extremely difficult for conservatives and particularly Christian conservatives in America. I believe it will be a time of purification in the body of Christ, where everything that can be shaken will be shaken.
“On Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook the earth. But now He has promised, saying, ‘Once more I will shake the earth and the heavens.’
When God says, ‘Once more,’ He means He will take away everything of this world that can be shaken so the things that cannot be shaken will be left.
Since we have received a Kingdom that cannot be moved, let us be thankful. Let us please God and worship Him with honor and fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29)
The removal of the lampstand from America may well depend on how we as believers respond during this time of upheaval. “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Now here comes the encouraging part. As we do repent and do the things that we did at first – remember the passion for Jesus and the evangelical zeal you had when you were first saved. I remember that a few days after I was saved, I went back to the bars that I had previously frequented and jumped up on one of the tables to tell all my former acquaintances that I had be transformed by the saving touch of Jesus.
As we return to our first Love, our lives and perspective on reality will change completely and as the old worship song goes,
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace...”
Jesus assures us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)