Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Value of a Local Church Where God Is

Israel had split into two nations, the 10 tribes in the North, with Judah and Benjamin in the south. Jeroboam had led the northern tribes away from the Lord years earlier, but the southern tribes were still seeking Him, even after a few spiritual potholes and detours along the way.

Having fought off the “million man march” of warring Ethiopians, King Asa of Judah had proven that the Lord would help “the weak” even if they faced the mighty. Perhaps it was this grand display of God’s presence with Asa that caused a minor exodus out of the northern 10 tribes.

“for great numbers had deserted to him [Asa] from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.” (2 Chronicles 15:9b)

In other words, when it was clear that God was with Asa – that is where the godly went. For many, it meant severe upheaval, the purchase of a new home, long travel, and the accusation of desertion.

In my summer travels I was alarmed the lack of churches preaching Jesus. Others have written of the same thing. Even in a city the size of Toronto, there are comparitively very few churches where one might say, “God is with them.”

I have also been thinking a great deal about the brevity of life, being 40 and all... and that leads me to this conclusion. I think Christians ought to do whatever it takes to be a part of a church where God is present. I have met too many that try to “get by” in a place where He is not. Worse, I have seen some determine their home by elevating temporal values above eternal. What I mean is folks pick a place to live based on its supposed safety, home value, nice neighbourhoods, and overall “pleasantness and potential.” I think this sniffs of idolatry. As nice as these things are, do they matter if you do not have a church where God is present? In our shortsightedness we often get this confused.

I am proposing that there may come a point in a Christian's life where it is obvious “the Lord has left the building” and it is time to find out with whom He is meeting so you can be there. I am not promoting hero worship or personality cults, nor suggesting that you should "take off" the first Sunday your pastor strikes out or someone sins against you! Rather, I am suggesting that being in a good church is worth living in a less desirable place and incurring a cost to get there.

It certainly was to the families from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who pulled up anchor in the north to stick with God in the south.