Lift One Another Up

     Last Sunday, right after the third service here at OT, I jumped in the car with a couple of our men and we raced up to catch the 1:00 service at Calvary Chapel Godspeak in Thousand Oaks. I somehow thought we'd get there on time, but it's at least a 90-minute drive and we arrived about ten minutes into the sermon. 

Others from our church had attended the 9:00 service and the 11:00. Pastor Dave had arrived at about 7:00 just to encourage everyone, and—wow!—did they ever need it! Almost instantly the news spread over the campus: "Christians from Orange have come! Their pastor is with them!" Everyone kept telling him how blessed they were by our visit. By the time my little trio arrived, members of the church were telling me, by name, which of you had arrived at the earlier services! It was a lot of fun. 

It took a little courage for those who came that day. We had been told that the pastor might be arrested; that the first 1,000 worshippers would be given misdemeanor citations. The Ventura City Council had procured a court order to that effect. I'm sorry if my e-mail came across a little alarming; but I had to let you all know that there was the risk of a citation.

None of us came to 'protest'. Pastor Rob McCoy had issued a plea: "no protesters please; just come and worship with us." And that's what we did; because they needed the encouragement. They needed to know they weren't all alone. 

It was a beautiful worship service and a godly sermon: all about Philip's decision to leave the comfort of his Jerusalem home and follow that lonely empty desert road to Gaza. Philip did that because God told him to. And, of course that brought an amazing encounter with an official from the royal court of "Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians". That's Acts chapter 8, by the way, and isn't it interesting that their church is studying the Book of Acts just like we are! I wonder why?

There were a few hecklers out in the parking lot. They had been coming to disrupt every week for quite some time already. In fact, that was one of the reasons why the church didn't  worship outdoors. But when Pastor Dave asked about them, one dear women spoke right up: "Oh, that's Andy. He comes every week: we just witness to him when he comes." 

 Later another group, carrying American flags and signs, showed up to confront the protestors. I suppose they thought they were helping, but they weren't! They were not members of the church, and they were not 'worshippers'. But that didn't stop the local news from splashing the headline, right on cue: "Worshippers clash with protestors". But we were there! We know that's not true. The worshippers were all inside, just as sweet as they could be. 

I'm so glad we got to go and I think everyone that went felt the same way. 

As Christians we all belong to one Church, His Church, and because of that, we must encourage each other and lift each other up. Calvary Chapel Godspeak doesn't do everything we're doing in response to the COVID crisis. But that is not the criteria for our 'oneness', is it? I certainly hope not! Each church must decide on its own how it will step its way through this minefield and survive this thing in the end. Regardless of how they decide to address it, I still want to encourage them.  

Here's the truth of it dear ones: every single church is hurting because of this thing, no matter what they choose to do. Those who cannot meet all the demands, and those who obediently comply with each one: all of them are hurting.  

In the shut-down, on-line churches, thousands now never enjoy the fellowship of one another. And even among the most compliant of churches that gather; seniors and single ones sit alone in their rows, as if they are a threat. They are perfectly healthy people, but no one will hug them; no one draw near. 

The other day on a patio I saw two chairs with signs side-by-side. One chair said 'welcome to sit' and the chair right next to it said: "near and dear only please". I'm sure someone thought that was clever and cute, but what does that tell our dear single ones these days? 

Every church and every Christian is hurting now. Do what you can to encourage! Our church has always made that a priority. Over the years we have shared our building, sent offerings, sent personnel and teams of workers to help other churches whenever there is a need. 

Right now, more than ever, we must make a special effort, not to let this terrible panic divide the beautiful Church of our Savior. 

Encourage every Christian, encourage every church to the best of your ability. And pray that God gets us through this terrible time. 

As it turns out, the Sherriff did show up that morning. He announced that he had no intention of issuing citations. Praise God! Instead he dispelled the little confrontation in the parking lot. Everyone went home safe and encouraged. And  that morning, at every service, members of that church expressed their gratitude to CCOT's members for driving all that way, just to lift them up. 

Next week, we'll hear from Archie and Erin about their experience with this. You'll love it.

 

See you Sunday!                           RAS 

"By Doing Good"
Modeling Christ To Our Children!