I’m honestly having a hard time with this whole online church thing.
This last Sunday, I watched our church’s Palm Sunday service. Seeing members of our worship band on the screen (six feet apart) was a blessing, but it definitely wasn’t the same as gathering in our building for corporate worship. My pastor gave a wonderful, powerful message, but watching him on a screen lacked the connection I am used to. It’s the best we can do in this season, but I still feel like I haven’t been in church for a month – because I actually haven’t.
Since I got saved in high school, my Christianity has included church services, small group Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, conferences, and retreats. Gathering with God’s people makes up the bulk of my socializing, and I’d even call it my culture. But all of that has come to a halt, and it has been quite disorienting. And I know I’m not alone. When we are used to connecting with God in a certain way, the disruption in routine can be shocking to our whole relationship with Christ. While we know it’s not the case, many of us have felt as if the absence of corporate church, worship, and fellowship is the absence of God Himself.
So what will Easter Sunday be like without the lilies on the stage? Without little girls in new dresses and boys in starched shirts arriving to church with Peeps dust in the corners of their smiles? Without grandmas in hats, without ushers in ties, without the well-rehearsed full worship band, and without the polished pastor in his Sunday-best suit? It will just not be the same.
But perhaps the church actually needs a different Easter. Perhaps what the church needs more than anything this Easter is this stripping away of everything except the plain striking beauty of the empty grave and the risen Savior.
Could this time of forced separation from our faith communities actually be a disguised gift of reconnection to the direct access we have to God? Is the removal of religious routine a recipe for revival?
Perhaps we have become so dependent on our modern forms of worship that we have diminished the simplicity of connecting with Jesus through His word and through prayer.
We are used to being spoon-fed solid messages, led into worship by gifted musicians, and cheered on by other faith-filled Jesus followers. But what kind of Jesus followers are we when we have none of that? What does our Christianity look like when there is no one else around but the people we live with, or when we are totally alone? Most of us have never had to find out, but now we will.
Paul spent a total of five and a half years in either a prison cell or under house arrest, away from the congregations he loved so much. We can be sure that he did not spend his time binge-watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media like many of us have done these last weeks. With nothing but the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, Paul drew near to God and advanced His kingdom while in confinement. He labored in prayer, received visions and revelations directly from God, and wrote letters of encouragement that nourish our souls thousands of years later. Isolation made Paul a deeper follower of Jesus. Oh, to have even half of that fortitude and grit to pursue Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom in our present circumstances!
The truth is, I have the same scriptures and the same Holy Spirit available, but I often lack the self-discipline and motivation to pursue Christ on my own. I prefer to be a spoon-fed consumer who can conveniently grab what I need of God and go on with my easy life. I am a lazy Christian, and I don’t think I’m alone.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7) Asking, seeking, and knocking are all active verbs that require me to intentionally pursue Christ. It is surely how Paul spent his time in prison, and it’s what I am being challenged to do in my own season of confinement.
So I’m wanting to repent. I truly want to get to the end of this season having spent my time exercising the spiritual disciplines I’ve allowed to get out of shape. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, I have all I need to run this race of asking, seeking, and knocking with endurance. So do you.
So let’s allow the void of our normal forms of worship to bring us to a renewed understanding of the simplicity of the gospel and an increased pursuit of intimacy with Christ. In our time of isolation, may our appetites be increased for the foundational things of our own private faith – Bible reading, scripture memorization, prayer and worship. May His word become more precious to us as we read it for ourselves, and may we expect a more intimate understanding of the heart and mind of the Savior as we redeem the time we have been given in isolation.
This Sunday, I want the world around us to watch as God’s people proclaim that Jesus is worthy of our worship - because like our churches, the tomb is empty.
Top Photo: First day of first grade
Bottom Photo: Last day of senior year
Today it really hit me. I’m done homeschooling. Although the younger kids will still live at home next year, the season of formally educating my children at home has ended after 20 years. It’s a reality I had little control over, and today I feel proud and sad at the same time.
I’m proud that by God’s grace, we finished, and they all still like me a little. They each got to learn according to their own gifts and strengths. Even though I really should have made them do more math, and I never opened the Latin curriculum I spent a fortune on, each of them is actually quite brilliant in unique ways. They are talented, articulate, kind, creative, and passionate, and for those things, I’m proud.
Most importantly, in spite of my failings, each of them recognized their own need for a Savior, and they chose to follow Jesus. That has delighted my life and made me prouder than any other thing. Homeschooling certainly wasn’t a guarantee for their salvation, but I got to see it happen while they were home.
I’ve had 20 years of projects and discovery, field trips and curriculum fairs, co—ops, math-induced tears, countless hours of reading aloud, and seemingly endless messes- except it all HAS ended, and now I’m a little sad.
I’m sad it’s over. No more researching curriculums, planning enrichment activities, and attending co-op meetings. The lapbooks, projects, unit studies, and nature walks are sadly over. I am sad they don’t want to snuggle on the couch on a rainy day and listen to me read some fantastic story till my voice hurts- and then beg for just one more chapter. They won’t dress up and play pioneers in the back yard anymore, and playing games in the driveway with math facts and Spanish vocabulary is no longer written in my schedule.
But we did it and it was good. It was wonderful and exhausting, beautiful and messy, crazy and fun. God was faithful through it all. My children have grown into people I genuinely like. I’d want to be friends with them even if they weren’t my kids. It’s supposed to end so we can enjoy what He has for us next.
22 years ago I started a life-long adventure with Brent Kaser that I was quite ill-prepared for. In honor of our wedding anniversary, here are 22 things I’d tell myself as a new bride:
Well, I’ve made another trip to LAX airport. That’s not a big deal seeing as I’ve driven that horseshoe of arrivals and departures over 300 times in the last 20 years. Being a missions pastor’s wife, I am in the position of continually telling people what war-torn, desolate place my husband is currently in, or what dangerous destination he is scheduled to be in next month. This month, he is on a 28 day trip to Nepal and Uganda. God has called Brent to preach the gospel and disciple believers in some of the most impoverished, spiritually depraved places in the world, and he absolutely loves his job.
When I talk with people that don’t know us well about what he does and where he goes, there are two responses that I typically receive from them. Some think that we are reality-blind fools and that we have some sort of death wish. Others think that we are super-spiritual pillars of faith, somehow on a holier plain than others. Neither of these ideas are true.
The Kasers do not have a death wish. Truthfully, my greatest fears are being widowed or my children being orphaned. We are very aware of the risks that we take every time Brent goes into these places, but we have decided that not obeying God’s call to go is far more dangerous.
But that certainly doesn’t make us super holy spiritual giants. I have often been in a puddle of fearful tears, telling God that I’d really love it if He’d call us to minister in Hawaii instead. We have had extreme lapses in faith and both of us have had to repent more often that I’d like to share. I’m ashamed to tell you some of our biggest marital fights have been in the days before, after, and even during mission trips.
And yet, I will say that we have learned a few things along the way that have allowed the LAX departures and arrivals to continue.
Several years ago, before Brent was scheduled to go to Nepal during a civil war, I was battling with intense fear. I was pregnant, parked in my driveway, begging the Lord to somehow cancel the trip because I didn’t want to take any risks. I wanted Brent to stay home where it was safe and predictable.
I know the Lord spoke to me that night. The scripture came to my heart like a rocket. “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it. “ (Mark 8:35)
Right there, I had to make a choice. Either I could continue in fear, and convince my husband to stay home where I felt like we were in control of things- that would have been “saving my life”; but the cost of doing that would have been to lose the life that God had called us to. The other option was to trust God and lose my safe predictable life, and gain the life that God had for us.
That word from the Lord has come back to me countless times as I’ve made that drive to LAX. Through the years, trusting God has become easier because we’ve been given so many chances to do it! My trust in God’s ability to protect my husband in Africa in June of 2018 is based on what I have seen through 18 years of faithful protection on dozens of trips. But I am still learning.
It always comes down to the fact that either I really believe that God is totally in control, and I can trust Him with my husband’s life, or my “faith” is only lip-service, and I really don’t believe the things I say I do.
Trust is not something we need to “feel.” It is a decision we make based on what we know. Trust is not an emotion we will into our hearts by positive thinking. We cannot convince ourselves to believe or to have more faith. Rather, trust is a building process. When we first believe in Christ for salvation, the foundation of our faith is laid. The rest of our lives we spend building upon that foundation. The building materials are the test and trials of everyday life.
God doesn’t use the same circumstances for each of us to test our faith. But, be assured, we are all tested. The testing of our faith is not so God can see if we trust Him—He already knows if we do or not. Rather, testing reveals to us whether we really live by what we claim to believe. The true test of our belief comes in a very practical package, where we have to choose to put our faith into practice. All the rest is just sentimental talk.
There is one final element of faith that I want to point out. For all of us, faith something we can’t see. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) Believing in something we can’t see involves risk, and that is the hard part. Are we willing to jump off a cliff simply because Someone has said He will catch us at the bottom? That is the dilemma set before us all, whether LAX is involved or not.
After hundreds of airport trips, I still need to choose to believe He will catch me.