Scripture is clear that, through his Spirit and his word, God will provide all our needs.
These posts will help keep us focused on God during this unique season.
Scripture is clear that, through his Spirit and his word, God will provide all our needs.
These posts will help keep us focused on God during this unique season.
The Church is Not a Building
The buildings may be closed but the church is alive
I’ve been reading various articles about how God is growing the church. By church of course I mean the body of Christ, the people. Pastors and church communities are becoming more innovative about how they are spreading the Good News of Jesus. The unsaved are becoming more curious as posts about God’s goodness are becoming more available.
Churches around the world are seeing growth in the numbers of salvation. God can and does use the circumstances around us for his glory. Why is all this chaos happening around the world? God knows why. That ought to be enough information to sit back, pray and ask how God can use you in the church, in your community while we wait on Him.
We sometimes may measure God’s goodness on how happy we are. We may occasionally focus on what we want and whether or not we are getting it. Therefore, sometimes people will say, “Where is God?”, when we don’t have things happen when we want. God is and always has been in control. Part of his plan may be to grow the church and bring the unsaved and Christian to their knees during this time of uncertainty in the world. If it is, it’s working. It’s also bringing the church closer together.
At no time does God want you to fear, to waiver or to take on the burdens around you. He does not want you to live moment by moment based on the news and information that is engineered to instill fear in us. That much we can be certain of. We can’t and shouldn’t try to figure out what God is doing. By now we should be settled into the trust and obey part of our life. We should continue to be waiting on our Lord. It’s that simple.
Keep being faithful, keep loving, and keep serving. When we do, we serve as a church. We testify God’s sovereignty to others by our actions and inactions. Isn’t God worthy of that from us? We know He is. It’s not always easy. We know that too. In the end, whenever that happens and whatever that looks like, it will be worth it. There are many in the world who have endured, who are enduring and who will probably endure much more than we ever will. My hope for us all is to persevere, keep being faithful, keep loving, and keep serving. It’s going to be okay.
Finally, I love unity. I love that Jesus left us with a command to love one another. The church is a lot more universal than our church body. As true Christians around the world, we share the same God. We have the same hope. We are offered the same peace.
What follows here, you may have already read. I posted it on my Facebook page.
What would happen if you asked dozens of Christians who may have never met to sing together at various times, apart? What if a song was written with a message that contained a biblical blessing? A blessing such as, “May God bless you and keep you.” A heart’s desire for God’s goodness on you. There is a link below to a song that I’d ask you to watch and listen to.
What is it about the joy that God brings to the life of these Christians that they can sing in solitude in their own homes and express the same joy, apart? To watch this and hear them you’d think they were all in the same place at the same time with the same message. Look at their faces while they sing. Despite their possible differences in culture and perspective on Christianity, they have the same desire to connect with the same God.
Like many people, they too are stuck in their homes. They are going through the same difficulties as their community around them. There is a difference though. The joy and peace that they have despite what is going on in the world comes from the same Holy Spirit within them.
Here is a note to the various readers of this page. You may not understand who God is, what He is doing, or what He is not doing. You may not want to understand. I don’t know you and I hope that you know if you don’t have peace in your life, you can. If you have ever wondered what peace and joy look like from the perspective of a Christian, here is an example in the video below. Take a few minutes and just listen and notice the countenance of the singers who are either few in number or alone. They are recording their part of this collective song. They sing from their hearts in the unity of Christ. The song is not for the singers, it is a message for you. This song is offered as a blessing given by God through Moses translated in a song.
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
In the peace of our Lord,
Proclaim Jesus at the Grocery Store
If you buy groceries for yourself or your family, you can share Christ with people at the checkout counter. The world typically treats buying groceries as a mere business deal. But in John 4, Jesus turned his need for water into a time to proclaim salvation. We Christians can know that Jesus would want us to do the same in similar situations.
Remember this simple formula: ask and proclaim.
First step: ask how the person is doing. The person you buy groceries from has a life and a family. Ask them how they are doing. If they have children or a spouse (Are their pictures around their register, rings, etc.?) ask if their family is ok.
Then, listen very closely. Try to remember every detail in their answer. Jesus was omniscient; we are not. So we must focus our minds on that person as we listen. Some will share a brief answer; others, when you ask sincerely, may shock you with their willingness to share things that cause them pain. Listen.
Between step one and step two is this important factor: do they ask you the same question?
If they don't ask you anything, here's one example of what I might say, "Praise God. I'm glad things are going well." You can say that if they tell you that they and their loved ones are doing well.
If they don't ask you anything, but they tell you something that is wrong or that someone they love is not well, I might say, "I'm so sorry. I'll ask God to help him/her."
Feel free to improvise and extend these responses as the Spirit leads you, of course. After you leave the store, your job is to ask God to help that person, or their family, and for God to give you another opportunity to follow up with the gospel.
But if they do ask you something. The second step is to proclaim. What exactly is proclaiming?
There are two main ways the Bible tells us how to do evangelism: "reasoning" and "proclaiming". Some people are good at explaining, defending, and even debating (nicely, of course) with people as they tell about Jesus. These are "reasoners". In Acts, Paul often goes to the synagogue or city square and "reasons" with those he meets.
But that is not the only method. Reasoning is complex and, sometimes, difficult. Many people are afraid to evangelize because of fear they will lose a debate.
On the other hand, proclaiming doesn't need any dialogue! It is very simple. All Christians can do it. Children included.
Proclaiming is when people tell others that Jesus saves. It requires a deep-seated love for people and love for Jesus. You can read about proclaiming in Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" That word "preach" is also translatable as "proclaim". It means a bold, intentional attempt to get a message to someone.
Second step: if the clerk asks you about how you are doing, proclaim the gospel. Romans 10:9 says people must confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead. So proclaiming the gospel is telling people about 1) why Jesus died and rose and 2) that he is Lord over all.
Here are some ways you can answer the question, "How are you doing?" and proclaim the good news:
Ways to say Jesus is Lord:
"Jesus has blessed us. He hasn't let any of my family die/get sick from COVID-19."
"Its been hard to deal with our (job situation/finances/sickness), but we trust Jesus to take care of us."
If Jesus is Lord, he is in control. That's what the passage on Sunday taught, "... you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him" (John 17:2). These answers show that you are trusting in Jesus and that you have submitted to his Lordship over all.
Ways to share about Jesus death and resurrection:
"I have peace because Jesus died for my sins. I know that whether I die tomorrow or in ___ years, I'll be ok."
"I'm not worried about death. God raised Jesus to life and I know he will raise me, too."
Yes, these statements are unusual in the context of normal conversation. When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman in John 4, it was definitely unusual and uncomfortable for her. The issue with sharing the gospel isn't, "Does this feel normal or awkward?" The issue is, "Does this proclaim the truth about salvation?" You are showing your cards. You are being bold. It may be uncomfortable. But it is what people need to know. And God may use it to bring salvation.
If we have received Christ's grace and submitted to his Lordship, we need to obey his command to tell others about him. I pray that we are faithful with the opportunities he gives us.
Stay the Course
I’m hearing about a lot of people who are getting anxious these days. Not about COVID-19, but about getting back to a life that they miss. A life that they want and feel that they have been deprived of for several weeks now. Many have lost their trust in those making the decisions for us and feel that they have been deceived or lied to.
So how do we respond to all of this? What actions are we taking to satisfy our needs, desires, and “rights”? Whatever we do, we need to always ensure that we are not violating the most important standards. The standards that’s outlined in the Bible for us. While it doesn’t speak directly to the pandemic that we are experiencing, it says a lot about our conduct as witnesses for Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t let our behavior get in the way of witnessing to those who are struggling without Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” We should refrain from taking matters into our own hands and making decisions that contradict what authorities have directed. This requires patience and perseverance that can only come from keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. This also includes refraining from making comments that show anger and disdain for leaders whom God has providentially put in office. Philippians 2:14-16 tells us to “do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.” I firmly believe that God is sovereign, in charge, and I can fully trust Him.
Instead of complaining, we ought to be praying for our leaders. We ought to be praying for ourselves and for one another. Choose to let the Holy Spirit direct our thoughts and actions. Present ourselves as a living sacrifice for God, displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, regardless of our circumstances.
We also do better when we strive together! We can’t meet in person without social distancing but we have the technology that can bring us together. We should take advantage of this and not remain alone and isolated. This past Sunday, there were a few who video streamed with the Burns family in Japan to see how they were doing and to be an encouragement to them. This would also be a great time and opportunity to send a message of encouragement to the missionaries that you support! Many of them often find themselves alone and can feel discouraged.
Some of you are still meeting online to do small group bible studies. That is great! I am also encouraged to hear about those of you who are making a difference in other peoples lives with phone calls, text messages, and even dropping off little surprises. The neighborhood outreach that we did last week went extremely well and many families were blessed. The response we had in bringing in items for these families was remarkable.
Your faithfulness in giving has also been a blessing. Some have been asking how we are doing financially. While giving has been down a little, as you could expect with the stay at home order and some not working, we have not had to touch our emergency fund. We are not spending as much now but we have been able to pay our salaries, our bills, and we believe that God will continue to provide for us as we pursue Him.
In His Service,
It’s The Little Things
It’s true, little things mean a lot. Sometimes, you can serve God by thinking of someone else and letting them know that you are thinking about them.
When you have a chance, today, do something kind for someone. Has anyone ever done something kind or generous for you that was unexpected? The odds are the answer to that would be yes. It may not have even been a big thing, but it was something.
When I was with WestHill’s Youth Group a few years ago, my birthday was coming up. I didn’t really give it much thought. At the time, I probably already had about 52 of them. I didn’t really think that the Youth Group would make an effort to do anything special for me because I usually don’t make any effort to let anyone know it was coming up. But, my daughter knew.
Paige, had secretly communicated to each kid in the Youth Group to write me a note. Not just a Happy Birthday wish. But a note telling me something about me that they appreciated. She did this with enough thought and effort ahead of time, so that she could gather these notes together and put them into a folder. Some of the notes were rich in color with pictures and kind thoughts of appreciation. Many were a short penned reflection of gratitude of time spent with them, “thank you for taking care of us” or a favorite memory. I received over twenty of these messages in my folder.
When Paige handed it to me and told me that it was from the Youth Group, I opened it with curiosity. Once I opened it, I saw right away what it was and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t read any of them. I was so moved with the gesture I teared up right away. I couldn’t read them. She said, “Dad, read them. They wrote them for you.” So, I gave it another shot and I pushed through it. To have all these notes from the kids I learned to love, filled my heart with the rewards of joy they each brought into my life. The kids told me things that they may not have necessarily expressed to me, if not initiated by my daughter. So, I now encourage you to do the same. The notes were a small, simple thing to do with a maximum effect. I was moved by the gesture. The idea may not have come from the kids, but the words and sincere thoughts did.
I say all this to say, what if you took some time today to do the same thing for one, or several people? It doesn’t have to be a note. It could be a phone call. Think outside the box and let someone know how much you appreciate them. When you have a chance, today, do something kind for someone.
We have the common bond of Christ in our church. He moves us to act for the sake of others on his behalf. We can all agree His act of obedience and sacrifice was an ultimate display of selflessness. He was thinking of each of us when he submitted to His Father’s will. The least we can do is be selfless for others in ways He moves us to do.
A few weeks ago, a couple in our church, I’ll call them the Shmorensons to protect their identity. They went out visiting people in the church. Wearing protective gear, they pulled up outside of our house on a beautiful day and handed us pre-packaged Rice Krispy Treats with the note written on them, “God loves you.” What a treat it was! Not just to have a great snack, but to unexpectedly see them. What a pleasant surprise to be thought of by them. I thought about the effort behind what they did and the time that it took and that they made the time to do it. That was so kind and thoughtful and it made our day. Any of us can do something like that for each other.
When you have a chance today, write someone an unexpected note and don’t just wish them a good day, tell them why you thought about them. Tell them how important they are to you. Share a memory that you both have and how they made you feel during that time. You may be the very thing they needed to get through the day. It’s nice to be thought of. It’s even better when someone takes the time to let you know they were thinking about you. It is so true, little things mean a lot.
May God bless you and keep you safe until we can worship together again under the same roof.
1 John 4: 7-11
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.
Living with Certainty and Purpose in Uncertain Times
We are living in uncertain times. We don’t know what to expect and can’t predict what is around the corner in our daily lives. Are we going to have more imposed restrictions? Are they going to lift the restrictions? Are they going to let us go back to work? While we don’t know the answers to many of these questions, that doesn’t mean we have to live with uncertainty. The Bible gives us many promises that we can be certain about. These are the things that we should be clinging to and living our lives by. We can find courage, hope, peace, and comfort through our God during times of uncertainty.
These are just a few of the many promises that we can find security and hope in.
We are approaching the one-month mark of our stay home directive. Many don’t like it, are getting tired of it, and miss the freedoms they once had. While one month may seem like a long time, it causes many to wonder, how much longer? When the Israelites were taken captive as slaves in Egypt, they didn’t know how long they would remain in Egypt. I wonder what they were thinking and how they were living during the first month of their 400-year captivity. Or, when God finally set them free, what they were thinking after the first month in the wilderness.
I don’t write this to put a damper on our lives. I write this because it has caused me to think about what trust I have in God that He is sovereign and that He is orchestrating every event and every day in our lives. He is also sovereign and controls every molecule of the COVID-19 just as He did with every plague in Egypt. These things are completely out of our control, but I find comfort in knowing that God is in complete control of everything.
I see many posts on Facebook that urge people to forward the Lord’s Prayer to friends with a goal of the masses reciting it so that the Lord will remove this virus. There are many other attempts to help intervene on behalf of God to take control of what is not under our control. I, like many of you look forward to getting through this, but my hope is not that someone find a cure for the virus, or that we conquer it through our actions such as quarantining ourselves. My hope is that this virus is conquered and removed in such a way that no human or humanity as a whole can take credit for it. That it would be removed in a miraculous way that people would have to say that it could only have been done by God, in the same way and purpose that God did miracles in the Old Testament. So that, all people will know that I am the LORD! In a way that God would be glorified. While this is my hope, I recognize that God will do what He wills, and that He already has His plan.
So what does this mean for us? What responsibilities do we have? How should we be responding? One way is to streamline our lives to the important, “essential” things in life. Essential has become a regular word in our vocabulary. As we think about essential things, they should be synonymous with eternal things. What things are we focusing on that have eternal value and that are centered on God and His plan for our life? What are the things that really matter in God’s economy?
As we focus more on what really matters in our lives, my prayer is that it takes each one of us through and beyond the different stages of responses that this pandemic has brought to many.
The first stage was probably that of fear. Did we get caught up in the frenzy and panic that the world was experiencing? Were we responding to the emotions of people around us? Did we feel like we needed to go after toilet paper and other “essentials” that everyone else was anxious about? Most of us quickly moved pass that.
The second stage most of us found ourselves in was the learning stage. We recognized that we were not to be anxious about anything and to let go of things that are really out of our control and put our trust in God. This learning stage caused us to adapt to the changes around us and caused us to establish “new norms” for our lives. We learned to verify and filter information as we heard it. Some of you developed new habits, spent more time on important things like reading your Bible and valuing family time more. Many of these new habits were focused more on our relationship with God than on our circumstances. As Pastor David pointed out in last week’s blog perhaps you’ve learned to adapt new habits such as binge praying.
As a result of this learning stage, it naturally moves us toward a growth stage. In this stage we begin to find and focus more on clarity and purpose that God has for our lives. We shift our focus from just thinking about ourselves to our relationship with God and with others that He has place around us. I see many of you who are spending more time and resources in encouraging, caring for and serving one another. This growth stage also finds many of you experiencing joy and being thankful to God. We are growing in our love for God and for one another.
I don’t know how much longer or even if I will see things go back to how they used to be. What I do know is that God already has my life planned out. Whether He calls me home or He returns during all of this, I want to focus on finishing strong. I want to be doing the “essential” things that He has called each one of us to be doing. I want to live my life and do things that are pleasing to Him. I want others to see Christ in me and to also know that God is indeed Lord of all!
Almost a decade ago, when online streaming services started to broadcast movies and TV shows and create their own content, America coined a new phrase: binge-watching.
Before binge-watching, there was binge-gaming. In the late 1980s, my next-door neighbor got a Nintendo and spent hours on it until he beat Super Mario Brothers. My brother and I were envious of him and frustrated that our parents never let us own a Nintendo. (Now, as a parent, I understand why.)
I think there is a common reason many people enjoy binge-watching, binge-gaming, and, for some, still, binge-reading: it immerses us in another world.
Do we ever "binge-pray"?
A Google search for "binge-watching" yields over 6.5 million hits. On a hunch, I Googled the term "binge-praying" and got 117 hits. My best guess is there isn't much binge-praying going on.
The difference between the two is this: extended prayer-time draws on the power of God to bring us into his will; extended screen-time depends on human ingenuity to distract us. One can lead to puffy eyes, missed deadlines, or short tempers. The other, done from a pure heart, leads to maturity and peace.
The Bible's list of those who binge-prayed is noteworthy: Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, Ezra, Jesus, and many others.
Each of these men already had a pattern of daily prayer. For instance, almost in passing, Daniel 6:10 records that Daniel prayed three times every day. The reason for the mention of this pattern was that the king's edict interrupted it. This pattern was the norm for observant Jews then and today.
But, in special cases, these men abandoned their normal routine and prayed the entire "morning" or "evening" (Matt 14:28; Mark 1:35), "all night" (2 Sam 12:16; Ezra 10:6; Luke 6:12), or even "days" (Deut. 9:18; Esther 4:16). I encourage you to look up the circumstances of these extended prayers. You will find a number of different reasons; but each person prayed out of a deep regard for God and depended on his sovereign power.
Remember, these were people with normal lives like ours. They needed to earn money, eat, sleep, and do all the daily tasks people do. But, from time to time, they isolated themselves in order to pray for hours without interruption. This was not a cultural norm during Bible times and it is equally unusual today.
Some sad examples show what others did while these godly people prayed. When Moses was "delayed" as he prayed on Mount Sinai, Genesis 32 records that the people made themselves an idol and committed sexual immorality. When Jesus asked his disciples to "keep watch" during his prayer before his death, he also commanded, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Mark 14:38). But they fell asleep instead and, consequently, fell into temptation during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
We can observe a pattern in these failures: fleshly desires often distract your best spiritual intentions. Once you make time to isolate yourself in prayer, you will likely struggle with flesh-based distractions.
Just remember the pattern that the Bible teaches: those who seek out God in extended prayer become more effective for God over time; those who refrain from prayer become disengaged from God and, thus, vulnerable to sin. Growing in this area is a process of discovering God's power and your dependance on him. And, as with any process, it takes time.
The first step you can take is to ask yourself a few questions.
What is a major issue or concern that you need to take to God?
When is a time during your week when you can plan some extended prayer?
What is a reasonable way you can have this time of uninterrupted prayer?
Some may find a place in their home where they can be alone. A long walk will work for others. Some who can't have either may simply need to sacrifice time early in the morning or late at night.
Each person will need to find a unique way to make themselves available to God for an extended period. There is no formula. But there is a promise of peace for those who do it.
An Opportunity to Grow
One of God’s great callings for Christians is to value and train our children. For those of you who live with children, let me tell you why it’s a gift it is to be at home with children right now. For those of you who don’t currently have children in the home, this can benefit you as well.
First understand that our culture, often unknowingly, resents children and treats them as an inconvenience. I witnessed this first hand as a teacher in the public school system. Lawmakers, teachers, and administrators in the public school system often project a deep concern for children when the opposite is true. There are good people in each category, but the system as a whole places job security, income, and political correctness ahead of the best interests of children. Consequently, many people in this system actually resent children far more than they would have you know. I have heard teachers say things about their students that would shock you. I have also seen administrators and lawmakers mishandle discipline in ways that should have disqualified them from employment (or at least qualified them for months of mandatory training). All the while, I have seen unions and political parties preserve and grow their power at the expense of the student, instead of the repairing the system.
Now, as Christians, God always teaches us to be the opposite of the selfish culture in which we live. This holds consistent with his teaching about treatment of our children. The Psalmist says this, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, fruit of the womb a reward.” (127:3, ESV). This means that, no matter how we feel about it, God has given us children to bless to us. This calls us to self-evaluate any time we want to put our own interests ahead of the best interests of our children. We must think of our children as a blessing from God.
One major application of this is that we must spend time genuinely investing in their spiritual well-being. Again, the Psalmist writes this about God, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” (78:5-7). Parents must teach God’s law, the Bible, to their children, who must pass their knowledge onward to the next generation.
While these are not new commands, we have always had an excuse for not spending time valuing our children and teaching them: lack of time. Typically, when we talk about the need to spend quality time with children, parents and others in the home will lament how busy they are.
Let's put aside the fact that technological advancements of the last 100 years have reduced most of the time parents used to spend on essential tasks. Let's put aside the fact that we parents abuse this free time with non-essential technology instead of being with our children. Let's address the excuse of "not enough time".
Here's the answer: the social issues caused by the COVID-19 virus have given us more free time with our children than most of us ever imagined we’d have. The time is there; now we just have to use it!
Now is the time to invest in the next generation by actively teaching them on a daily basis. As parents, we teach our children when we read to them from the Bible and other books about the Bible. We invest in them when we not only read, but have conversations with them about the how to understand God’s word and apply God’s truth. We invest in them spiritually when we sing songs about God with them. And it happens when we pray with them. Specifically, they need to be praying their requests and learning to pray according to the priorities in the Lord's prayer. We should do these things with our children at home on a daily basis, regardless of their age, and even more so now that we are all legally confined to our homes.
One final encouragement: in order to do this, you need to cultivate your own relationship with God. Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Our children depend on us being strong in our confidence and dependance on God. This doesn’t happen when we put up a front of spirituality; it happens when we embrace God as someone we read about, pray to, and sing about! This applies to those without children as well. We all become a greater blessing to the children of the church when we are strong in the Lord.
In short, this virus is an opportunity to improve in some of the ways we care for our children. Even more, it’s a chance to improve our relationship with God. If you haven’t been taking the opportunity yet, there is still time to begin new spiritual habits that will bless God, you, and those around you. I’m praying that we all make the most of that opportunity.
With the stay home directive issued, many of us are spending more time in front of our computers. In doing so, I found myself listening to more sermons and messages online. One thing that became very clear and consistent, especially at the beginning, was the number of pastors who preached on the topic of not living in fear. These were great messages with great reminders of how we are to live in times of trouble. It caused me to think if perhaps we should have done the same instead of continuing through our sermon series in the Gospel of John.
As I gave this more thought, and thinking about the body at WHC, fear was not something that came to mind as I thought about you all. I couldn’t think of anyone who would be living in fear and distraught, needing desperately to hear a message addressing that. It is clear that many of us are facing some pretty challenging times with health, financial, and many other concerns, but I find comfort in knowing that many of you are walking on solid ground with steadfastness in your faith and trust in Almighty God. I am also encouraged to hear about and see how many of you are reaching out to one another and checking on each other. We all do miss the fellowship and seeing one another but there are other ways that we can do that. Some of you have set up small group meetings using Zoom and other social media means to stay in touch. Most of these platforms are pretty easy to use. Look for announcements for when these meetings are occurring and join in.
I, like many of you have done a few studies through the book of James throughout the years, and are very familiar with chapter 1, verse 2-4. It reads, “Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith, produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I find it suffice to say that we are all facing trials of various kinds right now. James instructs us to not only refrain from living in fear, but to count it all joy when we face trials. We can all nod our heads up and down and know this intellectually, understanding that it is good for building up and strengthening our faith. But, how many of us right now are rejoicing in the circumstances that surrounds us as you read this? How do we do that? It is difficult if we find ourselves dwelling on these circumstances instead of keeping our eyes, hearts, and minds fixed on Christ, who is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
This past weekend, I found myself in the ER with tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing, and a blood pressure at 212/107. While laying in the hospital bed and feeling uncomfortable, these passages came to mind and God reminded me of how I could find true peace and even joy as I kept focused on Him. He was in charge and in control of everything, regardless of the outcome, and regardless of my approval or input.
As I look at the other things that I am witness to, I find joy in the way I see many of you
- using this time to study God’s Word more.
- keeping in touch and looking out for one another.
- encouraging one another.
- participating in providing our live stream sermons and time of worship
- growing in your prayer life
- sharing God’s Word and His promises on social media.
- being a light and witness to many who don’t know Christ.
- _______________________________________ you can fill this blank.
So, as I think about you all, I find joy in knowing that many of you are also growing in your faith through all of this. I am thankful to God for each one of you, for the bond that we have through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the way in which he brings us together even when this virus keeps us separated physically. I look forward to the day when we can meet face to face once again!
Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
In His Service and for His Glory,
What do you notice when you go shopping right now? I love to study people. And right now, when I go to the store, I see fearful people. Almost no one is smiling. They're buying up all the food staples, vitamins, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper they can get their hands on. Many are buying far more than they need despite the negative effect it has on others. Fear causes people to put their needs and desires above others.
In a short time, our country has become overwhelmed by fear. But as God’s people, we have a different set of priorities. Self-preservation is not one of them. Nor is fear.
Lately, I have been filled with gratitude to God for letting this crisis occur during our study of John 13-15. The lessons Jesus had for his disciples are the same ones we need to hear right now:
Care for each other as family.
Love each other sacrificially.
Don't allow yourselves to panic or become fearful.
Rejoice with Jesus.
Live in the peace Jesus has secured for us.
Remain in Jesus' love.
Those things are how Jesus wants us to be. And, as Rick preached this last Sunday, God has given us everything to become that way.
I want to share another verse that tells us how to respond to this crisis.
Romans 8:35-37 explains one of the fundamental truths we must remember:
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (CSB)
This passage is addressing a common problem: in times of crisis, we may feel like God’s love is missing.
If we feel unloved, that’s only our flesh talking. The Bible clearly tells us that God's adopted children are loved permanently in Christ, regardless of the situation, and especially in times of distress.
The promise of Romans 8:35-37 is simple: God will make us victorious in times of crisis. It’s guaranteed. But that doesn’t mean you will keep your job, your money, or even your life.
Victory, in Romans 8, means conforming to Christ. As Romans 8:29 already said, “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” God's goal for us is to conform to the character of Jesus Christ. And we reach that goal through trials like the coronavirus and all its accompanying distress.
The best thing we can do is to be aware of God’s work in us. If you have worries, they are based on earthly concerns. God wants you to be concerned with becoming more like Jesus Christ.
Is that your biggest concern?
If it is, then go to God in prayer today. Ask him to help you care for others in your spiritual family. Ask him to help you love others sacrificially. Ask him to not allow you to panic or become fearful. Rejoice with Jesus, because he has conquered and sits at God’s throne, interceding for us until we join him. Live in the peace he offers. Remain in his love. And enjoy the victory God gives you.
Hello WestHill Church family,
This is the first of several blogs that will be posted weekly by each of us pastors to keep you updated and or share God’s word. This first one is long so grab a snack and drink.
Well, here we are. We’ve missed our first Sunday together and anticipate several more to come. Few would have guessed that this is what would happen 3 months ago. But, here we are, a church group of Christ followers sitting in our homes while we ride this out, together.
As Christians, we have the Lord to lean on during the trials that may come to us over these next several weeks. At one time or another, while this continues, you may struggle. What that means is that you are human. One of our hopes is to stay connected to encourage each other while we wait to come together again. This is one great thing about our church,
we have Jesus and each other.
Imagine those who don’t know or have Christ. Picture a great majority of people in the world in a real panic and they only have themselves to get through this. As a Christian, if you are struggling, you know things they don’t know. You have a savior they don’t have. Look for opportunities to share Christ. Let’s lift one another up and look for ways to connect with the people around us who need Jesus in their life too.
Stay connected with each other as well.
I was reading in Matthew, chapter 9 today. This chapter tells us that Jesus had gotten into a boat and crossed over to his hometown. When he arrived, some men brought to him a paralytic man lying on a stretcher. Jesus healed the man. For this healing, he was accused of blaspheming by the Scribes.
Later, Jesus met Matthew. He told Matthew to get up and follow him. Matthew got up and followed Jesus, no questions asked. Later again, Jesus was seen eating with tax collectors and sinners. This was another opportunity for the Pharisees to bring accusation and malice on Christ. Jesus would respond to them, “For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Those sinners were just like me, just like us.
Jesus would heal a woman who had suffered bleeding for 12 years. This woman believed in Jesus so much, that she thought, “If I could just touch the hem of his robe.” That she would be healed. She touched his robe. She was healed. Not because the robe had healing power. She was healed because of her faith in Christ.
He raised a woman from the dead, at the request of the woman’s father, and was mocked over the idea of it before he did it. He met two blind men who believed in everything Jesus proclaimed about himself, Jesus healed them. Right after this, he drove out a demon from a possessed man who could not speak. The man spoke.
All these things took place and that was just chapter nine!
Right now you believe all of these things about Jesus. However, You watch or listen to the news. You hear about the virus updates, restrictions, speculation, blaming and conspiracy theories. You hear about a worldwide panic going on and now it is alarming to you. You know and have seen for yourself that some of our basic needs are disappearing off the store shelves and hear the same is happening across the entire nation. Things are starting to make you nervous, scared and fearful. You see things that you’ve only seen on TV that historically only happens in other countries. Down deep you want to say to yourself, “It’s going to be okay and it is well with my soul.” But you are scared. Christ said it best, “Fear not.”
I can share passage after passage to encourage you. I will, just ask me to. There is great comfort in the word of God. Look in the bible daily for it. Let me offer you this if you are becoming fearful. Be strong and courageous. Continue to abide with Christ. Keep him at the front of your thoughts and prayers.
Here is something else to consider that may happen. What if God doesn’t make things better? What if things get worse? What if God hears your prayers but does not answer them the way you want Him to? You may not like this but, “No” is an answer too. A “No” does not change who God is. Because the will of God has to continue to be more important than what we want or need. This trial may take you right up to the edge. Even if he does not change things the way you need him to, He is still God. Hang on to that. It may not be easy, but persevere to the edge if that is what he wants.
Don’t let what you see supersede what you know and believe. Don’t let this reduced fellowship reduce your relationship with each other and Christ. Look for God more each day. He is still in control. Pray more alone and then together as a family more often. Pray for others, for peace, for submission, for praises and your needs and for God’s will in your life. Difficulties will come. They will come to some more than others. Now is our chance to lift one another up, to encourage, help and pray for one another. Pray for the unsaved. If ever there was a time for the unsaved to have hearts ready to be open to the authority of God and to the gift of salvation, that time is now. Many unsaved people are terrified, right now. Jesus referred to the unsaved in this passage as the harvest. The harvest is ready for the picking.
Matthew chapter nine ends this way.
Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
One of the things that helps encourage the discouraged Christian, is to find or meet someone who is worse off than you are. Help them. Right now someone near you may be living way beyond fear. It shouldn’t be hard to find someone who needs Christ more than you, minister to them.
Will you continue to persevere with us as a church? Continue to reach out to one another. Reach out to the lonely, the elderly, disabled friends or friends who don’t have transportation. Do you have skills and resources you can share? Share them. There is a reason God has blessed you the way He has. In your generosity, you will experience a great joy that comes from Christ as we serve one another.
While we are separated from physical fellowship, find new ways to fellowship and care for one another. Phone a friend. Let us come closer together while we are apart. The people are the church, not the building. We are a church of believers in our Savior, Jesus. Let’s go through this trial together and come out on the other side together, stronger and whole. I don’t know about you, I’m excited to see God’s hand in this, in our church. This will end. Everything is going to be okay.
Your servant and friend, Michael
You thought I was finished, not yet. One last thought.
I wanted to share a song you can find on YouTube. It was performed by the group, Mercy Me. What follows is the story behind the song and a link to the song. I’ve enjoyed this song for a while and I think that it has a message that fits. If you know it or if you don’t, I hope it will encourage you.
From Bart Millard:
We’ve had bad days. I’ve had awful days with my child having a chronic illness and there are times where I feel like I just can’t do this anymore. I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and say “I know that God will deliver me but if he doesn’t I’m still not going to bow. I will still worship Him and He’s still worthy to be praised.” I want to be that guy.
Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego Story (Daniel 3.13‐18 NLT) Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
That’s what this song “Even If” talks about. I know what God is capable of but even if He doesn’t come through, He is still my hope because of what He’s already done, not what the circumstances are doing to me. My circumstances are not going to change what Christ has done for me. If nothing else, He’s the only thing that has prepared me for the circumstance.
“Even If” is a reminder to people in difficult situations that don’t seem to go away. God was worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.”
– Bart Millard (MercyMe)