The Director of the Bates County Health Center has issued a “stay at home” order to help battle COVID19, effective Monday 3/30 through Friday 4/24. Therefore, pursuant to this order, there will be no in person meetings or activities of the church while the order is in effect.
We are sad that we cannot gather during this time, but we will continue to meet on-line. For the time being, our Sunday Schedule will be as follows, so long as all the technical aspects work correctly:
9am, a prayer post for the day
1030am, music live stream
11am, sermon live stream
God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. ~Psalm 46:1-3
We’re living in a moment that seems more troubled than most. Not because of the danger of war or threat of terrorism, which we have faced before, but due to an enemy that is harder to see. A virus has upended our lives, not just in a single location, but throughout the world.
In a way, with measures being taken, we hope for light at the end of the tunnel, though we’re not too sure how long the tunnel is.
Psalm 46 was written for such uncertain times. In fact, the words of the opening verses use the language of the earth crumbling to represent the dangers, uncertainties, and fears we face at different times in life. It is, very literally, the idea of “it feels like the world is crumbling around me.”
Yet, the psalm reminds us that even in troubled moments, there is One who is greater than the trouble. In our fear, there is One greater than our fear. In our uncertainty, there is One who is ever-certain.
God is the one to whom we are to turn and trust. He is our helper. More than this, the psalm continues in verse four: “There is a river–its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High.” God is also the one who sustains our joy in troubled times.
God being our helper and joy-provider doesn’t mean that life in troubled times is easier for followers of Jesus than for others. No, we’re not immune from the physical and financial struggles the world in general faces. It does mean, however, no matter how bad things seem to get, we have a hope, a great light, that shines above and beyond the darkness.
In addition to this, not only do we have the Most High to whom we can go, we also have a God who has already taken up residence with us, indeed, within us. In John 7:37-39, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in us as we place our trust in Jesus, as “streams of living water [flowing] from deep within in.”
How do we find strength and joy in the midst of the trouble? Though the Holy Spirit reminding us of the great promises and truth of God as we spend time in his word and in prayer. So, do not neglect your relationship with our refuge and helper. Read God’s word and let the truths sink deep within your heart and mind. Pray, casting your anxieties and worries upon the One who is greater than all.
All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.
Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (Christian Standard Bible)
Father, we praise you that you are the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Many times we don’t understand the “why” of our trials as we face them. We are often blind to your work and purposes through them. Remind us, though, that you indeed have a purpose. Remind us, that if nothing else, when comfort comes we can in turn comfort others who experience something similar. We rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep. But as we weep, we trust in you, the God who takes away all tears. Amen.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:56-58
One day, you will die.
That is part of the reality of the world in which we live. Unless Jesus first returns, the day is coming where you will take your final breath on earth. How should this reality impact the way we live today?
Some might live in fear, going beyond common sense living to try to extend their life by any means necessary, not realizing it is beyond their control. Yet, for the follower of Jesus, death is nothing to fear. It is, instead, the step into our Savior’s presence.
Some might try to ignore it, focused on the moment and rarely thinking ahead. Yet, again, this is not the option for those who belong to Jesus. The Bible tells us about death and what happens following because it is supposed to be something we keep in mind.
For the follower of Jesus, we live with the reality of death before us but also the hope of the resurrection into eternal life beyond death. This reality, Paul told us, should impact our daily lives. We have victory in Jesus, so we should have a “steadfast and immovable” faith and hope in the face of death. No matter the worst the world can throw at us today, there is something more joyful and more glorious beyond that veil.
Thus, we should “always excel in the Lord’s work.” And what is the “Lord’s work”? Regardless of our vocation, we are to love and serve others and lead as many as we can to be fellow followers of Jesus. That is the Great Commandment of Matthew 22 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28.
When we devote time and resources to seeing others know Jesus and his love, then that time and those resources will never be wasted.
So, in light of death, let us live with that aim.
All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.
The Bible teaches us that church isn’t a building and isn’t a place, but a people. Followers of Jesus are the church. There is what we call a “universal” aspect to this–every believer from every age of history and every location on earth. We are one big family, but we won’t all be together until Jesus returns. Then there is what we call the “local” church–a particular group of believers who regularly gather in a particular location.
The command to not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25) speaks of our local gatherings as we anticipate the day we will join with all our brothers and sisters in the universal gathering.
But sometimes circumstances happen, like with the current pandemic or a winter ice storm, that temporarily hinder our ability to gather. In such cases, we don’t stop being the church, because the church is us. So, what can we do to still keep some sense of our regular gathering when we can’t meet?
Here’s some ideas, in no particular order:
1) Read the Bible together as a family. If you’re married and/or you have children, then use Sunday as a special time to read God’s word together, focus, and reflect on what it says. If you keep sermon notes, you could potentially go back and reread a recent passage and discuss it as a family. If you use a Bible reading calendar, such as this one: 2020 Bible Reading Calendar, then you could read that day’s passage together, talk about it, and pray about it.
2. Spend extra time in prayer. You can do this by yourself, or again as a family. This would be a great time to think about others in the church or your Sunday School / Bible Study Class and pray for them specifically by name. You can read through a Psalm, song, or hymn line-by-line, pausing to pray whatever comes to mind after each line. You can also spend time praying for the spread of the Gospel in our communities, nation, and world. This would be a great time to pray for other community churches as well as unreached people groups–Joshua Project is a great resource for that.
3. Spend time singing. We sing when we gather as a church. Chances are you also sing in the car, when you’re cleaning, or in the shower. So why not set aside some time on Sunday, again as an individual or with your family, to sing praises to God? If you have a hymnal, you can use that. Or you can put in a CD or fire up the music player on your phone and sing along. You can also find many great Christian songs, often with lyrics, on YouTube.
4. Read. You might set aside some time to read a good devotional book or other book that points your heart and mind to God.
5. Watch a livestream of a church service. Even if they don’t regularly livestream, many churches are using this time to do just that. We’re going to give it a try with info before hand on our Facebook page about it. You can find a lot of streams from a lot of good churches.
6. Contact your fellow church members. We’re hearing the phrase “social distancing” a lot in recent days. I did see a person comment that maybe “physical distancing” would be a better phrase to use. After all, though we want to keep physical interactions down for a few weeks, we still have plenty of ways to socially connect. Text some people in church. Give them a call. If they want, maybe spend some time using Facebook Messenger or another app to video chat with them or have a group chat with several people, again like your Sunday School or Bible Study.
We can’t meet for the moment, but there are still plenty of ways to connect.
Say among the nations: “The Lord reigns. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. He judges the peoples fairly.” Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound. ~ Psalm 96:10-11
Father, you are the great, awesome, and mighty God. You reign over all creation. The whole earth is yours. Nothing happens that is beyond your control. Nothing surprises you or catches you off guard. Father, we are weak. We are prone to fear. We don’t see everything as you see. Help us to remember your strength. Help us to trust in your sovereign rule. Even in the midst of trouble, make us glad so that we may rejoice at all you are and all you have done. Amen.
A reminder of God’s presence:
“The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” ~Moses, Deuteronomy 31:8; “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~Jesus, Matthew 28:20
Lord, sometimes we feel alone and isolated. Sometimes we can feel as if there is no hope. Sometimes we are confused and scared. Yet, you promise that you are always with us. You promise to always be near. By your Spirit, remind us of your nearness. By your word, remind us again and again of your great promises. Help us to realize that as our souls cry out, “Abba, Father!”, you are there near to us. Always and forever. Amen.
A reminder of God’s compassion:
Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before you. Do not hide your face from me in my day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call… But you, Lord, are enthroned forever; your fame endures to all generations. You will rise up and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her–the appointed time has come. ~Psalm 102:1-2, 12-13
Father, you are the God of compassion. Look upon us with your kindness and mercy. Hear our prayers for help in this day of trouble. Answer quickly, Lord. Hear from your throne, and for your glory, rise up and show your compassion to us. Show us your favor and bring relief. You are the God delighting in doing good; the God who gives eternal love to your children. Amen.
A reminder of God’s love and grace:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:11-12
Father, your love is greater than we can imagine. Your grace is deeper than the depths of the oceans. Because of our rebellion against you, we don’t deserve your goodness. But through Jesus you draw us near as your sons and daughters. You have looked upon us with love; you have given us grace. You have taken our sins and cast them away from us, so you hold nothing against us. Your gift to us is greater than all the goodness we could otherwise see in this life. Your love is so vast that all the evil and hardships we face will one day fade to a distant memory. Thank you for your love and grace. Amen.
A reminder of God’sprotection:
The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen. ~2 Timothy 4:18
Father, as much as we desire comfort and safety, we have no guarantee of that in this life. Yet, this does not make us fear, nor does this rob our joy. For, in Jesus, you promise us something greater. You will protect us into eternity. At worst, today, we might die. But then, if we die, we step into forever life, forever joy, and forever glory. You have given us a purpose in this life to know you and your love and make you and your love known. For each breath you give us, may we seek to do just that. And then, when our days are done, we rejoice that you bring us safely into your heavenly kingdom. Amen.
All Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
In the Baptist tradition it is sometimes popular to emphasize the symbolic nature of the Lord’s Supper. Unlike some faith traditions, we do not hold that the bread and cup in any way become the actual or even spiritual body and blood of Jesus. The bread remains bread and the wine/juice remains wine/juice.
Yet, sometimes we can take this idea too far, as if to say that the Lord’s Supper is only symbolic of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul made it clear that there is something deeper that happens with the Lord’s Supper. The word that is translated “sharing” in the passage above is the same word that is also used for “fellowship.” Fellowship is a sharing of life, a sense of treating one another as family, because in Christ that is what we are.
Yet, there is also a spiritual aspect to fellowship. In the same letter, Paul wrote of the fellowship we have with Jesus (1:9) and in his followup letter, Paul wrote about the fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:13).
When we think that part of the Christian life is Christ in us through the Holy Spirit, we see that fellowship goes beyond “doing life together” or a sharing of what we can see, taste, hear, and touch. In our fellowship with God, as well as our fellowship with other followers of Jesus, there is a spiritual communion that takes place.
In sharing with the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, there is a special sense of this spiritual fellowship that we experience. This is not, however, in the transformation of the bread and wine used, but in the act itself. The bread and wine are physical elements that engage our senses to what occurs spiritually. In the Supper we have a heightened moment reminding us that we belong to Jesus and that his sacrifice is the very thing that brought us into God’s family. Along with this is a heightened sense that as we participate in the Supper together as followers of Jesus, we truly are part of the same eternal family through Jesus.
This is why in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul warned against taking the Supper improperly, which, in its context, is partaking in the Supper selfishly to satisfy the cravings of our bellies without consideration for our broader family in Christ. When we ignore the sense of sharing, we miss the communal purpose of communion–we are one with Jesus and one with each other in God’s global family.
So, while yes, the bread and wine are symbols, the Supper itself is more than a symbol. It is a family meal, a communion of souls.
All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.