March 27, 2020
Dear Grace Family,
Perspective in these times is very important. I found myself the other day twiddling my thumbs. I wanted to be out doing something, to be around people, but I was stuck at home. I know that I am not the only one who has felt this way, and I know that many more people will feel this way in the days to come. And we could be tempted to simply sit on the sidelines and wait for the commercial break to end so that life can resume. Though we don’t see it on TV, professional athletes are making use of the extra timeout to plan and prepare for what is ahead. So rather than doing little to nothing during this “safer at home” time, we need to understand these days as days of opportunity. We have an opportunity to do four things that we might not have during the business of “normal” life.
First, we could have more time and opportunities to evangelize and disciple. As I was reviewing my weekly calendar, and examining the holes, it struck me that I could still set times for one-on-one discipleship. So, I am trying to work things out. The Women’s AA group that meets on Saturday has officially cancelled their meetings, however, as I drove into the church this morning, there was a group of five ladies who brought their own lawn chairs in order to sit outside and continue. Maybe you have a family member, or a close friend who has expressed interest in spiritual things, but nothing has come of it. Now could be a good time to meet outside, or even to meet virtually, just to start reading through the gospel of John.
Second, we have an opportunity to examine our faith. Faith is not a cold system of religious beliefs that we subscribe to officially, but practically speaking, it has no impact on us. What we really and truly believe about God, life, the Bible, sin and Jesus is displayed in the choices we make, and we are facing choices that we had probably never even thought of until about 2 weeks ago.
The whole concept of quarantine might be new to us. Add to that the government’s rules about staying home and not gathering, how should the church, and how should Christians respond? How do we decide what we should do? Does the Bible even address such things as this? The answer is yes – see Leviticus 13-19. But, how many of us first agreed with the government, before even asking the question, “What does the Bible say?” This is where we get to the root of our faith. What was our first response? Did we think, “That sounds reasonable,” or did we think, “What does the Bible say?” Faith must have an object, and our responses to the decisions before us reveal what the object of our faith and trust is.
Third, we have an opportunity to testify and to distinguish between the Biblical worldview and the secular worldview. We do this not only in the decisions we make, but in the principles upon which we make our decision. Let me give you two examples:
First, if you have chosen to stay home on the Lord’s Day, on what did you base that decision? I believe this is an opportunity to appeal to the Bible as your foundation. When we examined the sixth commandment a few weeks ago, I stressed the point that there is much more involved in righteously keeping the commandment than NOT killing. This commandment expects the believer to consider how he might value and protect and promote the well-being of others. If you are in the high-risk category, or if you are living with or caring for someone in the high-risk category, you need to be doing everything within your power to minimize your chance of exposure. Here is a demonstration of the love of Christ for others that you will sacrifice your desires and comforts so as to protect them from harm. Is this not in fact what Christ did for us? Did He not leave the comfort of Heaven in order to sacrifice Himself? So, if you have chosen to self-quarantine, what is your reason? I hope is goes beyond, “The government told me to.”
Second, if you choose to attend worship, on what did you base that decision? I know that some people in America are advocating church attendance out of civil disobedience. And, while there might be some merit to civil disobedience in this time, that is an insufficient reason to attend corporate worship. Worship is not a civil activity, but a spiritual one. In worship, we are bringing ourselves into the presence of God and declaring our lives, our being, our decisions, our possessions, and everything else belongs to the Lord, and is for His glory. Worship is the expression of adoration to God the Father, by the merits of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the purpose for which we were created.
King David’s life verse could have been Psalm 27:4. It says, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” The best of David’s life was about worship. Even when he was ridiculed and scorned for his worship before the ark, he continued.
Our motivation for worship and desire for worship must be a reciprocal and thankful act of love to the God who saved us from our sin. If Christ left everything to save me, how can I not be will to risk everything to worship Him? Assuming of course, you are not sick, and not connected to the high-risk category (because that could be violating the sixth commandment), why would you not want to be in God’s presence, singing God’s praises, and listening to God’s Word?
Christians are to be different from the world, not only in what we do, but especially in the way we think. The very law of God to which we ascribe to defines us as people who Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. These are not mere words, but are to be a way of life and the foundation of our decisions.
1Peter 3:15-16 reminds us, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
The church has an opportunity to shine into the darkness of secular thought. We have the opportunity to bring the light of Christ into a situation where fear is running and ruining many lives. The church has an opportunity to declare that the so-called “foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1Corinthians 1:25)
Grace Community Church intends to keep her doors open for worship on Sunday Mornings at 10:45 for everyone who desires to attend worship and is not connected to the high-risk category.
We are also going to continue having three specific weekly meetings, though the purpose of these meetings is going to be somewhat altered. We intend to dedicate a portion of these meeting to prayer. The men’s group will meet on Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 am; the Women’s group will meet on Fridays from 10:00 – Noon, and Wednesday Evening will be from 7:00 – 8:00.
The current guidelines say people should not meet in groups of more than 10 people and I doubt we will exceed this. However, in order to prepare for such an event, all of our meetings will be moved into the sanctuary where we can spread out and still maintain social distancing.
At this time, we have cancelled our Easter activities, except for corporate worship. This means we will not have our work day on April 4th, our Maundy Thursday service on April 9th, or our breakfast on April 12th.
For those of you who are staying home, we are in the process of setting up a YouTube channel where we can livestream our service. You an find more information about it on the church website under latest news; https://gccpalmharbor.org/news.
Finally, please remember that in all of this that we have the opportunity to testify to both the goodness and the sovereignty of God. The tragedies and catastrophes of this world are perhaps the best canvas on which to present the wonder and mercy of God. Let me illustrate this by asking you to pray for the closing of all of the abortion clinics. If Planned Parenthood alone closes for two weeks because of the Wuhan Flu, far more lives will have been saved than lost in this pandemic. On this side of eternity, God’s mercy always accompanies His wrath. This is the very hope of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are [the] called according to his purpose.”
If you are struggling with decisions during this time, please do not hesitate to call one of your elders. This is the reason why God gave elders to the church. We are here to help you think through what it means to live as followers of Christ.
For the glory of Jesus and the good of His people,