I am so excited that as August comes I hope and pray that things start to look more and more normal. As we begin opening church, and resuming activities, I wonder if you are as excited about it as I am. We often take things for granted until we don’t have them. During the Corona Virus, I have learned three things about church. First, we are truly blessed to be able to live in a country that allows us to worship freely and we are blessed. Second, we need each other. The most difficult thing about not meeting for church is how lonely and different it is when we are unable to see, hug, and talk to one another. Third, the church is truly needed today, as much as ever before.
The COVID 19 scare has shown us that our lives can be upended quickly and our habits need to be changed every so often. As the excitement of coming back together, also makes me wonder how long that excitement will last. I remember after September 11, churches were packed for about three weeks and everyone went back to “normal.” I wonder if after all of these weeks, will people realize how important church is to our well-being, our families and our country. I am reminded of several parables Jesus told to highlight my point. In Matthew Jesus tells of a man who sells everything to buy a field and another to buy a pearl. But the parable found in the Book of Luke about a man preparing for a great banquet may be a better illustration. Luke 14:16-24 says
16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' 21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
Recently, Barna Research found that one in three practicing Christians have stopped attending church during COVID-19. They found that 32% say they have neither attended nor streamed church online during all of these weeks.1 The conclusion is that people that would be considered “regular” church attenders have dropped out of church. While I know most of “us” are excited about church, there will some who have become comfortable in staying home or finding free time. there are also those, who are excited to return, but honestly, I wonder how long the excitement may last. The passage in Luke highlights, “But they all alike began to make excuses.” We are all guilty of making excuses to why we can’t serve the Lord. But the work of God will continue according to the passage. In verse 23, the master goes out and still seeks people to have his house full. This indicates that God is big enough to get his work done, the question then becomes “Do you want to be a part of God’s plans?”
As our church begins again, we will be moving forward with big plans. This pandemic shows how fast things can change and we need to be ready for anything that comes our way. Our church not only is necessary to the community, but it must to be ready for everything God has available for it. As we begin services, Sunday School, Wednesday night activities we need to realize it may not be like “it has always been” but it needs to be something that God will include us in His plans. Are you ready? Are you ready to be a part of the NEXT BIG THING, God is about to do at First Baptist? Begin to pray that God prepares us, God protects us, God provides for us and most of all God participates in us.
I look forward to seeing you in church Sunday.
If you had to describe 2020 in one word, what would it be? Ha, ha...maybe I don't want to know your choice! Few would say "wonderful" or "awe-inspiring." This year has been rough...on everyone...in so many different ways. One word I would use is UNPREDICTABLE. Honestly, that word could be used to describe all of life, not just the hard times... But unpredictability is really part and parcel of the Christian's life.
How many times have you come to a "defining moment" and thought, "This is not how I thought my life would turn out?" We've all been there and probably more times than we care to admit. This is why God continually tells us in his word not to trust in ourselves or our circumstances. It only leads to disaster.
Rather than plan out our lives, our days, our minutes, God tells us to trust His plan. God wants us to seek Him and His will and trust him completely with every breath we take. It's not easy, but who do you think would be better at being in charge of your life than God? You? Yeah...I didn't think so.
When unpredictable things happen and I am reminded to surrender MY plan for HIS plan, I lean on this passage in Proverbs that I memorized early in my walk with God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
I memorized the NIV version so that is what comes to my mind quickly. The New Living Translation really makes verse six plain to me: Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Thank you Lord that you are constant in our unpredictable world!
We had our first choir practice this past Sunday (July 26th). It was a very special moment for two reasons, one, because it was my very first rehearsal with the choir and two because it has been months since they have been able to meet and sing together. It was awesome seeing everyone say “Hi” and “Hello” to each other from a safe social distance. You could see the smiles through their masks.
As we began rehearsal, my nerves, along with the choirs vocal cobwebs, slowly began to fade away. We rehearsed the songs over and over and over again. “It’s coming back,” one member said to me. Halfway through the rehearsal we sat everyone up on the platform in an arrangement that allowed social distancing. Now they were beginning to sing their hearts out. It was no longer a practice session but a beautiful moment of worship.
We began to work on a song that was supposed to be sung as part of the Easter Cantata called “Living Hope.” This song, by Phil Wickham, is based on a verse found in 1st Peter 1:3.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
We have this living hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word living, implies that it continues on, it keeps on growing and maturing. This hope is an eager expectation of the life that is to come. Our hope is found in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and should never stop but grow stronger.
There is a lot that has been going on in this world the past few months, but we put our trust in the one who came before us and conquered death. Our “Living Hope” is here with us. With Jesus and through Jesus, we will get through this pandemic. I’ll leave you with the chorus of this beautiful song.
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There's salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my Living Hope
Please stop by our Church Library in the Dorcas classroom and see the books that were added to the collection over the summer. There are about 65 of them! Thank you very much to those who donated. There is a list of the new books in the purple folder on the desk and “New to Our Library” bookmarks in the books on the shelves. To check out a book, just enter the date, book title and your name in the spiral notebook on the desk.
02 RC Dittmar
09 TJ Loftin
16 Paul Matney
23 Raymond Pierson
30 JW Reeder
02 Gary Danford & Raymond Pierson
09 Susan Hawthorne & Cindy Early
16 Mike Wilkinson & Mike Heffler
23 Phil Skelton & Bill Womack
30 Gary Danford & Raymond Pierson