This page is dedicated to posts from members. During this time, we've asked some members to put some thoughts down on paper for us to share with the congregation. If you would like your work to be considered, email your thoughts to Henry.
“I know the doctrine and theology – but right now they don’t mean much to me…Do I trust you, Lord?” This is the line from a Twila Paris song I grew up with in the early 80’s. I was big time into Christian contemporary music when I was growing up. I would guess that I knew more lines from Christian songs than I did verses in the Bible. My passion for the Lord was great, my feelings of faith drove me, and my desires for Christ and His Kingdom were deeply engrained in me. At the young age of 12, my life as a follower of Christ was so rich in feelings, experiences, retreats, camps, Christian music, good friendships and great discipleship. I am blown away by how He guided, protected, and nurtured me as a disciple of Christ. I am grateful.
However, it was not until I got to the University of Pittsburgh – and began to worship at a local church – that the Lord more fully developed my Christian life. I needed the Word of God. I was a Christian flake. Fluffy. Malnourished. No depth. I knew Bible stories, but not the meat of the message.The Bible had simply not been central in my early faith, but the Scriptures were soon to transform my mind and heart in all things pertaining to my salvation and worldview. Good teaching made all the difference. Biblical truth began to trump what I thought and had reasoned was true. The fact was, I had faith in my faith. My faith was fluff. It was not “outside myself” – it was all about my experiences, stories, how I felt, my preferences being met, and my performance. Then I was exposed to the book of Romans. Romans changed my life in l988.
Two things stand out to me about Romans in my young adult years: (1) the righteousness that I had as a Believer was a righteousness from God….it was not my own pursuits of good, outstanding, moral, upright behavior and faithful Christian living that deemed me “righteous.” (2) Also, I learned that I was an enemy of God before I had received His righteousness. If this was true - than how amazing my salvation really was. How glorious my Savior really was – that He died for me, an enemy! Somehow I thought that I wasn’t “that bad” before I became a Christian. I knew I was a sinner but I truly believed I wasn’t horrible. I wasn’t wretched. After all, I was raised in a fine church and home, and had never really done anything all that bad. But, the doctrinal teaching on sin that Romans put forth slowly began to put me in my place. This doctrine informs what type of salvation is necessary. Everything began to change.
The song from so long ago asks - Do I trust you, Lord? Yes! Regardless of if I feel trusting or not, I long to uphold and cling to what I now know the Scriptures teach. Doctrine and theology – who needs it? I do. My hunch is that you do as well. What we believe and know really does change the way we behave and feel. May we always remember that studying the Scriptures and being trained theologically is not just about increasing one’s knowledge – but changing one’s life. It’s not dry. It’s not irrelevant. It’s not impractical. What we believe about God is the most important thing about ourselves. In the age of COVID-19, this is not time or the season for a sentimental view of God. We need a grounded, solid, doctrinal, theological understanding of God and through this, to bank everything on it. So, I implore you, have faith in Christ alone with me during COVID-19, not faith in yourself, or faith in this church, or faith in the outcome or the future working out OK, or even faith in your faith. Have faith in Christ Jesus, the only sure thing that the Scriptures hold out to us. Grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Carpe Diem...let’s start with the notion that it implies that one should live for today and not worry about tomorrow. It’s not ‘grab it while you can’ with little to no thought for others, embracing momentary pleasures while disregarding future consequences. We hear that view 24/7 (e.g., Who Says You Can't Have It All, Just Do It, Satisfy Your Thirst, Life Is A Journey-Enjoy the Ride and so on).
Be careful how you walk…make best use of time for the days are evil. Eph 5:16, Col 4:5 Walk before the Lord as Abraham did. Do good to everyone. Gal 6:10 Our days are numbered. Psalm 139:16 Best to ‘live in the moment’. Take long-term plans lightly and work moment to moment ‘as to the Lord’. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received. ‘This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ Psalm 118:24
We were not given life so that we could 'seize the day' in selfish ways. Rather, glorify God in all things. 1 Cor 10:31 How so? Start with appreciating all He has given us. What purpose do you have in mind? Philippians 3:10-11 Be intentional…invest our time and resources in things that matter eternally. Matt 6:20.
‘In the beginning, God…’ The rest is history. God alone stands outside of time. He created it with the purpose of being in covenantal communion with His people as His image-bearers. Life is not a DIY endeavor. It’s not about crafting your story. It’s ‘His’story. We have a part to play. Our actions matter. What’s best, we confess to know how the story ends.
How easily we forget. On one hand we can become slaves to the clock, on the other hand we take time for granted and waste it. Yes, we get caught up in the details of day to day living that we just don't have time to ‘seize the day’. We've got deadlines and commitments, problems and priorities, distractions and obstacles, and though we really want more fulfillment from every single day, it just doesn't seem to be within our grasp.
Let’s look at the 3 dimensions of time. The gospel addresses each one. Forget the past…you can’t change it…you’re forgiven…past delights pale in comparison to what God has in store for you...you’re a new creation…move on. Face the present…it’s a gift…it’s ‘the present’. No more ‘one of these days’ or ‘only if’. Trust Jesus to be involved in your life today. And finally, trust God for tomorrow. Matt 6:34. Plan…sure…but don’t worry. Don’t make the future your idol. Luke 12:16-21; James 4:13-15. You may as well leave the future in God’s hands for He will retain it whether we leave it to Him or not.
This is the question that I receive on What’sApp almost every day from our “kids” from Rwanda. Normally this would be a fun question like ‘What’s going on? What are you up to?’ but during this time their question has brought new thoughts to mind.
“How is it there?” has become the question from our all of our friends from around the world, too. And that’s why this question grabs me.. So, How Is it Here?
Well, for us, as well as our expats friends in other countries we have EVERYTHING we need. Yes, we are “shut-ins” of sorts in our own warm and comfortable homes. We have all the food we need, a TV full of movies and entertainment galore along with phones, computers and fast internet. While we may begin to feel the money crunch soon… in the
meantime we truly have everything we need. It is Good Here, right? Even in the midst of the pandemic and endless groundhog days!
But when my young African friends ask ‘How is it there?’ they are really asking –“Is it like here in Rwanda”? What is it like in Rwanda, you might wonder…Some folks live in a concrete structure but others live in places smaller than our garage and a lot less inviting. They are in lock down and if they leave their homes the police have been seen beating
people into submission to ‘Stay IN’ ! They might have a large bag of rice and beans, but no running water or toilet. Drinking water comes from a local well. ( I wonder how they ARE getting water now.) Their kitchens consist of a small clay pottery “stove” that’s fueled with coal or eucalyptus twigs outside of their 1 or 2 room dwelling. Their only contact to the rest of the world or their family across town is their mobile phone. They never had landlines so a cell phone is a necessity.
No, it isn’t like Rwanda here. My heart breaks for them. They have so little and now they have even less! Yet… I received this message last week from Andrew. He wrote for his Mom who doesn’t speak English, “Dear Margie, (a message from God through my mom)..’Don’t worry those pandemic will leave you health and you family’.” I smiled as my eyes filled with tears. How could she possibly be concerned about the welfare of our family? Her heart and her faith tell me how it is there for her!
So, how is it here for us? Are we hearing the Lord speak to us? Do we see the Lord at work in our lives? Are we more concerned about others welfare or our own? How is it There?
We are, many of us, sitting at home where we cannot socialize as we would like, unable to attend church or work our jobs like we normally would. An amusing yet depressing sight is seeing couples getting married wearing masks with only one or two friends there to celebrate with them. Such strange times means we develop strange habits, one of which may include reading French Christian anarchist philosophy. Maybe that’s just me.
Now that everything is at a standstill, we as Christians have no excuse (do we ever?) for not looking into the Bible and contemplating God’s Word. While we are waiting to get back to normalcy, we must realize that the world will never be the same after this event. This is an opportunity. As we read through Scripture, it is impossible to not be troubled or confused by our Lord’s ways. He taught submission to authority, but he laughs at the plots of kings (Psalm 2:4). He taught to love others, but he also said that anyone who doesn’t hate his father, mother, wife, et cetera cannot become his disciple (Luke 14:26). Just as the world is reassessing its resources and values considering the pandemic and possible economic crash, us Christians should reassess what our mission is.
Our faith is revolutionary. Of course, we hear about Christians being martyred in far away places or feel that we are carrying our individual crosses when somebody says a mean word on social media. As a baby once said, “Waah!” Carrying a cross meant being subject to being spat on, cursed, and beaten so badly that some of those crucified were relieved when they reached their execution location. Our mission is costly, but the reward is greater (Matthew 16:24-26).
Let’s grow deeper, stronger, and beyond in our love for Christ. Pray for faith and boldness. What is there to be afraid of? Death? We are the light of the world, citizens of heaven, and beloved children of God! He’s got us quite firmly in His hands.
Can someone wake me up, please?
I give you permission to slap me. Really hard. Across the face. Oh wait, you're not allowed to get that close. Darn. Stupid coronavirus.
Does anyone else feel like me? That we are living a dream, or maybe a nightmare? I’d like to wake up now, thank you. Every so often, reality does slap me in the face and I am forced to remember that I am awake, this is really happening.
I feel like there are emotions bottled up and brewing inside. Worry, fear, anger, grief- pressure building. I want to let it out, to wail, cry, scream, throw my fists in the air, fall to the floor in a heap… something to break the tension. I have found that this is a necessary process for me, a wonderful thing called lament.
Lament is “a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God.” * Here is something I would like to share that I wrote a couple of years ago while in a dark space. At this time in my life, I learned the value of lament.
"My thoughts, slow as molasses, wade through the mire of unfocused obsession. A particular pull toward that thought won’t leave me alone. Exhaustion is a weight bearing down, down, down… My eyes ache. It feels as if tears are never far away. My friend in their release. My enemy in their disclosure. I still have the hope that it will be ok, but today that future seems so distant and the present so painful that I retreat to the past. Memories so happy my heart bursts, allowing the regret and longing to pour out recklessly, tearing away the flesh. I am fraying on the edges. Just enough so no one notices. Just enough to lose myself.’’
Back then, I would try to keep it all together, but that dam would only hold so long and I would have to yell, ugly cry, or curl up in a ball… which only helped temporarily. I found the only way to stop a cycle of despair was after the release of emotions, to then ask for God’s help and peace and say to myself, ‘I am not in control. I trust you, Lord.’
I pray today that we all feel free to let out our frustrations, fears, and anger, in a safe, private space. Release them to God, ask Him for help, trust that He’s got this. Our conversations with Him are allowed to be messy. He likes it when we are real. If anyone needs to talk more, I would love to listen.
It will be ok.
~Psalms 5:1-3 (NLT)~
O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
Blessed assurance - Jesus is mine
What are you assured of these days? That the supermarket will have TP? That you can safely gather in a crowd? That no one you know will get sick? Hardly!
Assurance is “a positive declaration intended to give confidence.” So one precious assurance you have is that JESUS will never leave or forsake you.
Perhaps you’re a parent wondering what kind of world it will be for your child. Or perhaps you’ve lost a loved one recently and the social distancing has exacerbated the loneliness you were already feeling. Perhaps your struggle BEFORE covid-19 was huge but SINCE covid19, it looms even larger.
Rest ASSURED. Jesus is with you. Always, and especially now.
How great a struggle I have for you…..that your hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of ASSURANCE
of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.
Colossian 2: 1b, 2
So here we are in Holy Week -- I doubt if any of us have ever know a time when people in America were simply not allowed to attend church during this most special of time for Christians. It is truly weird, but even more, it's sad! However; it is the current reality, so how do we handle it? Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession after turning to the scriptures are always the best possible way to go. If we couple Isaiah 55:6-13 (please read these) with Romans 8:18-39, we can get a message of comfort, peace, joy, and undefeatable hope! We don't understand why God allows things like this virus, or tsunamis, or famines to happen!! But Isaiah reminds us that He is God and we are not, and that we are not in control - much as we want to be! We can no more understand his thoughts or ways than we can turn back time or fly. Romans then reminds us that this world is not our final home. Paul also lets us know that ALL things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called by him. We are just travelers passing through, but we do not travel alone. God sent his Spirit to live within us and to intercede for us, so we are never and can never be alone. God is always with us and always in us! "No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:37) How can we be "more than conquerors?" I don't know but that sounds awfully good to me and nothing can separate us from that promise or from the love we have in Christ Jesus. So armed with these passages (and many others), we can get ready to worship him, to praise him, to thank him, and glorify our Triune God this week -- even from our own homes. Remember, soldiers and a boulder couldn't stop Jesus' resurrection and our celebrating it, and neither can this virus! Have a blessed Easter.