The morning after President Trump declared churches to be essential, and that governors should allow them to open, I received a text message asking if there would be “in house worship” the next day. Sadly, I had to say we’d just be online.
Being able to worship online has been a blessing, and I’m very grateful to every-one who has made it possible. However, we are all anxious to get back to church, and I read just this morning that nearly half of regular churchgoers are apparently tired of online worship because they haven’t done so in the past four weeks.
No one thought the restrictions would last this long, and we’re all ready for things to get back to normal. But, as we’re being told, the best we can expect in the near future is a “new normal.” The elders pondered what that might look like at Tuesday’s meeting.
Once the decision is made to resume corporate worship, we’ll begin gradually, and with several changes to assure the safety of those gathering. To comply with guidelines, we will tape off every other pew, and encourage families to sit together. For the first week or so, the nurseries will be closed, and no children’s worship or Sunday School will be offered. To avoid contamination, no bulletins will be passed out, and outlines and manuscripts will be available on tables to be personally picked up. Offering trays will also be on the tables, and communion will already be in the receptacles on the back of pews. We will probably reduce the number of songs we sing, and remain seated while doing so. We will offer no refreshments in the fellowship hall, and those who wish to visit will be encouraged to do so in the parking lot.
I know all this sounds draconian, but we don’t want to appear rebellious against those in authority over us, and we do want everyone to be as safe as possible. When we determine we can worship together again, services will be live-streamed online as well as recorded for later viewing, and no one will be expected to come if they are at high risk or are uncomfortable doing so.
God Bless, Rick
As Dave noted when sending me the total offerings that had come in for April 26th, “Not a typo.” The $39,059.16 in the statistics column is for real! Sort of.
The regular offerings that had been sent to the church for the month totaled just under $20,000, which is about $500 a week under our pre-quarantine projection. What shot the number soaring was a $36,000 gift that had been sent for missions. The donor had taken funds out of his retirement account, and asked that we use them to meet special needs that exist in the missions we support. After evaluating the needs we were aware of, three were selected.
$17,000 was sent to Theo to purchase a vehicle. His truck was almost beyond repairs, and he has had to rely on public transportation and taxis to minister to the churches he oversees and to meet the various needs that exist. The churches in Jamaica are very dependent on support from others, and we have always been Theo’s primary supporter. We bought him his first vehicle nearly 30 years ago, and he managed to replace it once, but due to a decline in support and expanding needs was unable to purchase another.
The second recipient was Haitian Christian Ministries. Mark Zimmerman is on their board, and after consulting with him we decided to send the school $10,000 to help with a much needed bathroom and septic system. Mark said it was desperately needed, but was not something that’s easy to get supporters excited about.
The final gift went to Kent Paris. As you know, Kent is one of very few who offers biblical hope and healing to those who are caught up in sinful sexual confusion. He has recently had overwhelming health and financial struggles, and has even been banned from using Facebook for posting content that was deemed hateful. The $5,000 we were able to send not only met pressing needs, but was a great encouragement to him and Sherri.
The remaining $4,000 is being held for anticipated needs that may be soon coming from Mexico or elsewhere.
God Bless, Rick
The daily Bible reading from the New Testament last Friday got me thinking about our current circumstances.
Jesus was asked about two tragedies that were on everyone’s minds; the first being the slaughter of some Galileans by Pilate as they were offering sacrifices in the temple, and the second was the death of eighteen upon which a tower had fallen. When asked if what had befallen them was because they were greater sinners than others, Jesus said, “No, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
He then went on to tell a parable about a fig tree that wasn’t producing fruit. When the gardener suggested it be cut down, the owner said to give it more time to be cared for and fertilized.
These verses from Luke 13 made me think about what we’re going through, because it’s only natural to wonder why things happen the way they do. Why are some stricken by a deadly virus, and others not? Why would a tornado strike in the midst of a pandemic? Is God making a statement, or do such things just happen? And knowing the love of God, how do we make sense of such?
I’m not sure we should even try to make sense of it all, because the only answer Jesus gives here is “No”, followed by a call to repentance. Apparently we are to simply trust that God knows what’s going on, live fruitful lives during what time we do have, and help others do the same.
Having said that, I am very grateful for the grace that has been shown us during this trying time of separation. I’m not aware of any in our body who have been impacted beyond financial insecurity, inconvenience, and disappointment by the restrictions placed upon us. In fact, the only calls I’ve received relative to needs have been offers to help any who might be in need.
I don’t think that means God has shown us special favor. He sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. I’m just overwhelming grateful for the undeserved grace He has shown to us.
God Bless, Rick
When I received the news that Jesse Yangmi, our missionary in Thailand and Southeast Asia for over 45 years, and a dear friend, had an aggressive cancer that had metastasized, I sent him the following letter.
I was sorry to hear of your failing health, and want to assure you of my prayers on your behalf. Knowing of your solid relationship with Christ and years of faithful service, I do have to admit, however, that I’m hesitant to pray for your physical healing. We both are looking forward to the new body we’ll receive when we lay aside the flesh, so, like Paul, we’re hard pressed to choose whether to stay or go. But of course it’s not our choice to make, so we simply offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and trust He will use us in whatever form best serves his purposes. I must also admit that I do have to smile when I remember your telling me you hope you don’t die here because it’s too expensive.
It’s been my privilege and pleasure to be a partner in your ministry for nearly 50 years, and I treasure the times we’ve spent together. The carving of the elephants you gave us years ago still hangs in the foyer of our home, and the cookie jar Esther gave us is still on our kitchen counter. I know these things are merely symbols of our relationship, and will some day no longer be needed, but they are very meaningful to me in the present.
I do very much look forward to the day we’ll actually be together again in the presence of the One we love and serve. In the meantime, I pray His grace will make it possible for you to lie down in green pastures beside still waters as you make your journey through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m thankful you have Ati by your side, and pray our heavenly Father will comfort her, and give her strength.
Your friend and brother, Rick
I could only send such a letter because HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
God Bless, Rick
During the “shelter at home” order I managed to finish an interesting book by Michael Medved entitled God’s Hand on America that tells of historical events and persons that caused Americans to see the hand of God at work. The stories detail amazing accomplishments, as well as tragedies that were narrowly avoided or courageously endured, that assured our country of God’s providential care. The book opens with a chapter about something I never knew existed.
In the 1840s, explorers in the Rocky Mountains kept hearing about a colossal cross of snow that appeared for a few months every year on an uncharted Colorado mountain. After it was finally photographed in 1873, and a painting exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exposition in 1876, it “touched the happy hordes as freshly revealed evidence that God looked with special, clearly expressed favor on the works and ways of the new nation that celebrated its first glorious century of existence.”
The “Holy Cross National Monument” was established in 1929 by presidential proclamation, but its national monument status was stripped by congress in 1950 after a rockslide took away one of the arms of the cross. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I don’t think it wrong to look for the hand of God in both natural and unnatural events.
If you see something that encourages you and strengthens your faith, don’t be afraid to share it. And don’t worry, as long as we have eyes to see, the cross upon which we base our hopes will never disappear from sight.
God Bless, Rick