The Naughty List

The Naughty List

Word in Season

Our Christmas tree is up, our stockings hung with care, and we even turned on our outside Christmas lights. Yes, I am that person who decorated for Christmas well before Thanksgiving. With Christmas on the mind, I’ve been thinking about Santa’s “naughty list.” It is an opportunity for children to debate and negotiate their righteousness: “I hope we aren’t on the naughty list. I probably am on the naughty list. Maybe this year I really will get coal. I haven’t been that bad, but I have been bad. I am definitely not on the naughty list because I haven’t murdered anyone.”

We would be mistaken if we shrugged off this behavior as childish. We all suffer from this disease, adults are just better at hiding it. Side note: I love kids. They haven’t learned to hide what’s in their hearts yet like you and I have.

The disease is called self-righteousness. Righteous means to be perfectly right. Add self to this and it means that you, yourself, are perfectly right. Your actions, words, thoughts, attitudes, desires, motives, and the way you live your life is morally superior and correct.

How does this play out before God? Because of this attitude, one decides they have lived in a moral way which leads to God saving them from hell. And certainly one’s name would never be found on the “naughty list” because they haven’t done anything that bad.

“I’m a nice person.”
“I’ve been baptized.”
“I am way better than Sally, Tom, or Johnny.”
“I haven’t done any of those really bad sins.”
“I attend church most Sunday’s.”
“I worked really hard to make up for my sin.”
“I gave a lot of money to poor people and volunteered.”

We live in the Midwest (I love the Midwest). Most everyone says they are a Christian and everyone is extraordinarily nice (I love the people in the Midwest). Many trust that their names are on the good list because of who they are (I can’t love this).

Here is the problem: God is not like Santa. He has one list. It is called the Book of Life and he only has to check it once (Revelation 20:12-15).

God sets the standards to get into that book of life and we would be wise to pay attention to how he orders things. One sin and you are out of his book of life. One. Did you tell a lie? Get angry at that person at the grocery store? Have you harbored feelings of jealousy towards a friend? Maybe you looked at something on a screen that you shouldn’t have? Have you loved someone or something more than God even for one second?

We can’t tip the scale back in our favor by negotiating our righteousness before him. No one is righteous before him (Romans 3:10) and every mouth that tries to plead their case of self-righteousness will be stopped (Romans 3:19).

God’s standard is perfection and every single person ever born has fallen short of God’s standard, but one. He was perfect and never once sinned. He was punished for sin he didn’t commit and he was killed on your behalf. He lives now, at the right hand of God, and stands before God pleading the case of all of the sinners who have found refuge in him (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus Christ the righteous and our advocate (1 John 2:1).

Santa gives out gifts because people have been good. God gives out gifts because he is good. God gave the gift of his Son because he is full of mercy (withholding deserved punishment), grace (giving undeserved favor), and this amazing kind of love that goes after people who walk in complete opposition to him (Ephesians 2:1-10). That is the kind of love we all truly desire and that is the kind of love that has the power to save wretched sinners like you and me.

A friend of mine likes to ask this question that gets to the heart of the matter: If you are standing before God and he asks you why he should let you into heaven, what do you say?

What will you say to plead your case? What will you be standing on? Who will you be clinging to? Will your name be found in the book of life? There is only one correct answer. You have to admit your great need and die to yourself to find it. But, in this dying you will find life (Matthew 10:38-39).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Editor’s Note: If none of this is making sense or you have more questions, I want to encourage you to make time on Tuesday evenings this winter. Join us in this powerful study to learn how all the events of the Bible – from creation to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – fit together to tell the greatest story in the universe; that God so loved the world. This study is coed and will be led by Pastor Mike and Cody Trump.

The intro session will be December 15 @ 6:30PM in the Worship Center. The weekly study will begin on January 15. Check our Facebook page for sign up details.

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Word in Season

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”*

Oh Father, I’ve tasted the abundance of a life rooted in trusting Christ. How I fail when I trust anyone or anything else. Bring to mind the words and promises of Christ. Remind me Christ is standing before you advocating (1 John 2:1) and interceding (Hebrews 7:25) on my behalf. By grace, not working, you have declared me forgiven, holy, and blameless (Ephesians 1:3-12, 2:1-10). All of your words are true. Give me faith to believe them.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

It was you Lord who taught me to trust you. It was you who showed me the love of Christ. It was you that first called me friend (John 15:15). It is you who refuses to leave me in my sin and continues to sanctify me in your truth (John 17:17). It is you that promises to not leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8). I cannot keep promises like that, but you can and you promise to finish what you started in me (Philippians 1:6).

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood
And in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

I trust you Jesus. When you say you are faithful to forgive, you are (1 John 1:9). Your blood secured my salvation once and for all (Hebrews 10:11-14). With simple childlike faith, I come to you assured of things I hope for and convicted of things I haven’t seen (Hebrews 11:1). Because of this cleansing, I approach you with confidence to find the help I need (Hebrews 4:16)

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’ve tried many paths Lord and I’ve found nothing sweeter to my soul than you. I must decrease and you must increase (John 3:30). Impress upon my heart that your power is made perfect in my weakness. Your grace is sufficient for what you have for me today (2 Cor 12:19). Teach me again that Christ is gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29) so I can imitate him to others. Help me to stop my striving and rest in you (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I trust you Jesus. I trust you with my life. I trust that to live is Christ and to die is gain. That you are worthy of whatever you ask me to give up because knowing you is better than having everything (Philippians 3:7-11). I’ve seen your faithfulness in your word. To Abraham and the offspring you promised (Genesis 21:1-5, Galatians 3:16). To work for good through Joseph’s suffering at the hands of his own family (Genesis 50:20). To Moses and the Isrealites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:31-32). To Job even in the darkest season of his life (Job 42:1-6). To the world by providing a substitute in Jesus for dead, sinful people in rebellion against their God (Ephesians 2:1-10). Jesus, I’ve seen your faithfulness in my own life. I have pages of ebenezer’s. Thus far, you have helped me Lord! Oh I forget and I drift. Lord I need your grace to keep me trusting. Keep me trusting Jesus. Keep me trusting Jesus!

*”Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” is a Christian hymn with music by William J. Kirkpatrick and lyrics by Louisa M. R. Stead.

Equipped for Every Good Work

Equipped for Every Good Work

Word in Season

Fresh out of college, I started working at a construction equipment manufacturing company. In my first week on the job, I found myself in a machine shop looking at a 9-cylinder diesel engine. My task was to work with a small group to disassemble and reassemble this engine. I graduated with a degree in marketing. To describe me as ill-equipped for this task was the understatement of the century. Alone, I was ill-equipped. 

As believers, we aren’t so different from this situation I found myself in. Our dead hearts were made alive by Christ and now we find ourselves sent into a world of which we are we are not supposed to be. (John 17:14-18). We are forgiven all sin but still struggle to live by the Spirit and not the flesh (Romans 8:5). We are called to die to ourselves and live for Christ (Matthew 16:25). Our Lord asks us to suffer with patience, be angry and not sin, spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and practice meekness in the face of our opponents. Alone, we are ill-equipped.

But the Lord has plans to equip us to do his work and does not leave us alone. He has not only given us his Spirit and the body of Christ, but also his Word. His Word has many purposes, one being to equip the man of God. 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This means that on Sunday when we sit and hear the Word preached or attend a weekly Bible study, God intends to use it to equip us. How can we be better prepared to attend that Bible study or sit and listen to the Sunday sermon so that the Word equips us instead of going in one ear and out the other? How can we get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ?

  1. Recognize your Need: God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and the posture of our hearts towards him. It is hard to teach someone who doesn’t want to be taught. We are better prepared to let God do his work on us with a heart posture of knowing we need his help. We come Sunday morning or to our mid-week Bible study wanting to be equipped. We keep in the forefront of our minds this purpose of God and we stop and pray that God would use his Word to do his work on our hearts. We get out of the habit of checking Sunday mornings off of our list and remember how much we need Christ to change us.
  2. Prepare:  It sounds almost too simplistic yet many of us don’t do this and it is so helpful. Read the passage in advance. We prepare for tests, we prepare meal plans, we prepare for sports practice, we prepare for that big presentation at work, but rarely do we prepare for Sunday morning. Spending time in the text before you come to church starts to prepare your heart. You will be more familiar with the passage and it will be easier to listen, understand, and apply. We need to hear things multiple times before they start to stick. The same goes for your Bible study; set aside time to read and think about what you are studying that week. If you don’t know what your pastor will preach on, ask him to share his weekly plan with you. It takes discipline to manage your time and priorities well and we must acknowledge that God’s equipping is needed more than just about everything else for which we take time to prepare.
  3. Engage: Be an active participant. Have your Bible open, take notes, write questions or thoughts about application. Then, talk to others about the sermon or engage with your Bible study group. As a leader of a Bible study, I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to hear questions from women because it means they are engaging with the text! Things stick more when we process them with others. Come to a Sunday night home group where you can discuss and apply the sermon. Plan to review the sermon as a family on Monday mornings at breakfast and have everyone share what they learned about God. If you are discipling someone, plan to talk about the sermon weekly with them. Ask others in the church how the sermon series has been affecting them spiritually. There are many ways to engage; let’s get in the habit of talking about application and how our lives are being transformed by God’s Word. 

I wasn’t equipped to put together that diesel engine and was useless to the three engineering majors in my group. I don’t want to find myself ill-equipped for the good works God has planned in advance for me (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ as we come to church next Sunday and start our next Bible study this fall.  

Remember the “Scare Quotes”

Remember the “Scare Quotes”

Word in Season

Recently we were able to gather in person on a Sunday morning after 2 months of having livestream “church.” It was glorious. I am full of gratitude to God for the members that worked tirelessly to make technology work in short order so we could live-stream Sunday mornings. That being said, are we prepared with an answer for why live-stream “church” isn’t church? Will we remember the scare quotes?

The answer lies in another question. What was it like for us to be together again that glorious Sunday morning? I spoke to many who attended that first service and our responses were all the same. We found ourselves with tears of joy as we raised our voices together, received the Word together, and took communion together. We wept.

What happens together on Sunday mornings cannot happen in our living rooms, alone, with a good internet connection. Brothers and Sisters, the Lord is teaching us something very precious about his church during this time.

We were created to worship Jesus, together.

In his book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis rightly identifies that our great destiny is corporate worship (p.155). In the new heavens and the new earth we will join angels and other believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10). Today, as we eagerly await that day, we do just that when we come together Sunday mornings with our local church.

When joined together, we fulfill our purpose to live for the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:12) as we lift our voices in unison to praise Christ. Together, we leave ourselves for a while and set our voices and hearts on the one who alone is worthy of our praise. We need to hear each other’s voices in this battle of faith because our own heart or the heart of our brother sitting next to us has become weak and oh, so weary.

When joined together, we receive the preaching of the word as the body of Christ. He is equipping us, one body but many members, to do his work (1 Cor 12:12). We need to be one in order to be many. Amputated body parts need to be reconnected to the body not only for survival, but also to perform their intended function. A properly working body must be together.

When joined together, we receive communion and remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. We proclaim together that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We humble ourselves, as sinners, in need of a savior. When we do this together, our idol making hearts experience a much needed reminder of the gospel.

Burden -bearing, rejoicing, encouraging, maturing, equipping, serving, teaching, evangelizing, admonishing, praising, remembering. God designed us to do these things together. Solitary fellowship is an oxymoron. Church is a wonderful means of God’s grace and this grace is poured out in a unique way when we gather together. This is why we wept.

Let’s thank God for the technology he provided to live-stream “church”, but let’s also remember the scare quotes and, as we are able, let us join together again.

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Word in Season

A group of us have been studying Mark’s gospel, preparing to teach it this Fall. This week we come to Chapter 12 and the well-known story of the poor widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. The story is familiar and yet it still shocks us. We expect Jesus to gently stop the poor old woman by saying something like, “Trust me dear, you need this more than they do.”  After all, the spiritual leaders of the day are corrupt. Jesus had just confronted them for turning the temple into a den of robbers. We can’t think of any justifiable, responsible reason for this poor widow to give her entire livelihood, to the temple treasury. We’re surprised that Jesus accepts it and bothered that he holds her actions up as commendable.

On the surface this looks like a fulfillment of what Jesus says in Mark 12:38-40 “Beware the scribes…who devour widows’ houses…”. But this is not and cannot be reduced to just a financial transaction. Instead, this is an act of worship. This woman is putting legs to the spiritual truth that must already be well rehearsed in her mind and heart. She is, in effect, living out what she already knows to be true and that is: “Lord, I have become entirely your responsibility.”  “Lord, you are my rock and my provider.”  “Lord my faith and trust are in you alone.”

What a wonderful example of faith! What an appropriate act of worship! What a clear illustration of salvation!  Still, we have objections. This seems extreme; surely God is more practical about these matters. He doesn’t want me to sell everything and give to the poor and follow him, right?

For the rich young ruler in Mark 10 that is exactly what Jesus required. “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21) Unlike the poor widow, the young man was hanging on to his “stuff” so tightly that he could not be free to follow Christ. His wealth prevented him from trusting Christ, it prevented him from worshiping Christ, and it prevented him from being saved.

One question that we have started to ask ourselves at our Tuesday night Bible study is, “What is it, right now, that is preventing me from going with God?” For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth. For the poor widow, it was nothing, she was all in. The young man went away sad, the poor widow went away saved.

Living out truth in sacrificial worship is so good for us. It brings clarity and strengthens our faith and resolve. Our actions preach the gospel to our souls in ways that mere words never can. Our actions preach the gospel to those watching in ways that mere words never can. So, by faith let’s give generously and sacrificially, even when it doesn’t make sense. Let’s testify by our actions the truths we profess in the gospel.  Let’s joyfully meet pressing needs by faith knowing “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19).

“That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”  – 2 Corinthians 8:2-5

What if I’m Hopeless?

What if I’m Hopeless?

Word in Season

What if I’m hopeless? What if you’re hopeless? What if a dear friend, or your child is hopeless? Recently, for many days in a row,I woke up without hope and went to bed without hope. One of those nights I lay in bed half talking to myself and half talking to the Lord and trying to put my finger on this desperation. Hope- I am without hope. What does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope? Hope. Hope. Hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope.

There it was; the living and active Word was starting to come alive- if I could just concentrate enough on this thought to see where the Lord was taking me. Ephesians 2, that was it! Paul is reminding the gentile believers in Ephesus of a time past, a time when they were without God and thus without hope. Separated from the holy and living God without a way to get to him. The Bible’s definition of true hopelessness (Ephesians 2:11-13). 

Past tense. The Ephesians were once without hope because they were once without God. So what is present tense? Verse 13 makes it clear. “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” From hopeless to hope- filled. From far off to brought near. 

We who have our faith in Christ and the work of his sacrifice are also in this same state. Once hopeless, now hope filled. Once far off, now brought near. Now what? What if I’m still hopeless? The scriptures have fallen flat. This verse isn’t quite living and active. Keep going. This is a battle that is not easily won. If you are doing battle, you are on the right path. 

How about starting with the obvious, but some of the hardest, words for our prideful hearts to mutter. “Jesus help me. Help me believe this. Forgive me for not believing this. Help me to see this, breath this, live this. Jesus, will you help me?” 

Now we push deeper. What does it mean at this moment in my life that I have been brought near to God? If this is the foundation for my hope, I need to lean into this. God has brought me near to him. Who is this God to whom I’ve been brought near and why is that hopeful? 

This is the God that brings things to life by his words. He is powerful and I need someone powerful when I feel so powerless.

This is the God whose ear is mine. He is present and I need to not feel so alone. 

This is the God who is patiently waiting for me to speak to Him about my fears, sorrows, and hopelessness. He is compassionate and I need His mercy.

This is the God who gives me His Spirit. His power in me is greater than my weak flesh.

This is the God who has brought me into his honorable household. He has made me his and I belong to him. 

This is the God who knows what I suffer in this fallen world. He is sympathetic and can relate to my struggles. 

It starts to matter a bit more that we have been brought near to God when we add this depth. I’m starting to feel the hope building; how about you? 

Now what? We pray these things, we speak to this near God, and rehearse them over and over again. We thank Him for Christ. We call a trusted friend and share how hopeless we’ve been feeling and tell them about the scripture we are trying to cling to. We ask that trusted friend to pray and walk with us. Maybe we take another path and dive deeper into what it means that God has given us His Spirit and brought us into his household. And we keep doing these things over and over again. 

There’s no formula. There’s no quick fix. But there is hope to be found in Him. I’m sure of it.

Consider This

Consider This

Word in Season

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24

People of Joy

There are two words that I have been thinking about often over the last couple of weeks: fear and shame. We are in a time when much of what we hear, see, and read are rooted in one or both of these emotions. Fear of getting sick, shame for acting selfishly, fear of destroying our financial future, shame for being afraid. Even if we ourselves are not feeling afraid or shameful, many of our friends and neighbors are. As Christians we should not be ruled by fear and shame, rather we should be lighthouses for joy. Joy should be seen as the trademark mindset of Christians especially in the worst of times.

Why is this? Why are Christians able to be joyful and excited even when life is not going our way? Look at 1 Peter 1:8:

Though you have not seen him (Jesus), you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.”

The emotion of salvation is inexpressible joy! Paul is writing this to Christians that are being persecuted for their faith. He encourages them to see the truth of their salvation in Christ and root their emotions in that eternal truth, not in the temporary. Christians radiate joy because we have a salvation in Christ which gives us all hope. 

When considering how to stir up one another in love and good works we need to consider how our words and actions affect the attitude of those with whom we come in contact. Do we foster an atmosphere of fear and shame, or one of joy and hope? In Philemon 1:7 Paul says to Philemon, Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”  Look at the influence of Philemon’s love! Not only does his love refresh the hearts of God’s people in his community, it also brings joy and encouragement to those who hear about it. As God’s people we are meant to create atmospheres of joy wherever we are. We are to have a reputation for bringing joy.

You have the opportunity today, this week, and for the rest of your life to bring fear or bring joy to your community. Which will you choose? You can tell others that they should be afraid of what is to come or shame them for what they are doing. Or you can give them hope. You can live in such a way that fear and shame neither come into your heart nor out of your mouth. You can speak of your hope in Christ and your dependence on him alone. You can lighten up a room with your reliance on scripture rather than your reliance on the media. I pray this week that God’s people use every word, action, and thought to bring joy to our communities so that the world may know the hope that we have in Jesus.

It is Finished

It is Finished

Word in Season

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

The Son

It is finished to the fullest and complete. Brutally beaten and torn. I came into this world Holy God-man but now scorned and mocked. Replaced by a criminal for fear that I may cause mutiny from false religions based on human merit.

The righteousness that I proclaimed was impossible to achieve apart from the intervention of a Holy God (Mark 10:27). I showed to evil men the true nature of the law but all they saw was a usurper of their own control over the definition of “righteous”.

Submissive to My Father’s will, I drank the cup meant for my enemies. The ones who spat upon me and divided my clothing I cried out for them to be forgiven (Luke 23:34). They did not know they were crucifying the Savior of the world. 

Forsaken by my own Father. I cried out to Him but for one time in eternity He would not hear. My Father turned his back unable to look upon the most sinful sight the world will ever see—the combined filth of all the saints pouring down on me from Adam to my second coming. I hung on that tree damned. 

Yet from the world’s founding, I was the lamb slain (Revelation 13:8). I did not make a mistake in my creation. For all time I knew that the place of the skull would be the place where wood and nails and mockery would mark the only hope for humanity to identify sons and daughters of the living God (John 12:27). 

It is a good Friday, for I finished the work.

The Father

It is finished to the fullest and complete.  My holy wrath poured on the most innocent One. My Son (Romans 3:23-25). 

Finished. His body has fulfilled in perfect unique form payment in full for sinners. 

My back is turned on the Son. My triune Son and equal. The God-Man. Willingly subordinate and willing to die. He cries out “Father” but I will not hear Him (Matthew 27:46). 

It was my will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10).

I have seen in his blood the perfect payment fulfilling my wrath against unholy man. The blood of countless bulls and goats could not satisfy like Him (Hebrews 10:4). Perfect, spotless, holy God-man. Countless sons and daughters will be brought into my fold of glory (Hebrews 2:10). I will look upon my torn, mocked, and scorn Son in place of their iniquity.

It is a good Friday, for my righteous judgment of sin is poured out on My Son.

The Adopted Son and Daughter

It is finished to the fullest and complete. The debt of sin I owed, at great cost, has been removed from me. The righteous God-man hanging on that tree whom I whipped and mocked has paid in full what holy God held against me (2 Corinthians 5:19). All of it. My deception and pride and the secret dark marks that riddle my life. And the things I would have called righteous (Isaiah 64:6). His wrath is no more coming after me for my unholy deeds.

And oh, I see it now, praise God! That crucified man, Jesus. He is not foolish anymore. He is life. He is breath. He is everything to me. His cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). I see my sin, MY sin, hanging on His shoulders running through the cracked torn skin mingling with His blood.

Where once I trusted in myself and in my wealth and success and own righteousness for comfort in this life. I now count them as rubbish just to know this Christ better (Philippians 3:4-11). “Grace and mercy!” I scream at the top of my lungs. For the grace and mercy of God is what has rescued me (Ephesians 2:1-10). He has not counted my sin against me, that pile of filth and shame I lived in. He has given me life and calls me now “son”. He has filled me with joy which I  cannot contain. From now to eternity, I tell the world, “Not I but Christ in me”. Him I follow in humility.

It is a GOOD Friday. I am a child of the King of kings.

Don’t Waste Your Digital Worship

Don’t Waste Your Digital Worship

Word in Season

…when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:5

When Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonian church, he was reflecting on his painful struggle to return to the church after being torn away from them in persecution. During Paul’s absence, the Thessalonians underwent the persecutions common to the early Church. Paul was desperate to return to them to see if their faith was sincere. Were they still standing on the firm foundation of Christ, or had the pressures around the Thessalonian church proven them to be frauds? They were still clinging to Christ, praise God!

May that be said of Ridgeview Bible Church today and in the coming months. It would be wrong to compare COVID-19 to what our forefathers underwent (See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But, in this time we must not be naive of the things that will draw us away from Christ and his Church. 

So, be vigilant, church! Take this time to seriously pursue Christ lest we like so many walk away from what we once claimed to love.

In honor of a previous blog title aptly named after a well known book, let’s not WASTE these opportunities to digitally worship together. I have five challenges for us all that have convicted me in this new mode of church the past few weeks.

1. Pray

Fill your Saturday evening and Sunday morning with prayer to God for our Sunday gathering and others. Pray for the pastors that God would give them wisdom and incite to know what to speak to encourage us, challenge us, call us to repentance, and magnify our God. Pray for God to remove distractions in the livestream. Pray for the Church that their needs would be found in Christ. Pray for the musicians to play with humility and reverence, directing our hearts in worship. Watching a service on a screen does not negate the need to pray ceaselessly.

2. Stand and Sing Your Heart Out (if able) 

I don’t say this because standing is the only proper way to sing in church. But I do think attempting to imitate our orderly worship service as much as possible in this time is a great way to remind us what we are doing when we gather in our living rooms to sing together, apart. Remember who you are singing to. It’s not to a screen but to holy God. Fill your home with your voices of praise.

3. Don’t Eat Breakfast During the Service

This is only one example of many distractions that must be removed when we gather digitally to worship together. Plopping down on your couch with a big meal and consuming the Sunday service on your TV will only distract from seeing and worshiping God. In the same way, turn your phone off. Remind your children that worshiping together through a screen is NOT the same thing as watch the latest Disney flick.

4. Proclaim

Set a goal to reach out to a handful of congregants to encourage them Sunday afternoon or throughout the next week. Share what you learned. Ask them the same. Ask how you can pray for them. Seek ways to serve them. Be intentional with them.

5. Serve

Use your hands and feet to identify needs and seek ways to meet them. Give of your time and talents. Give financially. Give sacrificially. Serving the church under restrictions will look a little different of course, so we need to be creative in order to maximize our time and talents. As Pastor Mike said Sunday, we are all needy people. COVID-19 did not make us needy. We have always been needy, so those of us who have hope in Christ must share that hope to our church and community.

Why We Won’t Be Applying for Stimulus Assistance

Why We Won’t Be Applying for Stimulus Assistance

Announcements Word in Season

Recently, the President of the United States signed into law the CARES Act, known informally as the Coronavirus Relief Bill. There are many provisions in the bill that are intended to assist small businesses as well as faith-based groups like churches. The most relevant to Ridgeview is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Basically, this program makes it possible for churches to take out a loan equaling 250% of their monthly payroll. It is more assistance than loan, as the debt is 100% forgivable, so long as the funds are applied to the payroll and the payroll remains the same (no layoffs). Ridgeview researched this program with help from our primary banker and then we sought guidance from our elder team. On Sunday, the elders met to decide whether we will apply for this. And, as you can tell from the title of the post, we decided that we will not. For the good of the church, I think it is worth sharing our reasons.

First, no one on the elder team was convinced that we should participate in this program. Not all the elders were against it, but no one was clearly for it. And two of the elders felt strongly that we shouldn’t do this. To move ahead on something like this, we would need a strong and unified conviction that we should, and we are nowhere near that.

Second, while we do acknowledge that churches can trust God to supply for them AND also apply to these programs (seeing these programs as a means of God’s provision), we also believe that we can trust God to supply for the church through normal means; i.e., through the believers who make up this local church.

We believe that God would be more glorified by our looking to him alone to provide for our church through normal and biblical means – through the body of Christ.

Third, we feel that we, as a church, need to grow in our theology of giving. God calls us to be cheerful and sacrificial givers, not merely people who give out of our abundance or prosperity. These are trying times, but in these times we are not called to be any less cheerful or sacrificial in our giving. Taking advantage of this assistance would not help us grow in this area, and it could even hinder us, as we look to the government to do what God has called us to do.

Fourth, and most important, as an elder team we believe that God would be more glorified by our looking to him alone to provide for our church through normal and biblical means; through members of the body of Christ. Honestly, it would be easier for us to turn to this program, and it can feel more secure to do so. Yet God is not always honored when we take the easy path. He is glorified when we find our security and our rest in him alone. And more than anything, we want to glorify God.

None of this is to say anything about churches that decide differently than we did. We recognize that there are coherent and valid arguments for choosing to apply for these programs. These are simply our convictions, before the Lord. We also sincerely pray that many small businesses (especially local businesses) and individuals receive the help they need through the CARES Act.

For the Glory of Our Risen King,

Pastor Mike