Psalm 46 – paraphrased by John Coblentz

God is…
Our safe house
Our security
Our stronghold
Our sustenance
Our Savior
The one we can count on to be right by our side
Early morning
Through the day
Night-time duty
He’s here with everything we need
When we need everything.

Therefore we…
Are calmed
And comforted
And refuse to give in to anxiety
Though all we can see
Is calamity
Our world is rocking
Waves of trouble
Hurricanes of sorrow
Crashing and tempest
Tumult and shaking

But God…
Oh, the comfort of His presence!
The Rock that cannot move
The River that cannot run dry
Fresh water
Abundant life
Streams of goodness
Deluge of grace
Every day
Every hour
Every minute
Not one second of all time will His people be separated from Him.
He is with us!
When disaster strikes
When the earth crumbles
When the stars fall
When the whole world topples
He’s with us!

Come, consider with me the great things God has done.
He spoke everything into existence
He confused language to frustrate human pride
He destroyed the wicked with a flood
And spared one righteous family
He chose Abraham
He brought His enslaved people out of Egypt
And ravaged Egypt in the process
He parted the waters of the Red Sea… and the Jordan
He commanded walls to fall down
He made the sun stand still
He chased enemy armies with hornets
Then He let His own people be ravaged for their waywardness

Yes, come, and consider even greater things He has done…

He entered our world…

Healing flowed like a river
Life erupted like a fountain
Languages converged into one again
The kingdom of the heavens came to earth
Men and women came to life
Their hearts beat with love
Their lips and hands and feet were bathed in righteousness
People of diverse nationalities and race
Laid down their weapons
Their pride
Their prejudice
And embraced as brothers and sisters in one family

Be still!
Don’t say a word.
Just contemplate.
Meditate on this mega-story
Review each chapter.
Take in each line…

And know!
That God is God.
He will do His will.
He will finish His plan.
He will redeem His people.
He will restore all that is broken.

All nations will sing His praises!
All languages will shout the Hallelujah!

This God is our God!
The Lord Jehovah is with His people
The next day
Until time is no more…
And then the relationship is only begun!

Thoughts by Darren

I’ve been giving a bit of thought to the reasons that this disruption of our everyday lives feels so “big” to us. Aside from the obvious seriousness of living with the presence of a virus spreading across our world. I believe that the root of what is so off-putting to our modernist minds is our complete inability to control or fully understand the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Self-sufficiency and self-definition are two of the biggest “goods” encouraged by the culture around us, and right now, both of these things are absent from daily life.

Our self-sufficiency has been called into question as we’ve come to realize that if the delivery trucks don’t bring in the products we need, we won’t have access to them (TP anyone?). We recognize that the little things that we took for granted just weeks ago, aren’t as permanent as we once thought. This causes us to fear.

Self-definition is also unraveling before our eyes. The foundations, upon which people have built their identities, are missing. Sports are nowhere to be found, movie theaters and malls have closed, restaurants and bars are shut down, and most educational institutions have closed their doors. These are all things that people use to define themselves, to associate with a group, to feel a sense of purpose. Now, those things too, have gone from their lives.

As followers of Christ, we are instructed not to live in fear. More than that, we are equipped to follow that command.

We already know that we can’t go through life on our own, that we aren’t fully self-sufficient. We know that we are not promised an easy path through life, and we don’t know what we may encounter along that path. All we know is what’s at the end, and how we’re instructed to walk along the way. On this path, we’re gifted companionship: the church. A family, brothers and sisters in Christ, walking the same path together, encouraging each other, praying for wisdom to navigate well, and helping keep each other’s focus on the road ahead, rather than the darkness surrounding us.

In addition, we’ve also experienced a change in identity. The core of our being must no longer be defined by these externalities. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the good things we’ve been given, it’s just that we’ve come to a place of recognizing these things for what they are, gifts. We’re not to be defined by the world we live in, but by our citizenship to a Kingdom that is to come. In this change of allegiance, comes peace when our world is shaken.

If our purpose and identity comes from beyond ourselves, let’s show the world around us what that looks like! Rather than living fearfully, let’s live hopefully. Not being reckless, but serving our communities in consistent, small ways. Using the confidence that we are gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve as beacons of light to those around us. A friendly “Have a nice day!” to someone filling up next to you at the gas station, checking if your elderly neighbor needs help with anything, or reaching out to a friend who’s isolated during this time.

We’ve been given a gift. Let’s not keep it to ourselves. May we become the willing tools that God uses to redeem and transform this dark time into something beautiful!

Prayer Update

Philippians 4:6–7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Even though we aren’t meeting collectively today, we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring our concerns, our thanks, and our requests before the Creator and sustainer of the entire universe. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the privilege and value of regularly meeting… being together… encouraging each other… being the Body of Christ!  Let’s not take that for granted.

At a time like this when you see the panic, hysteria, and paranoia of society in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is an incredible opportunity to show our neighbors and those we see in the store a sense of peace and calm that comes from putting our trust and confidence in Someone greater than ourselves.

Fear is of Satan… peace is of God.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Historically at times like this, it is Christians who step up and put their own lives at risk in order to help others. We saw this with the Ebola virus in Africa several years ago. Believers have the willingness and courage to help those in need because we have the assurance of our standing with God — forgiven and redeemed — and we are willing to sacrifice the comforts of this transient life to show others the love of God and His care for them. It is a daily dying to self — it is being willing to give up my life to help others, not just figuratively, but literally.

This is not a time to careless and flippant — however, it is a time to live and act with courage and confidence because our hope is not in this life — but in the life to come.

We live in a fallen and sinful world. Because of that, there will be disease, natural disasters, tragic accidents, and many other difficult situations we face. Let’s not become so consumed with and attached to the present world we no longer yearn for the better life to come in eternity.

Let’s intentionally use this time to draw closer to God… let’s allow God to purify our hearts and cleanse our hands. As we do so, God will inevitably identify areas of our lives that require surrender and change. Let’s submit to the Holy Spirit’s plea.

James 4:7–10 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Let’s use today and this coming week as a time of focused prayer… the needs of our own hearts… the needs of our congregation… the needs of our community…. the needs of our nation… and also that this national emergency would be seen as an opportunity to show the life-changing love of Jesus to those we come in contact with.

Blessings to each of you today (and this week)!

Service Cancelled

The Coronavirus has become a focal point of discussion this week. Yesterday afternoon, there were two significant announcements – the Virginia governor closed all schools in the state for a minimum of two weeks, and President Trump declared a national emergency. Beyond that, sporting events, concerts, parades, and other events with large numbers of people are being cancelled around the country.

This virus is highly contagious and especially dangerous for people over 60 years old or with chronic health challenges.

Since last weekend when there was one confirmed case in Virginia, on Wednesday there were nine, by Thursday seventeen, and as of 6pm last evening there were 30 confirmed cases in the state. This is a rapidly developing and changing situation each day… and even, throughout the day.

In an attempt to be prudent without overreacting with irrational fear and panic, we have been discussing what adjustments we should be making to our Sunday morning service. In the end, we concluded we should cancel the worship service tomorrow morning in order to mitigate the possibility of the older high-risk members be exposed to this virus… and recognizing that there likely are other members who have been exposed and may be carrying the disease.

Shortly after President Trump’s press conference declaring the national emergency, he also declared tomorrow, March 15, a National Day of Prayer. Let’s take this opportunity tomorrow to specifically pray for each other as a church family but also our community and nation during this time of uncertainty. This is an opportunity to show we have faith and confidence in God… and we have hope beyond this life.

If you have specific prayer requests you would like our church family to be aware of, please call me or send a text message. I will try to send out an email with the requests tomorrow forenoon.

Here is a good reminder from Ivan’s sermon last week from Philippians 4: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.