June 1 – Romans 12:3
As if figuring out how to function during a pandemic is not hard enough, the United States has a bigger issue to confront. Today we are anything but united. The division we live in is a much greater threat than any virus.
During the days of the pandemic isolation, the theme for our culture has been “We are in this together”. We see this on billboards, TV and hashtags. But now with the brutality that happen in Minneapolis at the hands of an officer of the law, it has exposed that we are not quite as ‘together’ as we would like to think.
Now is not the time to fear, or the hang our heads. The follower of Christ must not be shaken in the midst of pandemics, riots or whatever come next. Stand in Christ. Trust in God.
As your Pastor today, I want to turn your thinking to God’s Word. For us to be part of the solution of society’s injustices we must start on a personal level. God’s Apostle Paul has instructions for us in the letter he wrote to the Romans. In Romans 12:3 he writes the following warning, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” I love the New Living Translation of this verse. It says, “I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.”
Injustice and prejudice begin when one person thinks they are better than another. Thinking of myself as being above others is the start of the slope that ends in the destruction of the value of others.
During the 2020 pandemic we have been focusing on the value of others. The riots of 2020 have not changed our need to value others. Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
April 29 – The Need to be Together
In 2011 Dr. Steve DeNeff published a book titled, Soul Shift. There is a powerful chapter in the book that challenged me, convicted me and led me to prayer. The chapter is “Me to We”. It focuses on that fact that the church is called to be a community. The gifts given by God to me and to you, are not for our personal benefit. The gifts given by God are for the benefit of others.
To help us see the need to shift from “me” thinking, to “we” thinking, DeNeff points out that a culture has its own sins. Sins that a culture, an entire people group, can become blind to because the sin becomes so widely accepted within the culture. His example in teaching this truth is slavery in the 1800’s and how John Newton was used by God to reveal the cultural sin of the African slave trade to England.
DeNeff challenges us, that as 21st century Americans, our cultural sin that we have become blind to is INDIVIDUALISM. Individualism is not scriptural. It is true that my faith is mine. I cannot get to heaven on your faith. However, my faith is not just for me!! My faith is to get me to heaven and to take others with me. As we sang “This Little Light of Mine” as kids; the light may be mine, but “Hide it under a bushel? NO!” The light is not just for me. So, the Church must shift from ME to WE.
The quarantine of 2020 has taught us this truth, has it not! We know The Church is not a building. At it’s core it is not even an organization. It is the COMMUNITY of believers. It is the working together of disciples to make new disciples. If you have learned anything during the quarantine of 2020, I hope you have learned the value of others!
God said it is not good for us to be alone. The writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering together of believers. The Apostle Paul mentions more than once his deep desire to be with other believers. Loving your neighbor is part of the Great Commandment. You see, loving others is not the theme of individualism, but it is the theme of Christ’s followers.
Some good from the 2020 quarantine has been churches getting creative on how to reach people who are not in the building. Praise the Lord for these lessons of creativity we are all learning. But may God help us see that the end goal is not for others just to hear the Word, but for others to be redeemed and live for Christ. And this life of redemption is not to be done alone or in isolation.
I am excited about how many are listening to God’s word during this shutdown. I see people logging on that would have never crossed the thresholds of our buildings. God will use this! But as your pastor let me give you a lesson I have learned during the shutdown. We need people. The Church must shift from me to we! I have heard some say the quarantine has moved the church into every home. But before the quarantine, the “church” already was in every home if you are basing it on the ability of people watching church services. Every home with a TV has had the opportunity to hear God’s word for decades. Live streaming is not new to the 2020 quarantine. Several churches have been doing this for years.
I am thankful for the tech used to get the Word out. Let’s remember, tech is not substitute for gathering. We must not take our gathering together lightly. People need to be together. Believers all over the persecuted world risk their lives daily to be together. Let us never allow modern methods to ever replace the gathering of disciples. We need each other. It is part of His design for His people.
When this is quarantine is lifted, let’s go get them! Compel them to come in.
April 6 – What’s Next
For the state of Indiana, tomorrow (April 7) finishes our first two-week “Stay-at-Home” order. Which leads into our second two-week “Stay-at-Home” order. COVID-19 continues to plague our world.
What does all this mean? What’s next? What is God trying to say? Is this the end?
Ever since Jesus Christ returned to heaven each generation has looked at the signs and thought they may be the last generation. Rome persecutes the Church. The Crusades. The Bubonic Plague. Revolts in various countries. The war to end all wars. Hilter. And on, and on, and on.
I don’t know what is next. I don’t know if this is the end. I do know however what God is trying to say. He is saying the same thing He has always said, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is why we were made. This is why we are here. This is what He wants. This is what He has always wanted.
So there really is no doubt what God is trying to say. He has made it clear from the start. And in order to be His people we must repent of our sins, turn from our selfishness and follow Him.
May Christ come and rid us of this virus. Keep praying for this to disease to be stopped. But do not turn to Christ to only stop COVID-19. Turn to Christ to be with Him forever. Just as He intended.
I miss you all and look forward to when we can gather as God’s people and celebrate His love and grace!!
March 27 – God will Provide
In John 6, the crowds are swelling around Jesus. He has healed many and feed thousands. In their search for more, Jesus clarifies who our ultimate source for life comes from. Jesus references that in the time of Moses when the people received manna, they gave the credit to Moses. But Jesus points out the manna really had nothing to do with Moses because it was from God the Father.
Thousands are becoming ill due to COVID-19. However, millions are out of work. In this difficult time, we need to remember that neither our employer, nor our government are our providers. Our provider is God the Father, made know to us by His Son Jesus Christ, living in us through the power of His Holy Spirit. Pray for the ones whose income is reduced during this crisis. Help your neighbor and trust God to meet all our needs.
March 23 – a note from Pastor Todd
March is a rough month for many of us in the state of Indiana. Cabin fever hits after a wet gray winter. Then March rolls around with days that tease us that spring is coming, but then another week of cold gray rain moves in and we start getting a little stir-crazy. Now add the 2020 crisis of COVID-19.
Let me caution you about time of boredom. When bored we start seeking more to do, more to watch, more to browse, etc. When this happens, we can begin to wander. Wander onto websites not appropriate, wander across shows we should not be viewing. Sometimes the best course of action is to take a break. Turn off the streaming access.
Not everyone is a reader. But now is a good time to read. I want to make three recommendations for you.
- With this being the Easter season, I recommend the old Max Lucado book, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior. This is a great book for some who would not normally sit down and read. The chapters are short and can be read in a devotional type way. It is a great way to focus on the cross of Christ and what He did for us as we head toward Holy Week.
- During a time when it is easy to become self-consumed, I recommend Kyle Idleman’s book, The End of Me. This is a great book based on the sermon on the mount. It is an easy read, but it will challenge you in your walk with Christ.
- For the one who likes to go a little deeper and does not mind garppling with life’s questions, take a look at Philip Yancey’s Rumors of Another World: What on Earth Are We Missing? In this book Yancey addresses one question we all have: why are things so messed up?
There are some options to fill your mind to help you not to wander in your boredom. And by the way…the most important resource we all have in our homes: our BIBLES. Read God’s Word!!!!!
March 17 update from Pastor Todd:
On Monday, March 16 our governor reduced the number for a gathering from 250 to 50. Therefore, Sunday services at The Journey will move online for March 22 and March 29. These next two Sundays you will be able to go to our website for a video sermon.
Later this week the Board of Administration will meet to set the course for our church during this time of limited access. We are taking steps in two-week increments. All updates will be posted on Facebook and our website.
Let me leave you today with one thought of spiritual direction:
The power of gathering gives each of us strength in our walk with Christ. Without the power of the gathering of the Church, we can become vulnerable. So, stay on guard spiritually. Proverbs 4:23 encourages us to, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Be aware that isolation reduces accountability. So, stay in God’s word to guard against temptation in times of isolation.
My prayers are with you.
Fear vs Caution
These are challenging times. From random shootings, to viruses, it can be easy to become fearful. But as followers of Christ, His word encourages us many times not to fear those things or people who can harm us. Our trust is in the Lord.
With God’s help, fear must not take us over. Fear is when we allow the circumstances of life to control our lives. As followers of Christ, let’s be mindful of our witness during these troubled times and help the world to see the peace we have in Christ. Let’s not forget, He has overcome this world and its fearful circumstances.
Our trust in Christ is not blind. In fact, God calls us to come and reason together. There is Biblical instruction to be cautious while not be ruled by fear. Many times, the Bible teaches us to be alert and vigilant.
During this season of the COVID-19 we face it with vigilance and caution but not with fear. We are continuing our church schedule as usual. To be cautious in this time our team is taking extra steps to keep the church disinfected. We will greet one another with a smile rather than a handshake or hug. If your health falls in the at-risk categories, we encourage you to avoid the public. If you are not feeling well, stay home. If you stay home, you can still hear God’s word online and you can still give your offering online.
Let’s stay safe and be ruled by God not the fear of the world.
God bless you,
Psalm 34:4-6 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.