Uncomfortably Conformed

The more I live the more I understand that it is not God’s will for us to be comfortable.

And yet, so many people–including many Christians–think just the opposite. They believe, based on faulty theology, that it is somehow God’s responsibility to keep everything in our lives running smoothly and pain-free, and they spend their lives trying to attain that level of comfort. Accordingly, they find themselves regularly frustrated at all the things that come their way that prevent them from experiencing that perpetual comfort.

Now I am not suggesting that God will not comfort us in our times of trouble. He does, and many who have experienced heartbreak and suffering have come to know His comfort in deep and meaningful ways. It is that comfort that the apostle Paul writes about in his second letter to the church in Corinth, that the “God of all comfort (would) comfort us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are also in affliction with the comfort with which we have been comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

Comforted, yes. Comfortable, not so much, mainly because faith and comfort are rarely compatible.

Vance Havner used to say that he felt that his calling in ministry was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And I think that it a pretty good description of all New Testament Christianity. Surely we need the comfort of the Spirit in our time of affliction, but just as surely, sometimes God disrupts our comfort by pushing us from our comfort zone so that we have to live by faith. And the reality is, God has not wired any of us just to nestle in to our comfort zones.

You probably remember studying amoebae in high school biology. They are microscopic lifeforms, and basically among the lowest form of life on earth. Sometime ago, researchers at the University of California Berkley did an experiment that involved introducing an amoeba into a perfectly stress-free environment. Ideal temperature, optimal concentration of moisture, constant food supply–the amoeba had an environment to which it had to make no adjustment whatsoever. If ever there was an amoeba who was living the good life, it was this one.

Yet, oddly enough it died.

Apparently there is something about all living creatures, even amoebae, that demand challenge. That’s why in school, when teachers want us to learn and grow they don’t give us answers, they give us problems. “If a train leaves New York travelling 50 miles per hour, and Johnny has six apples and eats three, what time is it in Copenhagen?” Okay, maybe that’s a little mixed up, but that’s the way life is sometimes too. Our problems sometimes have complex answers, if we can even know them at all. And that makes us uncomfortable, and it requires faith.

Which is the whole point, from God’s point of view. As much as we sometimes seem to be doing our best to remove faith from the equation–when we strive for comfort and control–He has another plan altogether. Sometimes His plans are frustrating to us, and challenge us to go and grow where we would have never grown before. But in those times, we draw near to Him and cling to Him like never before. I think for many of us, that has been the lesson through the pandemic of the last year, and if we have learned it, it has been time well spent.

Which brings us back to God’s will. It is not so much to make you comfortable as it is to make you conformed to the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29)

I pray this week that if you are struggling, hurting and confused, the Lord would bring you comfort. But I also pray that if you are getting too comfortable where you are, wrapped up in the things of this world, that He would shake you and stir you to move you to a new place of faith.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving you, and serving with you, as your pastor. May the Lord bless you as you walk with Him this week, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Doubting Our Doubts

Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the greatest authors of his age. He wrote numerous short stories and poems, but he is best known for his novels, including: Treasure IslandKidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Many of his writings are still required readings in school. But most people are not aware of the depth and strength of the faith he had in God. 

Stevenson’s life was a bit of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde story in and of itself. He was raised in Scotland in the mid-1800’s in a very strict Christian home. But once he left home and began attending college, he rebelled against the teachings of the church. He called Christianity “the deadliest gag and wet blanket that can be laid on a man,” and adopted a thoroughly worldly lifestyle. He even referred to himself as a “youthful atheist.”

But as he grew older, he began to have, as he described it, “doubts about his doubts.” He came to see that for all its claims to wisdom, the world had no satisfying answers to the deepest questions of life.

And thus, because the world couldn’t satisfy the thirst in his life, he returned to God. Later, Robert Louis Stevenson would write, “There is a God who is manifest for those who care to look for Him.” And he described his own walk with God as a “cast iron faith.”

Like Stevenson, most of us have gone through periods of doubt in our lives, especially as it relates to our faith, and there’s a little prodigal son in all of us. But there comes a time when we have to have, as he worded it, “doubts about our doubts.” This world will lie to us, and rarely delivers on what it promises. But if we are sincere in our seeking truth–and seeking God–He will not leave us hanging. He truly will manifest Himself to those who really care to look for Him.

F.F. Bosworth said it well a long time ago: “Believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts.” (Some will also recall that the Christian group Switchfoot adapted that statement into the lyrics to one of their songs.) That’s what truly exercising our faith looks like, even when we are inclined to doubt. I wonder, what would happen if each of us really lived by what we say we believe today, and refused to believe our doubts along the way?

I am praying that you will, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Coasting Downhill

A few years back, Pastor David Jeremiah wrote his daily devotion about an “old school” (or old church) term that you just don’t hear much any more: backsliding.

The word “backslider” is a visual term that describes someone who, having made progress in his or her Christian life, slides back into old patterns. It’s like a man climbing a hill who takes a step forward but slides two steps backward. Perhaps you can identify.

I remember hearing that term in church back in the day, usually with some level of guilt-ridden condemnation attached, but I had no idea that it had its roots in Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah warned God’s people, “Return, you faithless people; I will cure you of your backsliding.” (Jeremiah 3:22) Likewise, the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea and observed, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.” (Hosea 11:7)

We do tend to be “bent” that way, don’t we? The famed preacher, Dr. Harry Ironside, once said, “Any Christian who is not at the present time enjoying Christ as much as he did in a past day, or living for God as devotedly as he once did, is just to that extent a backslider.” Or, as my home church pastor used to say regularly, “If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, you’re backslidden.”

I am not so sure that I would say it quite that way any more, unless I was in the mood to heap some guilt on my congregation. My understanding of grace has certainly changed my thinking when it comes to things like that. I realize from week to week, all of us are ebbing and flowing in our walk with the Lord, and that at any given time, some of us are moving forward, some of us are standing still, and some are struggling to keep our heads above water.

The problem comes not because we move off of a constant upward trajectory toward perfection, but because we get complacent in our spiritual lives. Backsliding comes when we get satisfied with just going through the motions. And as someone has said, if you find that you are coasting in your spiritual life, you’re probably going downhill. 

But that’s where the news is good. God is merciful, and understands where we are, and what got us there. He says of all of us backsliders, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him.” (Isaiah 57:17-18)

So today if you feel yourself sliding backward, or coasting downhill, into sinful habits and faithless religion, may I suggest that you change direction? The Lord loves you, and He is waiting to bring His healing and restoration and to change the trajectory of your life. Let Him today.

Have a blessed weekend. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Being Jesus

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  –Matthew 20:28

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'”

Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

I’ve discovered that it’s not just 5-year olds that come up with such logic. As much as we all may believe that Jesus has set up an example of servanthood, and taught us to follow “in His steps” in putting others first, we often wait for the other guy to be Jesus.

Whether it’s two little boys arguing over breakfast, or two supposed grown-ups, married to one another but posturing to see who gets their way, it’s easy to expect somebody else to be Jesus. We’d rather not have to give up anything, and we’re always afraid that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, who will? It’s the way of the world, you know.

But we are not of this world, and we must never forget that. Jesus turned our world’s thinking upside down, as He taught that greatness comes not through power, but through serving others. However, if we just hear it, or theorize over it, and don’t put it into practice in the difficult struggles of real-life relationships, then we no more believe it than the world that would think the whole idea absurd.

Here’s the challenge this week for those Christ-followers who seek to live out your faith where you are, be it at home, or at church, or in the marketplace: You be Jesus. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Love others unconditionally. Give your life away. Serve them, selflessly. Let them have the first pancake, even. Reflect the character of the one who gave His all for you, as you live a life of grateful obedience to Him.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing each of you this Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Temporary and Fleeting

I remember watching live in October, 1989 as the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants were playing game three of the World Series, the first ever between the two bay area teams. Suddenly the camera shook, the TV signal was scrambled, and the announcers nervously told us that they were in the middle of an earthquake. It was a fascinating moment to be witnessing, up close and personal, even if I was nearly 2,500 miles away.

I heard an interesting story recently about that game and earthquake. A San Francisco man had bought a brand new Porsche and drove it to Candlestick Park that night for the game. When the earthquake hit, the stadium was emptied, and that’s when the man realized that his brand new Porsche was missing, stolen from the parking lot.

Weeks later, his car was found–buried under the collapsed Nimitz Freeway, with the thief in it, crushed to death. The man who had stolen the car had “owned” it less than half an hour.
My first thought was, echoing the words of Moses, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Or, perhaps Paul’s words from Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that he will also reap.” That thief got was coming to him.

And then I realized it doesn’t always work out so nice and neat like that. Often the thieves get away with it, at least on this earth, and justice is not so swift. We all wonder, sometimes, like the psalmist, why the evil prosper and those who seek to do right often get the short end of the stick. But though we all have to face justice, it’s rarely so obvious as this case.
On the other hand, we have to be careful wanting such swift justice, since we would probably all have bridges collapsing on our head on any given day.

It may not be obvious violations of one of the commandments like stealing a car, but the below the surface thoughts and attitudes which Jesus made sure to remind us were just as sinful as our deeds. Either way, all of us should be grateful for God’s mercy every day.

One thing that the story illustrated for me was for both men who “owned” that Porsche. One bought it and drove it to the game that night, and the other who stole it “owned” it for probably less than a half hour before meeting his providential demise. But for both of them, really, it’s the story of every man and his possessions. They are all temporary and fleeting.

So many of the things we want so badly in this world, and even spend our lifetimes trying to purchase and accumulate, will be gone before we know it. That’s why Jesus said that we should all be sure that we are laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves steal–and where freeway overpasses collapse in an earthquake and crush.

I hope you are investing your life wisely into that which really matters. You will never regret offering all you have as a sacrifice to the Lord, in this life and the one to come.

May the Lord bless you as you walk with Him and live for Him this week. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Not God

Ernest Kurtz wrote a book about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was entitled “Not-God” because, he says: the fundamental problem alcoholics have is that way down deep, they refuse to acknowledge limitation, weakness, being finite, being fallen. They tend to live under the delusion that they are in control of everything, when the truth is, they can’t even control themselves. 

Thus the first step in the 12 Step AA process is to recognize a “higher power”–one that is not you. It is to say, I have weakness and limitation. I am not in control of everything in my universe. I need help from a power greater than myself. 

But you don’t have to be an alcoholic to recognize the obvious. The “I am not God” illusion is not limited to someone with addiction, but is a spiritual problem that we all share. In fact, it has been around for all of humanity, back to the Garden of Eden. 

When the serpent tempted Eve, he told her, “When you eat this fruit, your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God.” That was the first temptation. “You’ll be master of your own universe. You don’t have to submit to somebody else’s ideas; you can make up your own rules. You can be your own boss!” Like God. 

That was a lie then, and it is now, and the consequences of buying that lie are often disastrous. It may lead to a life of out-of-control “control,” by medicating one’s life through substance abuse. It may be a life lived in bondage, masquerading as freedom, because we want to live without responsibility or accountability. But as the Scripture says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” You will certainly reap what you sow. 

But on the other side, it’s tremendous pressure for the average human to have to rule the universe every day. The stress of keeping all the plates spinning, of making sure everything and everyone fits your plan, of maintaining the appearance that you’ve got it all together–it is almost too much to bear. And eventually, you either come to realization that you aren’t in control after all–“Not-God”–or you lose it altogether. 

The good news today is that there is a God, and you’re not Him. He’s not just a “higher power” but a living person, who can be trusted. Better than that, He has already demonstrated that He’s for us, and not against us, and that He loves us, so much so that He gave the life of his own Son Jesus so that we could live.

So, why don’t you take a deep breath and relax, and let God be God. Receive the fullness of His gospel, and walk with Him in His grace. It sure takes a weight off your shoulders, and it will put a joy in your step as well. 

I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

The Divine Disrupter

Melanie Robbins is an Ivy League educated lawyer, author and expert in human behavior. She wrote an opinion piece a few years back for CNN about people and organizations known in the business sector as “disrupters.” Disrupters, she wrote, are those whose entire brand is to break the mold, to change our thinking about the mold, and to give us the new rules for how everything works.

For instance, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, did this through social media. Amazon has done this with retail, Uber with taxi services, and Apple with smart phones. They completely turned everything upside down, changed the rules, and then told us how to play the game. Disruptors, Robbins says, don’t fix what’s broken because they don’t innovate from inside a system, they are outside it. They try to turn the system upside down and even break it, and then they give you a new system and tell you how it works. That’s how they affect systemic change.

And once disrupters gain enough momentum through innovation and persistence, they don’t just make news, they are the news. They shape the narratives, they frame the issues, they define the conversation—what is said and how it is said. They dominate the market, they change what has been, and determine what will be next. In other words disrupters are not those that react to what is happening, rather they determine what is happening and what is going to happen in the future. They are out front, ahead of the curve and the masses, thinking and saying what needs to be said, before we even know what to think, what to say, and how to say it. Disrupters change things.

I am not sure Mel Robbins would agree, but if there’s one thing that this whole Holy Week reminds us, it’s that Jesus of Nazareth was a disrupter. What He did in those eight days changed human history like no events before or since. He created a whole new paradigm, and turned right-side-up a world that was upside down.

He was the King of kings, Lord of lords and disruptor of all disruptors. From the time He was born in a lowly manger in Bethlehem to when He died by crucifixion outside of Jerusalem, He was turning the world’s expectations on their collective head. And that pivotal week, in the days between His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and His resurrection from the grave seven days later on Easter Sunday, He would turn the tables over, literally and figuratively in the religious world of His day. The repercussions of that table-turning have brought revolutionary change in the lives of people around the world ever since.

The dictionary defines a disrupter, quite obviously, as someone who disrupts. And to disrupt is to break apart or rupture, or to throw into confusion or disorder. Jesus did that, to some degree, with the world He had created, and then walked into. The values and principles He taught were not of this world and ruptured the system for how the game was played. But He did not come to bring confusion or disorder; it was just the opposite, actually. He came to bring healing and hope and peace.

Jesus was the greatest agent of change in human history. He disrupted the law, and gave us grace. He disrupted death, and brought us life. He disrupted the enmity and historic hostilities between people, by His own blood, and brought reconciliation. He disrupted a system of religion that required that we earn our way, and offered a once and for all sacrifice that pardoned us from our sin. By His own sacrifice on the cross. And of course, His resurrection disrupted our fears forever more. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He said. “He who believes in Me shall live, even if He dies.”

My prayer this Good Friday morning is that Jesus Christ has divinely disrupted your world, that He has turned your life right-side-up, and brought you the peace and hope of new life in Him that can be found nowhere else. What a joy it is to be your pastor. I look forward to seeing you tonight at our Good Friday service, and on Sunday morning as we celebrate our risen Savior!

–Pastor Ken

Follow Your Heart?

If you have been around our church lately, you know that our focus has been on discipleship, and on disciple-making. In that same vein, our “quote for the week” in the ePistle a few weeks back was on what it means to follow Jesus as His disciple, from Francis Chan: “The world says, ‘Love yourself, grab all you can, follow your heart.’ Jesus says, ‘Deny yourself, grab your cross, follow Me.”

In the middle of that quote from “the world” is one of the most popular axioms in American life these days, the call to “follow your heart.” In fact, if you google the phrase “follow your heart,” almost four billion results pop up.

In his book “Rethink Your Self,” Trevin Wax wrote: “Recent studies reveal 91 percent of Americans agree with this statement: ‘The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself.’ In other words, if you want to discover who you are and what your purpose is, the place to look is inside your heart.”

Other common catchphrases that communicate this same line of thought would include: Go with your gut. Do what’s right for you. Pursue your dreams. Believe in yourself. You do you.

In our Oprah-fied world, all those things seem to make sense, but in reality they don’t jibe at all with what Jesus said when He called His disciples, then or now. And yet, so many people, even Christians, have bought into that idea.

But let us not forget that the Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) And Jesus came to redeem our sinful hearts, not to get us to follow them.

Author Jon Bloom writes, “Our hearts were never designed to be gods in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God.” And so, he admonishes us, “Don’t believe in your heart; direct your heart to believe in God.”

This is all the more significant, I think, as we approach the Holy Week that spans from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We are reminded of the fickleness of the crowds in Jerusalem that fateful week. One Sunday, as Jesus entered the city, they “followed their heart” and cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Just a few days later, some of the very same people were a part of the crowd yelling out “Crucify Him!” And they did just that.

Even if 91% of the world believes something, it doesn’t make it true. In fact, when we choose to follow Jesus we are making the choice, often, to go against the flow. I would encourage you to be careful about the ideas you pick up from the world, and that you choose to follow Christ, not your own heart. He will never lead you astray, and you will never regret faithfully following Him.

I am grateful to be your pastor, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

The Madness of March

March Madness officially begins today and I, for one, am pretty excited.

For some of us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year–and especially after our “March Sadness” last spring when we didn’t get to enjoy it because of the Covid shutdown. Of course, I’m talking about the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, when the buzzer beaters and underdog stories come out in full force, and we watch as our beloved brackets fall apart in front of our very eyes. 

More than 40 million people fill out more than 70 million tournament brackets each year in America, and that’s just among those that are entered in contests, like the Tournament Challenge group that we have at Shelby Crossings. Even the president usually picks a bracket each year–though this year he might not be able to get to it. I suspect he is pretty worn out from writing all those stimulus checks this week.

What I enjoy the most about the NCAA Tournament each year is watching all the bracket-busting upsets, as the lower seeded teams go head to head with their more highly touted and higher seeded rivals. That’s what makes the tournament the most exciting couple of weeks in sports for me, when the Cinderellas get to go to the dance, and when David takes out his sling and slays the giant Goliath.

Every year, we get to watch dramatic scenes on the court that look like they came straight out of of one of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, where the little school from the small town goes to the big city and, against all odds, knocks off the big boys. There’s something about the underdog story that draws our attention, especially as followers of Christ, and especially at this time of year.

Speaking of this time of year, we are only a little more than a week away from “Holy Week” that runs from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Easter. And every year during this season, we are reminded of how the whole history of God’s work in Scripture involves Him using the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27); from having a shepherd boy defeat a giant warrior; to bringing the King of kings into the world by way of a poor, unwed teenage girl; to bringing salvation to the world through that King by way of the least likely place, an old rugged cross usually reserved for the worst of humankind.

Certainly that cross was not foolish, any more than the man who died on it, but it sure seemed that way to a world that just didn’t get it, because it was looking for wisdom and strength, not foolishness and weakness. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25)

The good news for us all is this: instead of using the wise, the mighty and the noble God continually and conspicuously chooses to use the foolish, the weak, the useless, the unknown and the nobodies to accomplish His will on the earth. And that means He’s not looking just for the #1 seeds to do His work; He uses ordinary folks like you and me. Sometimes He chooses the least likely to succeed to do His will, so that in the end it is He who is glorified through the process. 

I hope you enjoy the tournament this weekend, and the next few weeks, if you’re one to watch those kinds of things. More than that, I pray that no matter how messed-up your brackets may be, you’ll find your joy and your security in the cross of Christ, the demonstration of God’s love for us, and the foolishness of God by which we have eternal salvation through Him.

It’s madness, for sure, but it’s the joy and hope of our lives, in March and all through the year. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Looking Back, Looking Forward

As I am sure you are aware, this is the anniversary week of the world shutting down a year ago because of Covid-19. The Lord has been gracious to us through a difficult year, and for this we are thankful. Many of us have contracted the virus, and we have all been affected in one way or another.

It’s interesting to look back at how we saw things, at the time, with what we knew then. We were all playing it by ear, trying to figure out who to believe and how to respond. In that light, I thought I would share my ePistle “blog” from one year ago this week, right when things were starting to get crazy. Here’s what I wrote then:

I am not an epidemiologist, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But it doesn’t take a smart guy to figure out that when the NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball shut down because of the coronavirus, we must have the makings of a fairly serious viral outbreak on our hands. With that in mind, we at Shelby Crossings want to make sure we take every precaution we can to keep our church family safe.

I will admit, I have been pretty skeptical during the past month over the irrational reaction of so many to COVID-19, or coronavirus, particularly in the media. We live in a world where we don’t know who to believe, perhaps because of so-called experts who have “cried wolf” a few too many times on a myriad of issues. It is the nature of our social media driven world to always believe the worst, to promote fear and panic, and to over-exaggerate everything, so you can’t blame anyone for being a little cynical.

Add to that the fact that like everything in the world these days this issue has polarized our nation, so that one side goes into panic mode while the other blows it off–and often people end up reacting to the reaction of others who were reacting to someone else’s reaction, instead of making informed, level-headed decisions. And, to hear and read some people almost excited about the looming outbreak so they can blame the “other side” politically is nothing short of shameful.

If you have been paying attention, you know that the hysteria about the virus really began to escalate the past couple of days and it has spiraled out of control like few things I remember in my lifetime. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be an international pandemic, more and more cases started popping up around the United States, colleges and universities cancelled all but online classes, the stock market continued to tumble, and every major sporting event was cancelled or postponed, even turning March Madness into March Sadness.

There have been some interesting–and dare I say even funny–events along the way, like the completely insane buying out of all the toilet paper, and a particular church in California that is known for its healing ministry deciding to shut down its special healing services because of fears of the coronavirus.

Somehow I think they may be missing the point. Because this very well may be the church’s moment to shine, to live out the gospel even in difficult times, serving people with compassion in the name of Jesus, sharing hope with the hopeless. Like Jesus who hung out with lepers, we too are still called to be salt and light to a dark world. And we can’t do that if we run into our bunkers and hide.

This whole episode has magnified the emphasis from our current message series from the book of Acts, on the 20/20 Vision for the Church. Acts 20:20 tells us that the early church ministered in the temple courts and house to house, and they understood that they were the church wherever they went–not just when they were gathered in public worship services. So, even if things were to develop so that we had to stop our congregational worship gatherings each week, we would not cease to be the church. We would still be able to meet together, and serve one another, house to house.

In fact, that has happened across the world on many occasions, when government pressure or persecution supposedly shut down the churches. They went “underground,” meeting in homes, and the church flourished like never before. Thus the 20/20 Vision of the church is that we will still be the church, and be His witnesses, wherever we are. Jesus will continue to build His church, and the gates of hell–nor any virus–will prevail against it.

In the mean time, we will not fear and we will not panic. God is still on the throne, we are safe in His hands, and His love still endures forever. As a church body, at this time we are planning to continue our current schedule of services and activities. We will be wise and prudent and extra careful in making sure that we take necessary precautions and are prepared and sanitized to prevent any spread of the virus.

Those who are particularly vulnerable and in the “at risk” categories because of advanced age or compromised immunity, we certainly understand if you want to err on the side of caution and stay home for a while. For those who do attend our services, we ask that you practice basic hygiene (hand-washing, covered coughs and sneezes) and refrain from handshakes as you greet one another. We will also forgo sharing communion in our worship services for a while. Also, if you feel that you may be showing symptoms of sickness, please “love your neighbor” enough to stay home and not share it with the rest of us (even if it’s just a common cold).

And I would ask that you join us in praying, for the Lord’s protection from the spread of this virus, but more than that, for the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this time, and point people to Him.

As a point of context, the next week we shut down our in-person gatherings for two months, and you know all that transpired from there. As we look back, I am grateful for the Lord’s protection, for which we prayed and He answered. I do hope that we have been wise and prudent and careful over the last twelve months, even as we have tried to walk by faith, and be faithful. And as we look forward, I pray that we will continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the “new normal” world that is to come on the other side of this pandemic.

May the Lord be honored in His church. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken