Weekly Update - April 16
GRATITUDE FOR SUNDAYS
Since becoming a Christian, Sunday has always been a day I love. When it became apparent that we would not be meeting for a while, I could almost feel the creep of discouragement wrapping itself around me. I have been trying to actively fight back and work out of discouragement’s squeeze on my heart and enjoy what it is that God has ordained. I am confident, while congregational life cannot be replaced, that life in Christ can still thrive during these days. They are not ideal, but we dare not be idle in them. While not what I desire, it is still a day I love.
As our local authorities are extending our shelter-in-place order through the middle of May, God is extending the opportunity to be grateful for this unique time. Yes, we actually are actively and intentionally planning for what it will look like when we meet again, and we will communicate these plans to you as we learn more details from our local leaders. But until then, I am still grateful for what we are doing on Sundays.
IN WHAT WE ARE DOING
Few engagements in life are as life-giving to my soul than the ability to gather with you on Sunday. But, I am still grateful for what we are able to do on Sundays. Our family prays, sings, reads the word, and listens to the sermon together. We talk about the issues we are praying for, we think about the themes of the songs, we respond to what we have read, and we unpack what we have heard in Scripture. We are still meeting with our Growth Group and actively praying for and seeking ways to encourage each other. My soul needs that. Your soul is not different than mine. Let’s be grateful for what we are doing on the Lord’s Day.
IN HOW YOU ARE RESPONDING
My gratitude has flourished in recent weeks in hearing how you have been responding to these very different days. Whether in a phone call we share, an email we have traded, or a note I have read, I am deeply blessed by the intentional way you are sharing your joys in the Lord during these days. I’m not exaggerating this or merely trying to pump you up with manufactured zeal. Your responses to what we are all experiencing is having marvelous effect – especially when you take the time to share it.
IN WHAT WE ARE MISSING
The pain in my heart is real. And there is a genuine, positive impact this pain is having in my soul. Saturday evenings are not my greatest moments. After recording the sermon, I am emotionally depleted – for a variety of reasons. I go home and look to try and unwind from the high of the moment and then the inevitable begins. I begin thinking through everything I should have said, but didn’t, and what I did say, and shouldn’t have. And I have no interaction with anyone who has sat under the preaching of God’s word (except Dawson, and he is immensely gracious). There is a giant hole in my heart. And it is painful to me. It can be deeply discouraging. And that is why I take some extended time late into Saturday evening and early on Sunday morning to intentionally exhort and help my heart find hope in the word. It is God’s word, not my preaching, that accomplishes spiritual growth. And what I am missing I should miss. It is good to long for the church and the rich fellowship we have over all we do together on the Lord’s Day. What we are missing, we should miss. And perhaps the hole in my heart every Saturday is a reminder of how needed such gatherings are for us. So, in a helpfully strange way, I am even grateful for the pain in what we are missing.
Let me encourage you to stoke the fires that breed higher flames of gratitude for what we have and do on Sundays.
GRATITUDE FOR GIVING
TO THE CHURCH
We have a massively faithful congregation. You have given in ways that have literally astounded my soul. I want to thank you for being so faithful to the Lord in the face of so much uncertainty. I want to thank you for giving through the church which positions us to come alongside those who have extensive need and invest their need. And when we do it as a church, it is as if we are all participating together in the special fellowship of meeting the needs of those who are providentially experiencing a season of lack. Thank you.
TO EACH OTHER
But, what makes my soul soar are the testimonies I have been hearing of how many of you have been giving so much to so many others in these times of need. I can easily be brought to tears when hearing how needs have been met by spontaneous and extensive giving. And these are only those I have personally heard of. I am very confident more is happening among us than I could ever know. This is all the result of a people who have been deeply impacted by God’s grace and people who have been wonderfully transformed by the work of God’s Spirit through his word. You are proving the genuineness of God’s word in a life changed by the grace of Jesus.
GRATITUDE FOR FELLOWSHIP
How thankful I am to hear about how many of you are meeting for discipleship, prayer, encouragement, and unique opportunities to have fun. I am still meeting with people for counseling, questions and answers, ministry planning, small group discipleship, elders’ meetings, staff meetings, and general encouragement. The ministry of fellowship is still active, even though it is different and virtual.
Discipleship groups are still meeting online – but they are meeting. Books are being read. Scripture is being memorized. The Bible is being digested by so many of you. You are being intentional and involved. Thank you. Keep it up. Be regular in it. Take initiative. If it crosses your mind to connect with someone, do it. Just do it.
We have some unique opportunities for all of you to engage in fellowship.
FRIDAY CONGREGATIONAL Q&A
Consider joining us on a Zoom conference every Friday at 1:00 pm to engage conversation with each other. We can talk about anything on your mind. We can pray together, share, ask questions, and give encouragement.
Several of you have already participated in the previous one, but let me encourage you to think about participating in the next one, coming up this next Saturday afternoon. See our Facebook page or newsletter for more detail, or you can contact Raylene Tormanen. It is a fun and safe way to have some fun with each other. Seeing all the pictures from the last one was fantastic. I encourage you to think about participating.
Don’t forget about Titus 2 groups for women, Ironmen groups for men, Growth Groups for everyone – or any way you can connect with others to pray, confess sin, talk about the Bible, and provide persevering encouragement. If you are not involved in a group, but would be interested, send us a note and we will provide some helpful direction.
In all, just know that my heart is full even while it often feels empty during this season. The Lord has seen fit to ordain days that make us reevaluate what we value. And I can’t help but think that this will be a season of our lives that will shape us for years. Let’s make sure we are cultivating God-ward gratitude through it all as we make the most of it by the means he has provided us.