A Message from Pastor Doug
Praying you are all doing well and are filled with His peace this week in spite of a world filled with chaos and fear. I have so much I would love to say regarding all we see happening around us in this tumultuous time — politically, socially, economically. But the Gospel’s call on my life is to share the truth — spiritually! And even there, I will keep this as brief as the Spirit allows. The purpose of this email is not so much to ‘inform’ but to ‘ENCOURAGE’.
Although we are making sure that things are extra-clean and sanitary for Sunday, we have no plan to change our gatherings. However, this is a fluid situation and the government could mandate that all public gatherings should cease. Or the Deer Valley School District could close their facility to us (since it is not ours). If those things were to happen, your leadership would surely seek the Lord’s wisdom and Spirit’s power in what direction He would take our faith family. Be sure to keep checking your email and our Facebook/Twitter pages for the most up to date information regarding our FRamily Gatherings.
If you are in an ‘at risk group’ and feel the need to stay home, His grace will surely cover that. If you are feeling sick, show grace to others and stay home as well. And for everyone else, let’s extend people the freedom that grace gives us to stay home if they, or those they live with, are feeling ‘at risk’; or even to refrain from shaking hands or giving hugs (not to mention the ‘holy kiss’ ;-). Instead look for ways to love and encourage and pray for people that they may feel the peace that only comes with His presence. Telling fearful people that they simply should not be afraid is neither helpful nor encouraging unless you are leading them to behold the beauty and the power of the One who controls all things, holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), and commands us to, “Stop being afraid, the Great I AM is here!” (Matthew 14:27) It is in the power of His presence where faith is found and fear flees.
Now, how should we live in such a time as this?
First, here is what we don’t want to do in view of the COVID-19 situation that has greatly impacted our lives. We don’t want to ignore it or discount it. It is deadly, as are all forms of the virus we think of as ‘influenza’. We don’t want to belittle or disparage those who we may see as ‘overreacting’ because they are fearful. Fear and anxiety are powerful tools of the enemy and they are real and should not be discounted. We also don’t want to get caught up on discussions about politics and conspiracies. Let’s not appear so flippant about something that may be consuming someone’s soul.
Now on to what we want to do in this time of upheaval.
First, we want to recognize it for what it is — a massive opportunity for the Gospel. By leading with love, demonstrating trust, practicing faith, showing steadfastness, and offering help where we can — certainly spiritually, but also physically — we can ‘let our light shine before men that they may see the difference and glorify our God who is in Heaven.’ (Matthew 6:16) The greater the darkness becomes the brighter His light can shine, so we must not ‘hide the light under a bushel’ or by being holed up in our homes either. Let’s look for ways to speak the truth with loving words seasoned with grace, and see the Spirit use us to touch hearts with the beauty of the safety and security found in the Gospel.
As Bible-believing Christians, we know the biggest issue in our world is not sickness, but sin. This has been true since death entered the world through the first sin at the fall. And just like Satan slithered up to deceive Adam and Eve, the enemy is stirring up strife and isolation, fear and anxiety today. But this just means that there is greater opportunity for the Gospel to go forward, for His light to shine brighter, for us to show that there is a better way and His name is Jesus! As A.W. Tozer said more than 70 years ago, "A scared world needs a fearless church." Yes, COVID-19 is serious and can be deadly, but so are so many other things in this fallen world. And, as I preached a few weeks ago, “The greatest danger facing every human is not dying from COVID-19, but that they would die without knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and be apart from Him and His people for all eternity.” ‘But how will they hear if we do not tell them?” (Romans 10:14) And how can we tell them unless we are among them?
Also, as Christians we should fear illness and even death less than anyone on earth because we know that Jesus is ‘the resurrection and the life and those that believe in Him will live, even if they die.’ (John 11:25) Should we not be able to join with the Apostle Paul and say, ‘for me to live is Christ and to die is even better’? (Philippians 1:21) My dear brothers and sisters, “God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 2:7) The command “Do not be afraid...” is repeated so many times in scripture. But this is only possible if you have come to know, down deep in your soul, that “nothing can separate you from His love — not even death or life or angels or demons, nor rulers or principalities, or any living thing...” (Romans 8:38) This surely includes the Coronavirus. So, the antidote to anxiety and fear is His perfect love which casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is the one we walked through as part of our Advent Season:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3
But that is the question isn’t it? Is your mind fixed on Him? Do you trust Him? Our peace, our joy, our hope, our faith can waiver greatly at times like these, for we all suffer from trust issues. But a truth you may be tired of hearing that I will never tire of saying is, “What we fixate upon, we migrate towards. What consumes our minds captures our hearts.” So where is your heart-focus at this time of great gospel-opportunity? What is your filter for the things you fill your mind with? To put it bluntly, is your filter Fox News and Facebook or the truth of His Word? Is your heart-focus consumed in personal, present-day, safety and security, or in seeing His Kingdom made manifest and eternal glory with Him made real for many? Now more than ever we must ‘keep our eyes fixed on the author and the finisher of our faith’ who walks above the waves of this world. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Let us look for ways to be a blessing, to care for and about the sick, the hurting, AND the fearful. Throughout history, Christians have been known for extraordinary love and tangible help in times far worse than these. And the Holy Spirit has always used the power of His ‘truth on display’ to strengthen the true church and expand the Kingdom of Christ. We must remember that, at a time when the church was facing certain death by crucifixion, being burned alive, or being fed to lions, or undergoing persecution and imprisonments just for gathering to worship Jesus, the people still gathered and ‘didn’t forsake assembling together to encourage one another all the more even as the Great Day of Judgment draws near...’ (Hebrews 10:24–25). This was a powerful witness to the world. Again, please be wise and take precautions to stay healthy. And, above all, give preference to your fellow brother and sister, friend, neighbor, coworker and classmate by helping and protecting them as needed. (Romans 12:10) Prudence? Yes! Taking precautions? Yes! But also trusting in the providence of our Almighty God? A thousand times yes!!!
Finally, know this. You are deeply loved by your Pastor, and Jesus loves you way more than that! I take time to write this only because I love you so! It hurts my heart to know so many of you are fearing what this world is currently throwing at you. My soul grieves at the thought of how the enemy can use this to pull so many further down into his sure destruction. ‘But greater is He in you than he who is in this world!’ (1 John 4:4) So be encouraged, and take courage! Let us ‘be strong and show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and the church of our God, and may we trust that He will do what He is going to do.’ (2 Samuel 10:12)
Much MUCH love in Christ.
Keep Looking UP! Luke 21:28
To God be the glory! To the Son be the point!! To the Spirit be dependent!!!