Emmanuel Baptist Church • May 29, 2020
by Herb Geeslin, Pastor of Adult Ministries
My years at Oregon State University proved to be a time of intense personal spiritual growth through a dynamic college group at Northwest Hills Baptist Church. Since OSU is a land-grant and sea-grant university, it draws students into the fields of science and engineering from around the world. Our college group of several hundred students displayed remarkable unity, despite the vast diversity of backgrounds among us. There were students from around the nation, the world, and, yes, even a couple of us from Texas! That unity within such diversity made a huge impression upon me.
However, within any local church, there exists a wide variety of personal opinions, which is understandable in light of the differences in ages and personalities, as well as a host of social and economic factors. Furthermore, congregations include people at different points of spiritual maturity. Of course, differing opinions should not concern core truths of the faith, but it seems they do involve just about everything else! In other words, we should expect to find a wide range of opinions among our brothers and sisters in Christ, even though we are united in the basic tenets of the faith.
As noted by the biblical scholar, Leon Morris, “The church was never meant to be a cozy club of like-minded people of one race or social position or intellectual caliber. Christians are not clones, identical in all respects.” Indeed, within every local church, there are fellow-believers who do not share the same opinion when it comes to the interpretation and application of certain Christian truths.
The fact that we have varying opinions among us need not be an issue. Yet, problems often arise when our opinions are held with a dogged absoluteness that seems to place our views on the same level as divine revelation. And even when discussing a passage of Scripture with others, we can morph into a “my-view-is-more-spiritual-than-yours” mode on the basis that we hold a certain opinion with respect to the application of God’s Word.
This is not a new phenomenon within the local church. Paul addresses the subject at length with the Corinthians in his first letter to them, 10:23-11:1. He also emphasizes the matter in his letter to the Roman believers. In Romans 14-15:13, the apostle issues a word of caution to local assemblies: do not let division over opinions destroy the unity, love, and spiritual growth that is to characterize Christ’s people.
That word of caution is especially pertinent to us now as we grapple with our navigation through the COVID-19 crisis that has taken center stage in our country. I have spoken to many of you recently, and so I am aware that some of you hold some very strong opinions about what we are currently experiencing, as well as how we as a church should respond to it. A large part of the reason we have such divergent opinions on the matter is rooted in the fact that we lack solid epidemiological data concerning the exact nature of this virus. In addition, we hear various political voices that seem to be ever-changing with respect to the “proper” response to the COVID-19 crises.
The result is a lack of clarity. That lack of clarity is a breeding ground for the birth of many differing opinions. Lack of clarity also fosters frustration, and frustration (a polite term for “anger”) can easily lead us into fleshly behaviors.
Paul exhorts the Roman believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts (i.e., its desires, its passionate longings).” His next sentence addresses our situation: “Now accept (i.e., receive, accept in your fellowship) the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions”(emphasis mine).
Various English renderings of “opinions” (NASB, ESV) include “doubtful disputations” (KJV), “doubtful things” (NKJ), and “disputable matters” (NIV). The point is that Paul is talking about non-sin issues when he urges us not to rush to judge/condemn/despise the opinions of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some fellow believers will live out their faith in a way that contradicts our own opinion with respect to a given situation. In these circumstances, we are to fully accept such a person into our fellowship, because God does. Thus, Paul bluntly reminds us that the goal of our fellowship is much greater than merely trying to change people’s opinions.
Throughout the New Testament, it is crystal clear how important harmonious relationships are within the family of God. And a large part of that harmony is founded on the principle that we are to stop judging others merely because they hold a different opinion than we do. Really, the only way to have complete unity of opinion in a church is to reduce that church to one person!
Paul addresses all Christians in Romans 14-15:13, regardless of their “maturity,” whether they are considered “weak” or “strong” in the faith. He is not talking about their standing before the Lord, just their application of biblical principles in daily life. And both groups can find themselves guilty of attitudes that say, “My faith is better than yours.” So, in Romans 14:1ff, Paul gives some concrete examples of varying “opinions,” but he also lays down some divine principles by which these issues are to be viewed.
One of those principles is seen in Romans 14:6: “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” Which position a person held was not the important thing to Paul. Paul’s concern was that each believer should be fully convinced in his own mind, examining his own heart, that he is doing what the Lord would have him to do (14:22). In others words, both applicational opinions are aiming to glorify God.
A second principle that we can take from this section of Romans comes from verse 8: “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” All believers have one Lord. Whether “weak” or “strong,” we all belong to Him.
And in 14:10, we are reminded of a third principle, namely that it is He, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not us, that will judge His people: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” All of us have a common judgment seat.
Indeed, all of us have these three things in common: the same aim, the same Lord, and the same judgment seat. So, with respect to one another’s opinions, let us not rush to judgment: “Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way” (14:13).
Furthermore, condemning others is the opposite of loving them: “For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died” (14:15). Or, as Paul states it later, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food” (14:20).
Bottom line with respect to diverging opinions: do not let division over opinions destroy the unity, love, and spiritual growth that is to characterize Christ’s people.
Let’s bring these truths to our interaction with the COVID-19 situation. First, we can have varying opinions among us, and we can listen to one another with respect and tolerance. Arguing with one another will not produce any positive outcomes.
Second, when the time comes to return to our gathered worship services, let’s not make attendance of them a test of spirituality. Some folks will have good reasons in their minds to continue watching on-line for a while. Again, given the uncertainty surrounding this virus and our concern for others who might be severely affected by it, we will see different opinions emerge.
Third, continue to pray for your elders. It is not an easy assignment to balance all aspects that affect our entire congregation. There are logistical challenges upon opening our services; there are serious considerations of our community witness; there are clear biblical directives concerning our interaction with civil authorities; and there are numerous obstacles that must be considered in continuing our corporate spiritual growth and worship.
Finally, let’s keep Paul’s instructions before us, so that the big (eternal) picture is not lost in the noise around us. The circumstances surrounding us with respect to the pandemic provide plenty of opportunity to respond in a fleshly way, even though we may try to couch such responses in “spiritual” terms. Strongly held opinions provide fertile ground for sinful responses.
Certainly, church history has proven the veracity of Morris’ statement: “It is easier to put our trust in Christ for salvation than to solve the hard problems that confront us when we try to live out the implications of our faith in a society that is not Christian. Paul gives us advice as to how we are to live with others who love the Lord, but who do not see what we are doing as the ideal way of living out the Christian faith.”
Paul’s way may not be the easiest, but it is obviously the way that best honors the Lord. Let us continue to walk through this time together, loving and encouraging one another, preserving unity, knowing that we all indeed live for the same aim, the same Lord, and in the same accountability before Him.
Emmanuel Baptist Church • May 04, 2020
by David Riley, Elder
If you have been reading your Bible more during this time of the Coronavirus, that is a good thing. However, some biblical teachers suggest that meditating on the Scripture you are reading is even better!
In his book, Reading and Understanding Scriptures, Richard Greenham, a sixteenth-century Puritan, emphasized meditation as one of the eight “properties” of faithful and reverent reading of Scripture. Greenham wrote that one can read diligently, but the reading will bear no fruit if meditation does not follow. Reading may give some breadth, but only meditation and study give depth. He goes on to say that the difference between reading and meditation is like the difference between drifting in a boat and rowing toward a destination. “Meditation without reading is erroneous, and reading without meditation is barren.… Meditation makes that which we have read to be our own. He is blessed which meditates in the law day and night” (Psalm 1).”
Meditation involves our minds and understanding. It also involves our hearts and affections, that is the motives or reasons for the things that we do. To reach a sound and settled judgment on various truths, the mind must be brought to understanding. Meditation also “digests” this settled judgment and makes it work on our affections. If our affections do not become involved, our sound meditative understanding will erode away. The Scriptures must be transfused through the entire texture of the soul.
What does the Bible say about meditation? After all, don’t Eastern religions and Yoga participants practice meditation? Can it be the right thing for a Christian to do?
David Mathis in his recent book, Habits of Grace, helps to clarify. “Christian meditation...is fundamentally different than the ‘meditation’ co-opted by various non-Christian systems. It does not entail emptying our minds, but rather filling them with biblical and theological substance - truth outside of ourselves - and then chewing on that content, until we begin to feel some of its magnitude in our hearts.”
It is recommended by many biblical teachers that we follow our Bible reading with meditation. This, in turn, is followed by prayer. In essence, meditation can be said to, “bridge the gap” between hearing from God through His Word and speaking to Him in prayer.
A brief Bible word study for the term meditation reveals much. As Christians, we may meditate day and night (Genesis 24:63) or, at least regularly and privately (Deuteronomy 6:6, 11:18; Psalm 1:1-2, Nehemiah 8:8: Psalm 1:2; Acts 15:21 and Peter 1:19). We can meditate on precepts, statutes, works and law (Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99). For the Christian, meditation means having “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). This involves pausing, reflecting, memorizing, and rolling Scripture over in one’s mind.
By meditating on the Scripture, it becomes so ingrained in us that it becomes part of us. As Deuteronomy 6 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
And so, I would encourage you to add Bible meditation to your Bible reading. Meditate on passages that are new to you, and definitely go back and meditate on passages that you may have known and loved for years. If you have been a Christian for a while, you probably already know how the Lord can show you new truths in passages you have known for years and possibly even memorized in the past. However, it should be stressed that the purpose of meditation is not to receive new revelation but to see and absorb more deeply the true message of Scripture and apply it to your life.
For further study:
Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
David Mathis, Habits of Grace
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 14, 2020
by Kevin Brown, Elder
In the 11th chapter of the gospel of Luke, one of Jesus’ disciples asks Him to teach the disciples how to pray. Jesus responds by instructing them in the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4).
In doing so, Jesus provided us with an outline for Biblical prayer.
Take a moment and read Matthew 6:9-13, where the Lord’s Prayer is also recorded.
Then go back and notice the first two words: “Our Father.” They are easy to overlook if we just casually recite what many of us memorized as children. But if we stop for a minute to ponder their meaning, we realize how staggering those two words are.
Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17), and He addressed the Father accordingly (Matthew 11:25: Matthew 26:39; Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46). In teaching us to begin our prayers with “Our Father,” Jesus is reminding us that we, as Christians, enjoy a special relationship with God. This is a relationship made possible through our union with Christ. A handful of Biblical analogies describe this union (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15). Through our faith in Christ and His work on the cross, we have been adopted into God’s family, giving us the right to be called His children (John 1:12). This, in turn, allows us to call Him “Father.”
In a recent message, Pastor Patrick gave us seven specific ways we can pray for our church family while we are sequestered in our homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them was to pray that we use this time to “deepen our knowledge of God and His Word.” One way we can do that is to focus on what it means to call God “our Father.” Do we truly comprehend how amazing those two words are? Think about it: The one living and true God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, has granted us – His former enemies (Colossians 1:21-22) – the right to be called his children!
If we truly understand the significance of what we are declaring when we pray “Our Father,” uttering those two words should fill us with a deep sense of awe and gratitude and drive us to our knees. Theologian J.I. Packer wrote:
"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God."
It’s important to keep in mind, too, that Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father who is heaven.” This is not a statement about location, but of authority. There is nothing higher than heaven. When we think of the Lord residing in heaven, we should be reminded of Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” Praying “Our Father who is heaven” acknowledges not only God’s love and mercy in adopting us as sons and daughters, but also His omnipotence and His sovereignty. Jesus knew that if we start with the correct understanding of who “our Father” is and what He has done for us, our hearts will be properly prepared to humbly approach Him in prayer.
Notice that in Matthew 6 Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father” not “My Father.” That’s not just a matter of semantics. It’s a reminder that as Christians, we are part of a family that includes innumerable brothers and sisters. Those who have been given the right to call God their Father also are called to love the Lord’s other sons and daughters (1 John 3:14).
During this COVID-19 pandemic, when we are not meeting as a church body, are we still finding ways to demonstrate love for one another? Are we praying for each other? Making phone calls? Sending cards? Offering to run errands? Those of us who have been given the right to be called children of God also have been given the responsibility of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter the circumstances. We need to look for ways to do so even though we are apart. As the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote: “Love is the very essence of Christianity and proves the sincerity of our faith.”
By looking at some of verses in the Bible where God is described as “Father,” we can get a clear understanding of how “our Father who is heaven” differs from any earthly father we’ve ever known. Spend some time meditating on the following Biblical truths.
- He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
- In Jesus we get a glimpse of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; John 14:9).
- He is a Father who is willing and able to bless us (Ephesians 1:3).
- He is the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17).
- He is a Father of mercies and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).
- He is a Father who knows us and rewards us (Matthew 6:1 and 6:6).
- He is a Father who keeps and protects us (John 10:27-29).
- He is a holy and righteous Father (John 17:11 and 17:25).
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 08, 2020
by Buffi Taylor & Regina Pimentel, Women's Ministry Directors
In the current days, we find that our time looks different. We all have more time at home, even the essential workers who may still be going in to work. Once they are home they are not supposed to leave. One of the things we hear frequently is that people are spending more time in the garden or their yard.
Gina: I was working in the garden with my family and listening to instrumental praise music recently. As I was kneeling down pulling weeds, thinking about the Lord and praying, I noticed the way the root system spread and branched out. Sometimes it connected to another weed and other times it grabbed a huge ball of soil. This made me think of sin in our lives. Sometimes a sin can seem like such a small, trivial thing, not worth worrying about. But if we don't quickly repent of and confess even the smallest of sins, their spread is far-reaching, just like the roots of the weed. Sin rapidly spreads to other areas of life. It often grabs hold of other people, affecting them as well.
Buffi: I was also working in the garden with my family and listening to hymns and praise music. As I was weeding gravel on the side of the house, I noticed how easily the weeds were coming out of the ground in spite of the way their root system spread and branched. This made me think about Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Sower. The weeds sprang up on rocky ground, and as soon as they received a small amount of pressure (from me tugging on them) they were quickly uprooted. How fitting for this unprecedented time we are living in! We are facing pressures and trials most of us have never faced before. Will we be like those weeds and allow our faith to be uprooted? Or are our hearts good soil? Are we faithfully obeying and trusting in the Word?
As we were talking on the phone and sharing our similar thoughts from our gardens, it caused us to think about the requirement of repentance in deeply rooting in our faith. Along with knowledge of the Lord, prayer is an instrumental part of developing deep roots. Prayer aligns our hearts to His. Psalm 66 says "If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened."
Unrepentance hinders our prayers! So then, what must we do?
- We must pray that the Lord would examine our hearts and reveal our sin to us, so that we can repent of our sin. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
- We must examine ourselves in light of the Scripture, to evaluate the quality of our faith. The measure of our obedience shows the depth of our faith.
John MacArthur states that, "Self-examination is simply the process by which we examine whether our faith is genuine and our repentance is real."
In these uncertain times we ought to be more cautious not to fall into sin or to weaken our trust in Him. Let us use our "extra" time to make sure the soil of our hearts is good soil, that we are walking in repentance and obedience and deepening the roots of our faith.
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 06, 2020
by David Riley, Elder
If you are like me, you have received dozens of communications about COVID-19 during the last couple of months. The usefulness of much of the information we read is questionable. Some is clearly false, dangerous, or unhelpful. As a physician, I have tried to distill for you the main factual points of many of these documents. Realistically, however, some seemingly simple concepts can be very difficult to put into practice.
One of the main goals of staying at home is to keep people who are contaminated or infected away from those who are not. We also need to make sure that we do not contaminate or be contaminated by the environment around us. Unlike a stationary sterile surgical site, we are dealing with active sites. Solid objects and surfaces are potentially contaminated. So is the air around us. And, what is safe one minute may be deadly moments later.
A simple trip to the store presents many opportunities for contamination. The items you touch may have been contaminated by another customer or the employees. When you pay for your items with cash, the cash you give and the change you receive may be contaminated. Even the air around you may be contaminated.
Before going to the store, ask yourself these questions:
- How urgent or necessary is this trip?
- Am I maintaining a minimum of 6 feet from people around me?
- Are the door handles and other surfaces appropriately cleaned between customers?
You might choose to wear gloves. Discard them when you leave the store. Appropriately disinfect all objects when you bring them home or allow them to sit for two days before touching them. Two days is an estimate of the time required for the virus to die when it is on a surface.
Remember that the air around you may have been contaminated by a customer or employee carrying the virus. Even a 6 to10 foot buffer between you and anyone you see does not protect you from breathing the air of someone who walked in that same space a few minutes earlier.
The recent Skagit Valley Chorale rehearsal illustrates the point. The participants seem to have maintained distance, washed hands, and followed other recommendations. Still, approximately 75% of the group was infected during one practice session. This virus is apparently extremely infectious.
What does the virus look like? If you could see it, it might look like the dust particles you see in the air when the sun shines into your house. You can see how difficult it would be to avoid viral particles if they surrounded you in a similar way. You would need an airtight breathing apparatus and a proper gown.
It is difficult being restricted for a few weeks during the coronavirus problem. It could be worse. Consider that in World War II, young teenager Anne Frank and six others hid from the Nazis for about two years. They were confined to a small attic room in the Netherlands during this time.
My advice is that you stay home as much as possible. Walk outdoors but stay 6-10 feet away from others. The wind is good. Avoid rebreathing air in closed in areas. Avoid congregating with people other than those you live with. Carry and use disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and latex gloves. For many of us, this virus will only be a minor nuisance. But we may get sick and we may die if exposed. Even worse, if we carry the virus, we could expose others. See this as an application of Galatians 6:10: "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."
When will this go away? No one knows. Historically, epidemics such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and pertussis did not subside until an effective vaccine was developed. In the case of COVID-19, that may be a year or more away. Currently, there is no specific medical treatment, only supportive measures. We will need to decide collectively what is most important: physical health or the world economy.
What does the Bible say about occurrences like the present?
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea….
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
The words of Charles Spurgeon are helpful in this time: “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”
In summary, we are living in unprecedented times. The world has no playbook for how to deal with current events. However, none of these things has caught our God by surprise. No matter how dire the situation looks, the outcome is ultimately to our good and His glory.
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 04, 2020
by Patrick Slyman, Teaching Pastor
As the “shelter-at-home” mandate continues into another week, many of us have time at home we have not had before. What are we to do with this time? How can we use it for our growth in godliness? Here are a few practical suggestions on how you might do that.
Set Your Schedule and Read
Know your patterns. Are you a morning or an evening person? Set aside the most productive portion of the day for your time in the Word—and only allow emergencies to interrupt this time. Silence your phone, close your laptop, and ask the Lord for focus and clarity of thought. Remember, “What happens in the study determines what happens in the lives of people…A fruitful study will eventually become a fruitful body of believers as the Spirit uses His Word transmitted to mold people in the image of Christ.”
Then, begin to read.
Read the Bible to See God
Bible intake is essential, as it is what the Lord uses to nourish our soul and mature our faith (1 Pet. 2:2). Jesus’ words are as true today as they were when He spoke them: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Yet you must be careful to approach the Bible as it was meant to be read—as a God-centered book. Man is not the hero of God’s story. Far too often we read the Bible the same way we look at family pictures: we scan until we find ourselves. Where am I in this passage? is a question that far too often dominates our Bible reading. But the Bible is not primarily about us! It’s about God—His majesty, sovereignty, righteousness, grace, and mercy. It’s the story of redemption—God, having been scorned, now reconciling a people back to Himself. It’s the story of life—eternal life only granted through Christ. It’s the story of glory—the glory of God being put on display.
Thus, as you read the Scriptures, be content that often the story has nothing to do with you. Instead, ask yourself: (1) What attribute of God is being put on display? (2) How is the Lord’s hand of providence moving? (3) What new thoughts about God have I been taught? (4) How can I praise the one true and living God? These are essential questions because, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (Tozer). When reading the Bible, we must keep the center of the story at the center of our study.
Read Theology to Be Humbled
We are humbled when God is exalted. This is why it is important to read theological books, articles, and blogs. Far from being boring or dry, theology is spiritually invigorating. No being is more glorious, nor subject more essential, than God. As Steve Lawson writes, “If our lives fall short, it is ultimately because our view of God falls short. Transcendent living arises from a surpassing knowledge of God. A high view of God will always lead to holy, passionate living.” Read theology to be humbled, to be impassioned, to become holy.
Begin your journey with Peter Jeffery’s Bitesize Theology—a short read that summarizes the essential doctrines of the faith in bitesize pieces. Then, move on to R.C. Sproul’s Everybody’s a Theologian. Pick up J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity. I would then recommend John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine, Matthew Barrett’s None Greater, and John Piper’s Desiring God—each book humbling and quieting our souls with God-exalting theological truth.
Read to be enthralled with God, our Creator and Savior. Read to be changed.
Begin and End Your Reading with Prayer
Prayer and the Word go together. Though reading is necessary for Christian growth and humility, prayer is where our growth and humility are seen. Where there is no prayer, there is pride. And thus, prayer must engulf our reading. Begin your time in the Word by praying along with David, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). End your time in the Word by asking the Lord to make you a “doer of the word, and not merely [a] hearer who deludes [himself]” (James 1:22). And as you see more and more of the glory of God in your time of reading, “Always respond to every impulse to pray” (Lloyd-Jones). Prayer and the Word go hand-in-hand.
John MacArthur, Jr. and Robert Thomas, “The Pastor’s Study” in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry (Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 1995), 216.
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 02, 2020
by Luke Boswell, Elder
What a great opportunity we have in front of us in the COVID-19 virus! This statement might seem offensive to you. I do not mean to diminish the seriousness of the pandemic that we face. I do not mean to be cold and callus to the fact that many people are suffering and dying. I do not mean to make light of the countless people in quarantine all around us. Please, let me explain myself.
All too often, our American culture can be a shallow culture. Normal conversation topics might include the weather, sports, a good recipe just tried, or fun weekend activities. Or we may talk about good movies or shows on Netflix, our pets, the new restaurant that just opened, what we just purchased on Amazon, or the traffic around Seattle. Conversations with co-workers, neighbors and random acquaintances pre-COVID-19 were pretty light and fluffy. Oh, how quickly things have changed!
I work at a hospital, and pretty much the only thing people are talking about is the COVID-19 virus. The fear of sickness and death is running completely rampant. Light and fluffy conversations with folks have now taken a dark and serious turn. Normal conversations post-COVID-19 are about how many people have died so far, which state or country is now in mandatory quarantine, and how many cases have popped up in Skagit County since yesterday. People wonder what will happen if a loved one gets sick, if a friend gets sick, or if they get sick. These are great opportunities for us as believers to turn these conversations toward our hope in Christ.
Yesterday an unbelieving co-worker turned to me and said, “Luke, what do you think about all of this? Are you afraid?” I was almost speechless. This was an invitation to share my faith and present the Gospel at work! These are the types of questions we pray we will be asked. My answer was, “Do you mean am I afraid of death? No, I am not afraid of death. Because of my faith in Jesus Christ I know where I am going when I die.” (John 5:24) He said, “Yeah, I hope that I have done enough good things before I die so I can go to a better place, too. My theory is that this life is a test, and how you do at this test determines where you end up.” I said, “If this life is a test of how good I am, I know that I have failed that test long ago. From my birth I have done things that the Bible calls sin and because of that I have failed this test. (Romans 3:23) My only hope is that I put my faith in One who did not sin at all. Jesus lived a perfect life and He died on the cross for me and my sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Faith in Jesus is the only way that I can go to Heaven. He is my only hope, I cannot get there on my own.” (John 14:6)
That was the end of our conversation, but because of the grace of God, I was able to plant a Gospel seed in my co-worker’s heart. I share this conversation as an example of what God is doing in the hearts of unbelievers during these times. People are desperate for answers and searching for hope during this uncertain time.
I will end this with a couple of challenges for us as believers.
Are you as a believer “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you”? (1 Peter 3:15)
When we look up the death count in Skagit County, Washington State, the USA, or the world, we need to remember these statistics are eternal souls. Many of those souls will spend eternity in Hell because they did not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. Are you willing to tell people about the hope that you have in Christ?
We currently have no cure or vaccine for the COVID-19 virus and therefore many are dying, but we do have salvation from eternal death through Christ Jesus. The question for you and me is, will we share this good news with the people around us? Does your heart break for the unbeliever as expressed in this Puritan’s prayer?
- “My heart would melt to see their houses on fire when they were fast asleep in their beds. So is my soul moved within me to see them endlessly lost?” (Joseph Alleine)
There are a couple of quotes from Charles Spurgeon in the midst of the cholera outbreak of 1854 in London that I think are challenging and helpful to our situation now.
- “Take advantage of any opportunities you might have to preach the gospel to those who are afraid.”
- “As we entrust our lives to God and faithfully carry out our responsibilities, we have an opportunity to demonstrate what hope and peace look like in the midst of death.”
We cannot do this work on our own. We need help. We need God’s help. So please join me in prayer that the Lord would orchestrate opportunities for us to share with unbelieving people. Let’s pray that when these opportunities arise, we will recognize them and take them. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will help the unbeliever’s heart to be soft toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray like the apostles did in the early church, “Lord, … grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29)
My prayer for you and me is that we would see the great opportunity for Gospel conversations that has been sovereignly set before us in the COVID-19 virus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 02, 2020
by Herb Geeslin, Pastor of Adult Ministries
Immediately, the question arises, “What possible good can there be in this terrible virus that is turning our world upside down and, in many instances, bringing pain, perhaps even death, into human lives?” Well, I am certainly not saying that there is anything inherently good about the COVID-19 disease. The good that comes to mind is this: COVID-19 provides an opportunity for us to examine our hearts in light of the many consequences this pandemic disease has placed on our doorstep. For example, consider the following:
It is good to be reminded that control and certainty lie exclusively with our God. Too often, it seems, even those of us who know the Lord tend to act arrogantly with our expectations and plans. “Yet,” we are told, “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) COVID-19 can serve to keep us mindfully dependent on the Lord, even as we push through the “routine” of daily life. Tomorrow is unknown to any of us, COVID-19 or not.
It is good to be reminded that we can become overly fearful. Upon realizing that we cannot “take over” for God concerning total control of our lives, we might find ourselves deferring to a sense of dread. After all, life is dangerous. You and I are vulnerable. Thus, for many, COVID-19 might represent the very thing that draws us into a spiral of fear and anxiety.
While anxiety usually involves worrying about what might happen, fear takes it a step further. Fear is more convinced that what is dreaded will really happen. Of course, God has designed us to have a reasonable fear of danger and of difficult circumstances. We are all going to feel afraid at times in our lives. However, God also wants us to factor Him into our responses when we are afraid. “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Ps. 56:3) When we don’t do that, we become overly fearful. In other words, while there is a reasonable fear associated with COVID-19 (or any other present danger), we can lean on God in the face of it. COVID-19 will come and go, but other dangers will replace it.
It is good to be reminded that, as men and women in Christ, we need to place a high value on the welfare of others. Instead of focusing primarily on circumstances and on ourselves, we can seek both the physical and spiritual welfare of others during this pandemic disease. From a physical standpoint, the risk level of the people we spend time with varies. COVID-19 is not well understood at this point. Current data indicates that it has potentially crippling effects on certain individuals in all age groups. Think of “social distancing” as more than a way of “escaping” this virus ourselves. It is an important part of not transmitting it to others.
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others,” says the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:4. Until testing becomes the norm, even those of us who are asymptomatic could be guilty of giving the virus to others. That makes the inconvenience of limited human contact an act of love as we elevate a genuine concern for others above our personal desires.
At the same time, COVID-19 allows plenty of opportunities to seek the spiritual welfare of others. The various platforms of social media enable us to encourage one another and share the gospel with those who might be overwhelmed by the various ramifications associated with this COVID-19 crisis. They also enable us to stay informed about how we can help those around us. The “body life” of Christ’s church continues to function through prayer, words of comfort, food deliveries, etc.
So you see, there is something good about COVID-19. It builds trust in our loving, sovereign Father in Heaven. It eliminates our tendency to take the simple things of daily life for granted. It offers the chance to meet shared needs within our church and sphere of influence, both physically and spiritually. And it offers a golden opportunity for the good news of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed with clarity to a stunned, fallen world coping with the effects of this historic pandemic disease.
Emmanuel Baptist Church • April 02, 2020
by Terry Ogdon, Children's Ministry Director
We are certainly living in extraordinary times. But with extraordinary times come extraordinary opportunities. In one recent author's opinion, this is the "greatest opportunity in our generation to demonstrate our faith to our family, friends and neighbors."
Parents: this is your opportunity to step back, evaluate, and then model the biblical values you want to pass on to not only your children but your friends and neighbors. They are watching!
I think about my own life. I was raised by two parents who lived through the Great Depression. Our home was simple and modest. We had the things we needed and even a bit more. We knew our neighbors. We watched out for each other. We shared from our gardens and kitchens. No one returned an empty food container or plate. Everyone was frugal; shared what they had and creatively made-do with what was available. These were the principles modeled in my growing up years. To this day, I enjoy sharing with others and I can be frugal (ask my family).
What biblical values are you modeling for your family, friends, and community? Of course there are many - but may I suggest four?
1) Are you modeling faith in God's sovereignty?
Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
2) Are you modeling the hope that we have in God?
The Psalms have many things to say about hope. I like Psalm 62:5: "Find rest O my soul in God alone; my hope comes from Him."
3) Are you modeling trust in God's provision?
Isaiah 41:10: "Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
4) Are you modeling material generosity and service to others?
Romans 12:10-12: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality."
During this extraordinary time, I encourage you to discuss ways that you and your family can creatively model these biblical values of faith, hope, trust, generosity, and service. Let me know what ideas your family has come up with so that we can share them with others.
What biblical values do you live by? What biblical values will your children, family, and friends remember and practice?