Boundaries, Battles & Blessings – during the pandemic tribulation

We need to be wise in the battles we fight AND in knowing the right time to fight them.  For instance, there are numerous actions taken by both governments and individuals that raise the eyebrow of the average person.  Decisions that seem to be adding to the stress that many feel.  But given the state of mind that most people have to manage during this pandemic, the wisest choice seems to be avoiding unnecessary conflict, whenever possible.  As the old saying goes, “time will tell”.  We will all be judged in the passing of time as to the soundness of our actions.  Even a legitimate gripe needs to be shelved during a crisis so that we can give ourselves to the work that is most important.
And the most important work, in my view, is keeping faith strong during this time of tribulation.  I think we need to stay attentive to caring for our families and each other.  I know that you’ve all heard a flight attendant explain the safety procedures in case of a mid-air emergency.  One instruction always strikes me as counterintuitive.  In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you.  PUT YOURS ON FIRST before assisting the person next to you.  The logic is sound.  If you are not able to breathe yourself, you most likely will NOT be able to help those around you.  
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF so that you can properly help those around you.  Do the things that Christians know to do in order to “breathe”.  Pray, confess, meditate on Scripture, sing songs of worship, and share your hope freely (while practicing physical distancing of course!!). 
One of the ways that April and I are trying to practice wise boundaries is to limit the amount of exposure we get to the news in a 24-hour period.  We are making sure that we are listening to good music, getting daily exercise, READING good books, including the BIBLE, to name of few of our daily habits.  That’s not to say that I am always doing the right things.  I’ve had to be told on several occasions that even pastoral care has its boundaries. 
Set limits that you know will keep you mentally and spiritually healthy.  And don’t forget to see the blessings that God faithfully gives His children even in the midst of great pain.  It’s been observed by numerous theologians and historians that the church of Jesus Christ in western civilization for 1500 years has never not met for Easter or missed months of worship and ministry, even in times of war and plague far more devastating than COVID-19.  On the other hand, we live in a time when we have been able to “see” each other virtually.  (I’m in no way implying that online “church” is actually fulfilling the commandment of Scripture).  I’m just pointing out a blessing in the midst of a curse.  With family in Orlando, Houston, and Ontario I’m very thankful that we can meet regularly online.  It’s nowhere near the same as a family dinner but it has helped ease the separation anxiety.  Find your blessing and give God thanks.  Do it right now.  Stop, name a blessing and then thank Him who is the giver of all good gifts. 
One of my immeasurable blessings is YOU.  I’m pumped to be serving you during this pandemic.  And I look forward by faith to serving you in the aftermath of this crisis.  And I plan to do so by setting boundaries, fighting the right battles, and by counting my blessings. 
Stay strong in the Lord, church family!  We’ll get through this together. 
Pastor Deric

The unCERTAINTY of Science

Put your trust in God alone and thank Him for science because it is a great gift from God to protect and bless us.  Faith and science do not need to be enemies.  Unfortunately, both religion and science tend to create a false dichotomy between the two as if believing in one rejects the other.  In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer pushed the false dichotomy to its unnatural conclusion.  In a recent television advertisement, Pfizer scripted their offer of hope by saying:  “at a time when things are most uncertain, we turn to the most certain thing there is: SCIENCE.

We all know the truth about science.  The certainty of science is far less certain than Pfizer would have you believe.  I’d be the first to admit that science has often been very good for us.  But the ONE thing it doesn’t provide is CERTAINTY.  If that were the case, we wouldn’t be in this COVID-19 crisis at all.  I’m thankful for good science and have every plan to utilize its achievements whenever I can.  But I won’t be leaning on science for the certainty my mind and heart need.

I’m counting on the God who is “enthroned forever” (Psalm 102:12) who generously gives to us “every good and perfect gift.”  (James 1:17)

I wanna give you a short list of the things to which I cling when I’m tempted to believe that “nothing is for sure except death and taxes”.   In trusting the faithful and loving God who gives them to us, you will find yourself experiencing a deep sense of peace and certainty. 

1. The unchanging God, creator of heaven and earth:
“For I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6)
2. The unchanging Savior who is “God with us”:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)  
3. The unchanging Book, the Bible:
“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”  (1 Peter 1:24-25)
4. The unchanging promises of God to His people:
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”  (Hebrews 6:17-18)
5. The unchanging salvation offered through Jesus Christ  
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28-20)

When you place your hope in the unchanging God, you become what I like to call a “timeless Christian” because the New Testament says that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)   

ONLY GOD is for sure!   And He promises certain hope through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Shalom church family!
Pastor Deric