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Pastoral Newsletter Important COVID-19 Edition Contact the church office with any questions regarding the information below
Greetings Parish Church! I hope you are all well and staying calm and safe through this very uncertain time in the world, our country, our state, and our city. I say “uncertainty” because, if you were like me last week, you probably thought/hoped this outbreak was simply much to do about nothing. Since that time, it seems the whole country is shutting down and we are left with more questions than answers. How bad is this thing going to get? How long are we going to be shut down? What is this going to do to the national economy? What will this mean for our local economy? These are all legitimate questions that need answers, especially considering our nation has never seen actions like these taken since the Second World War. However, many of these questions simply have no answers right now, and speculation from a place of fear and unrest will not serve us well in this challenging time. We do not know for certain what the days ahead will bring, nor what the long term effects will be, but there are some things we can do now as we wait for much of this to unfold. In the information that follows, I want to lay out some personal and practical ways we can both frame our current situation and think through how we should act/react to the days ahead. I will break these down in a couple of ways for now and the staff and I will continue to update you as we go forward.
The Biblical foundation on which we stand
The Biblical mission to which we are called
Biblical Foundations In the face of crisis and uncertainty we are often tempted to devolve into a place of fear and anxiety. After all, there is a lot on the line when it comes to some of the doomsday scenarios that are being proposed in the media. It would be easy for us to let our minds wander into fear of financial fallout, loss of jobs, sickness and death, wars and rumors of wars, apocalypse and on and on. The fears can and often do mount. However, there are few things we must remember before we begin to let our minds wander.
Struggle Is Inevitable- James 1:2-4 reminds us, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The emphasis of the passage falls on two necessary mindsets that we must adopt as God’s people. First, we are to “count it all joy”. Everything that happens in this world and life is a perfect part of God’s plan and purpose for our lives personally, as well as the whole world around us. God is always working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The trouble we face is remembering that “all” things means “all” things. In good times and bad, the Lord is at work in us and a million other lives and situations at the same time and doing all things good.
The other emphasis of the text in James is the simple phrase, “when you meet trials of various kinds”. The Bible has always been clear about the fact that we will face trials and that they will come to us in various ways and at various times. The severity, timing, and type of the trials is unknown, but the fruit these trials are meant to bear in our lives is certain. If we hold fast to Christ, these trials of various kinds will produce the kind of steadfastness necessary to engage whatever the world, our flesh, or the devil may hurl at us. We cannot avoid struggle and trial in this life, but we do have a clear mandate regarding how to respond to it as well as a promise of the fruit He will produce through it.
Prayer Is Our First Response- Philippians 4 charges us, “ 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Peace comes in the midst of the storm as we exercise our God-given gift of prayer. Prayer is the place where we have the freedom to communicate our fears, concerns, and doubts. It is the place where we pray back to God His Word and are thereby reminded of our secure hope. Prayer is the place where God meets us, responds to us, and holds us fast. Prayer is the place where Jesus would turn aside to escape the daily chaos of expectations in order to be prepared for all that He would have to endure throughout the day. Surely it should also be the first place we should go with our fears and anxieties, our trust and our hope. As we cling to God in prayer, let me remind you of a few quick thoughts regarding fruitful habits of prayer: 1) Prayer flows best from a place of meditation on God’s Word 2) Prayer flows clearest from a place of trust and thanksgiving in the God who is in control 3) Prayer provides the most when it is without ceasing. Meaning it should not simply be a part of our morning devotion, but something we go back to again and again throughout the day.
God Is In Control- The Psalms speak comfort to us again and again regarding God’s sovereignty over all things. Psalm 27:1
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 46:1-3, 10 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” One thing we can be assured of in these difficult and uncertain times: God has not abdicated His throne; He is not taken by surprise, and He has ordained these events for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
In my sermon a couple of weeks back on Jonah 3:1-10, I mentioned that crisis often shows us how much we are truly not in control. We work hard; we save; we buy houses and cars and toys; we invest, and we think we do all of this under the secure blanket of our own good works. Crisis often pulls the rug out from under our strong tendencies toward self-sufficiency and calls us back to a place of finding our sole sufficiency in Christ and Christ alone. Regarding how we respond in crisis, I said in that sermon, “All notions of freedom and control go out the door and you are left in the shackles of fate, karma, or chance. Unless of course you trust in the freedom that comes in trusting in a sovereign God.” May God grant us the grace to trust Him in all things even as we navigate the uncertain days ahead.
Biblical Mission Having set the foundations firm in the Lord and His purposes through all that is before us, we now turn our attention to our Biblical mission. One of the greatest temptations in the midst of crisis is to hunker down and protect our own. Fear can quickly draw us in like a mother hen to her chicks, when danger approaches. It is important for us to understand that God’s kingdom work is always at work in the midst of the storm, and we too must engage His mission in the storm. It is important that we take necessary steps to protect and serve our families well during times of crisis. However, the mission continues and the church must be a lighthouse in the storm to call people to safe harbor. If we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we must, with Him, love our neighbors as ourselves. I want to list a few ways we can be thinking about how to continue to engage the mission of God in the midst of crisis.
Submit To Governing Authorities- Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-2, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment”. It is important, out of a Biblical obligation, to love our neighbors and respect those put in authority over us, to respect and obey the mandates that have been issued by our president (click here) and our local and state governments (click here). Let’s do our part in abiding by these guidelines in order to ensure that we can, Lord willing, all get back to some sort of normalcy sooner rather than later.
Be Prepared To Give To Any That Have Need- The early church in Acts 2:42-47 was first marked by how it was willing to do whatever it took to be a part of giving to all who had need. This is what caused many to take notice of what the Lord was doing among His people, such that the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Listen to the news for needs in the community. Think about your elderly neighbors, church members, friends, and family members and check on them and offer to help them in any way you can. Be ready and available to offer people an answer to the reason for hope that abides within you. Fear drives us in while hopes drives us out. Remember the mission and the Lord who came so far and gave up so much that we might have life and extend that love to others.
Continue To Invest In Parish Church- So much of the unrest that comes in time such as these is the loss of any sort of normalcy. Crisis throws our daily routines out of whack and leaves us in a place of reaction instead of action. It is important during this time to maintain normal routines where you can and set new routines in place as quickly as you can. We are pursuing ways of doing that as a church this week and want to make you aware of a few things:
Sunday morning services and Bible studies- As of right now, in order to demonstrate obedience to governing authorities and show love to neighbor, we will be cancelling our on-sight Sunday services. However, we believe that maintaining our Sunday morning worship routine is vital to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace during these difficult times. We are working on setting up live streaming services for Sunday morning as well as video-conferencing options for our men’s and women’s Bible studies. We want to encourage you to stay engaged in these resources as they come on-line. If we cannot get these set up by Sunday then know that the sermon for this week will be online by 10:00 am Sunday morning.
Church Giving- As you know, though the world has stopped, our needs as a church body will not. It is important that you continue to support the ministry of Parish Church even in these uncertain times, or better yet, all the more in these uncertain times. Remember that giving is a matter of the heart and often reveals where our deepest security lies. There are multiple options for how you can continue to give during this season. To find those you can click here.
Don’t Forget Your Community- Let’s be vigilant in checking in on one another and praying for one another. If you have specific needs that we can address or if we can serve you in any way, please do not hesitate to call me directly or email me or the church office. Let’s call and check on one another, pray for one another, and serve one another when we can. I will have more information in the days ahead on ways that we can do that so be on the lookout.
Concluding Encouragements The last thing I want to say I will say by way of pastoral care and concern. None of us want to be in this situation and it will interrupt our lives for the foreseeable future in various ways, many of which we can’t predict at this point. A pastor friend of mine posted a quote from The Lord of the Rings series that I thought was helpful. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandolf, “and so do all who live to such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. What is coming is unclear. How long it will last is unclear. What the after effects will be is unclear. What is clear is the Biblical truth that governs our hearts before COVID-19, during COVID-19, and long after COVID-19. We must stand on the promises of God, trust in His plan and purpose, and lean in to those means of grace that He has given us in His Word, prayer, and community (even if that community has to be enjoyed digitally for a season). We need to prayerfully and discerningly navigate the road ahead and be prepared for whatever comes our way. However, we do not need to do so from a place of fear or anxiety. I hope in the days ahead to be able to offer you ongoing help and encouragement as things progress. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.
In Christ, Pastor Josh Kines Parish Church
1400 W University Avenue Lafayette, Louisiana 70506