Jonah – Lessons from the Runaway Preacher
102: Hide and Seek
-> I love a good game of hide and seek… especially with my boys… it truly is a highlight
-> It starts with me usually finding some obscure place to hide. Usually somewhere in the basement. And then I listen…. The conversation between them is usually more entertaining than the hiding part… EX) “Dad would never hide in that spot… he is too ‘big’ “. What is great is when they walk right by me, cant find me, and leave the basement all together.
-> Then I sit just inside the closed basement door, in the dark stairway, and wait. When they cant find me anywhere else, they decide to give the basement one more check, and I am waiting.
-> As soon as they open the door, I let out a yell, they jump off the floor, shriek, slam the door, run away, laugh, and come back for more. I could do that all day.
-> Hide and seek is a fun game. Do we ever play hide and seek with life though? How many of us have ever had one of those days, or weeks, or years where we just want to hide because the difficulty of our lives is too much?
-> Tension is this: It seems easier to hide than face what we don’t want to deal with.
-> Do we do the same in how we respond to God? God loves you very much. He pursues you in relationship. He wants to show His love to you and through you to others. In order to experience the fullness of His love, and to see His love in action through you to others, He is going to ask you to do what He asks you to do. At times, we will struggle because of ourselves and what we think and want. Maybe God is asking you to do something that is not on your top ten list of what you want to do. Maybe not even on bottom of list… Maybe it makes no sense, is uncomfortable, is getting in the way of you having the life that you want, or maybe it just makes you mad. And that rather than obey God, it is easier to hide. But, can we hide from God?
God sees you where you are
-> Whatever our reason, we may try to hide, but God. In His love always knows where we are.
-> Get you to flip to Jonah 1:3… As you are turning there, quick recap of last week for those who were away. Introduced to Jonah, a prophet of God who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th C BC during the rule of Jeroboam II.
-> Lived during time of Assyrians who were known for their wickedness, cruelty, and brutal oppression of the people in Israel. The capital city of the empire was Ninevah, and it was especially wicked, enough so that it “reached the ears of God”.
-> God, because of their evil, acts… calls on Jonah as a prophet to deliver a message of judgement on them, of destruction (with the hope that they would repent).
-> There are a couple key themes / questions that work their way through the book of Jonah:
a) Jonah is about the grace of God on people who don’t deserve it.
b) Did Jonah need saving as much as Nineveh did?
Read Jonah 1:3-4
1) God sees us and interrupts our hiding
-> Looked at this a bit last week, so I don’t want to spend too much time on it. Ninevah was wicked, and in Jonah’s world view, didn’t need to hear the message of destruction from God because if they heard it, God’s mercy and love for a wicked people would get in the way and they might get spared of the destruction Jonah felt they deserved (Jonah 4). Jonah would be the vehicle of repentance and relationship.
-> Remember the map from last week? Rather than going to the far east part of the known world (Ninevah – Mosul Iraq), Jonah runs to Tarshish (Spain) instead on the far west corner of the known world. Gets as far physically away from where God was calling, walked as far away from his calling and job as a prophet, and tried to hide from God.
-> Jonah is in the boat, and what happens? God brings a violent storm to interrupt the journey to Tarshish. I don’t think it was meant as a punishment to Jonah, but as a wake up call. “Hey, I love you, and them. I have a plan for you that is also for them. Because of love, I need you.”
-> Crazy question… did God have to send out the Jerusalem coast guard to search the waters? Did he have to scramble the Holy Hebrew Air Squadron to do an aerial search? Did he have to put an app on Jonah’s cell phone so that a GPS could pinpoint for God where Jonah was? NO – other than the fact that these things weren’t around then… why? Because He is God and knows all things at all times. None of this was a surprise to God.
-> Jonah bought into crazy lie and deception that He could hide from God… that essentially he could be his own god and do whatever he wanted in this case. Really, as a prophet of God, Jonah knew better… but in his frustration, ignored all wisdom and did something really futile and useless.. tried to hide from God.
-> One question: If this verse is true, can anyone ever hide from God’s presence?
-> Because God loves us very much, we are never out of His sights.
-> Jonah tried, and God had to remind him that no amount of running would do the trick. He sent a storm to remind Jonah that He was still watching Jonah, that He loved Jonah, and had a plan for his life. Jonah needed to return and embrace God’s love and plan.
-> How about you? If you are hiding from God this morning, why? What is it going to accomplish? God, in His love, sees you now. Do you think that you can hide from God’s love and plan for you?
Read Jonah 1:5-16
2) God breaks through our hiding as an opportunity for grace.
-> VS 4-5a, we already see how God personally caused this storm to come on the boat… one violent enough that the boat risked being destroyed. A storm that caused a lot of panic on the deck of the ship. Sailors were worried that they would die, and in desperation are calling out to their idols and gods to save them. They through cargo overboard… anything to help. Mass panic and chaos on the boat…. WHY? So that they would be interrupted in going to Tarshish, and God could, in His grace, get a hold of Jonah. As crazy as it was, the storm was an opportunity for grace.
-> VS 5a-6: Where is Jonah? Sleeping… in the inside of the ship… how heavy of a sleeper is he?? How could he sleep at this time? This makes an interesting comparison actually:
a) Jonah sleeping and ignoring the storm paralleled his heart sleeping to the promptings of grace.
-> Just like Jonah was sleeping and ignoring the storm, the grace of God was nudging him to go to Nineveh… yet he chose to let his heart sleep through that too.
-> When the grace of God has been received in your life, it always produces something… it always causes change… and it always causes action. The grace of God in you is what drives you to be and share God’s grace with others. Grace of God was given to Jonah, and was now trying to produce in Jonah’s life, but much like the storm, he ignored it and kept sleeping in his own sense of self righteousness.
-> Captain calls out to Jonah to wake up and start praying to his God, most likely in a panic, because at this point they are running out of options… Notice how God breaks though in this situation (beyond just the storm)…
-> In vs. 7-12 what does God do? He works through the casting of lots so that Jonah gets pointed out and Jonah has to come clean with His disobedience. Why? Because as long as we live in our disobedience, we get in the way of the message of grace.
-> Jonah comes clean that he serves the One True God, and somewhere in there it is implied that he told them he was running from God.
b) Will we embrace grace?
-> There are two polar opposite responses when given the chance to embrace grace.
-> Notice the salior’s response? Even though these guys don’t worship God, they grasp holy fear of Him. They no doubt have heard stories of the might and power of the God of Israel. They have, no doubt heard that this Almighty God can do what no other idol or created god can do. They know enough about God even as pagans to realize holy fear… and confront Jonah’s sin head on… The end up throwing Jonah overboard, and the storm calms. They are spared.
-> All these interruptions to the travel plans were no coincidence… the storm, the casting of lots, the throwing of Jonah overboard… all for God’s purpose. Yes, the one purpose was to give Jonah a reality check, but what about the sailors too? It sure seems that God orchestrated all of this for their benefit too.
-> Vs 16 – we see former idol worshipping pagan sailors, so overcome with holy respect and fear for God (after seeing first hand His amazing power) that they offer sacrifices to Him and make vows to Him. God broke through Jonah’s hiding, and used it as a chance to interrupt their lives to convince the sailors to come to Him and serve Him instead of their empty powerless idols who could not save them. He extended GRACE. They embraced GRACE.
-> What’s Jonah’s response? Throw me into the sea and things will be calm…. It is my fault. Yes, he is taking responsibility for his choices, but do you notice that his attitude hasn’t changed? What would have happened if Jonah repented to God and promised to go to Nineveh? When faced with the power and presence of the Almighty God, Jonah, in his stubbornness and sin, still refuses God’s grace offered to him, and the chance to share a message that could result in God’s grace to the people of Nineveh. He never repents! He refuses to go! He is still hiding from God!
3) Even when we continue to hide, God does not give up on us.
-> Jonah is thrown overboard. His hiding from God and continued hard heart towards God’s grace on the Ninevites has brought him to the end of his very life. The waves and stormy waters have overtaken him, and he is sinking to the depths of the sea. It would appear that God has finally given up on him…Or has He?
-> Even though Jonah continued to hide in his rebellion and hard heartedness, God did not give up on him, and still, in love pursued him, this time with a giant fish that swallowed him and kept him safe. But more about that next week.
-> All you need to see today is that God still did not give up on Jonah even though he continued to hide to the point of his very life almost ending.
God sees you where you are
-> Are you hiding from God today? Is there something that He is asking you to do, and rather than live in His love and grace, and obey, you are choosing to hide instead? Rather than obey, you are choosing to do your own thing apart from God? Maybe your choice to hide looks more appealing, more comfortable, better for you in the long term, easier, etc….
-> How is God interrupting your hiding right now? Is God speaking to you personally and showing you it is time for you to come out of hiding and return to obedience? Maybe He is using a person, situation, or even just wrestling with you inside… and you know it is time to obey – time to follow – time to do what God is asking you.
-> Are you like Jonah or like the sailors? Will you, like Jonah, continue in your rebellion and keep hiding? Will you continue to walk away God’s love and grace for you? Will you continue to walk away from God’s plan for you where you can be used to share His love and grace with others? Or will you, like the sailors, realize that on your own your ways are empty, are a dead end, and will lead you to disappointment and desperation – and instead embrace God’s love and grace for you today? Will you stop hiding and choose to be found by the God who already sees you?
Hey everyone! If you read the email update from last week, or watched our online service this past weekend, you would have heard that we are re-launching in person services here at HMC. You would have also heard that more details would be coming. This is a start of some of those details. There will be a video made available through our website next week that will show a bit more of what it will be like to be back in the church building.
As we prepare to re-launch in person gatherings again, know that this is not a replacement of our online services. As internet and telephone surveys were reviewed from a couple weeks ago, it was clear that there was a segment of our congregation who is not able to connect to our online services presently or needs the in-person environment that a physical gathering would produce. As we talk about the importance of “Gather” and being “Generations Following Jesus Together”, we want to be accessible to all people. Us re-launching physical gatherings is in addition to our online presence (which will continue), to help those connect in who need that ‘in person’ church connection.
Our first Sunday back in our building will be Sunday August 2nd, 2020 @ 10am, in co-operation with our region now being in stage 3 of the provincial reopening plan.
For those of you who are returning, things will look different than you may remember from the last time we met in March. There are certain guidelines that we are choosing to follow and require as you come. They may seem extreme, unnecessary, or heavy, but we are requiring these because we want our building to be a safe place for all people. We love our church family and our community at large and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can (while still meeting) to reduce our risk of anyone getting sick here. Below is a list of some of the regulations and guidelines that will be followed:
a. There will be a health questionnaire taken at the main doors before
entering. Phone numbers will be required for contact tracing (in the event of an illness breakout), and family waiver forms will need to be signed for your first visit.
b. Face masks will be a requirement for anyone entering the building.
c. We will need to observe social distancing while in the building (6 ft apart, no mingling in the foyer or sanctuary). The foyer will be set up to promote traffic flow, but not mingling.
d. Building access will be limited to just the foyer, sanctuary, and upstairs
e. Washroom usage is limited. We are asking one person at a time in
the washroom, and if you don’t need to use the facilities while here,
don’t. Please use the washroom before you come to church.
f. You will have assigned seating that will be set up to keep us all at a
safe distance, observing social distancing guidelines.
g. When you arrive, ushers will guide through the designated path in the foyer to the sanctuary, where your assigned seat awaits. We are asking that you remain at your seats until the service is done. After the service, the ushers will dismiss you and guide you back out the building.
Some of you have asked “can we sing?” Because we are wearing face masks, yes. Wearing a face mask, you can sing as you are comfortable. We will have a live worship leader each week to lead us in singing.
So that we can organize seating, and keep under our 30% capacity, we will need you to pre-register for our sunday service. Registrations will open every Monday at 9am and close 10am on thursday for our services. Registration will open this Monday at 9am through our website . Please ensure only one person in your household fills out the registrations for everyone. Waiver forms will be posted there as well so that you can print them off and fill them out prior to Sunday. For those who can’t use the website to register, you will need to email email@example.com with your family’s registration or call the main office at 519-364-1823. We are asking that all regular attenders of HMC please pre-register. While we will have limited ‘walk up’ spaces available for those who come Sunday morning without registering, these are intended for those who are visitors and did not have the opportunity to pre-register.
Thanks for taking time to read this, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!
Hopefully, you are enjoying a bit of a cooler week after the last several days of a heat wave here in Southern Ontario. There were a few days where I can say I felt cooler being in Florida last November (and it was hot) than being here last week!
I wanted to take this time to give you an update of what has been going on here at HMC the last little bit, and what you can look forward to.
The summer holidays continue!
As the summer rolls on, more of our staff will be using up their yearly vacation time.
Just a reminder that regardless of which pastor may be away, the pastoral care line is always on and will be answered. If you have an urgent need and are in need of a pastor, you can always call 519-379-1752.
For the next two weeks:
Pastor Amos will be away from July 18th through to Aug 2nd
Pastor Kristina will be away from July 20th through to Aug 2nd
Pastor Lyndsay will be gone from July 20th through Aug 18th.
I (Pastor Dave) will be in the office and can be reached for any concerns of a pastoral nature. Marie and Alanna will also both be working.
A couple weeks ago, you should have received our summer mailing with the Flat Jesus weekly family activity. It has been great to see so many of our families taking the challenges every week and posting pictures of you doing those challenges! Keep the pictures coming, and keep sharing Jesus with our community!
If you have not received this mailing, please contact the church office as we may not have your address, and we would be happy to send one your way.
Summer video surprise!
Every Wednesday at 7pm, make sure you go to our facebook page for a surprise video each week. The first two Wednesdays have been great, and we have many more great videos in store for you this summer. Check it out!
SummerSlam is here, and will be back!!!
What is summer without SummerSlam at HMC? Even a pandemic can’t stop it. This year we are going digital with summer slam. Go to summerslam.online for information and to register. The first week of SummerSlam is just wrapping up, but for those of you who missed it, or you want to do SummerSlam a second time around (and trust me, you might just want to), we are running it again in August (10-14th). Sign up online.
Every two weeks, we want to highlight a different missionary for you to be praying for.
This week we highlight our very own Wes and Brenda Dyck. Wes and Brenda serve with Ethnos and the Durham location, teaching and preparing future missionaries and their families for going into missions around the world.
They are requesting prayer for the upcoming fall semester. As some of you are aware, for the first year in many, Ethnos did not have new students entering the program this last year. This upcoming fall, there is a lot of interest, and there have been many who signed up. Yet with the reality of COVID, some plans may have been changed. Many of the students come here from the USA and may not be able to attend due to the border shutdown. As well, how the training is delivered may have to change to suit some of the unique needs that are present.
Thanks for your prayer support, and I know they would always welcome a phone call or an email to reach out!
Thanks to everyone who has been helping HMC by giving, even during this shut down. We are thankful and amazed how God continues to provide for us.
As I mentioned in my last update, with summer coming, giving levels traditionally drop, and the present situation has not helped. June was the tightest month on record since COVID hit. While up to this point, we have been able to pay our bills, we are meeting our bills because ministry is not costing what it normally does.
In order for us to continue to fund the ministry that we are doing (and that so many of you have reached out to us to tell us that you have appreciated), would you please consider, as you are able and God leads, to give to the ministry here at HMC?
As mentioned in the past email, we do have the ability to accept giving by E-transfer.
Please send your e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Cory Bezeau at the same address. He can help you with any questions you have.
When is HMC going to re-open?
First of all, thank you to all of those who responded and gave feedback through email or by phone to the surveys that were sent out a couple weeks ago. I personally appreciated being able to find out where you are at as we contemplate future in person ministry at HMC.
With much of Ontario presently being in stage 3, our province has begun to open up on many various fronts. More freedom has been given around gatherings in our province, and with that has come the question “when will it be safe to re-open our doors for Sunday gatherings?”
We are aware that there are many in our congregation who can not connect to our digital online Sunday services or activities. We are also aware that there are many who can not watch the services on Wightman Channel 6. We are also aware of the effect on mental and emotional health that not being able to connect in person has had for some.
This is why, in addition to our HMCdigital platform that we will continue to offer and expand upon, we are looking at re-opening our building specifically for Sunday worship gatherings starting August 2nd, 2020. Keep your eyes open for details coming up. And for those of you who do not have email access, we will be calling you in the days ahead.
We know that an in person gathering will not be for everyone at this time, nor can we physically have everyone attend. Please know that we are not pressuring anyone to return, and we give you the complete freedom to decide when you think it is safe for you and your family to return in person to HMC without any sense of guilt or shame. We will continue to provide the option to live stream the Sunday gatherings. We will still maintain a strong online presence, and plan to do so even as things return to normal in our province.
As you come to the Sunday gatherings here at HMC, know that there are strict guidelines from the health region that we are requiring anyone coming into our building to follow. We are frequently checking the latest updates from our health region to ensure that we are on the forefront of keeping people safe. As we gather together, your safety is of our utmost concern. And at any point where the health unit recommends that we close, we are willing to do so.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading and keeping in touch with what is going on at HMC.
Know that we miss you all and pray for you. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to reach out.
See you again in two weeks for our next update!
On behalf of everyone here,
July 12, 2020
Have you ever felt overwhelmed?
We are taking a one week break from our “Are We There Yet Series” as I felt God saying to speak on something different this weekend. But do not fear, road trip stories will be continuing! Among the many great stories that came in over the last several weeks was from one family, who by the end of it, I am sure felt very overwhelmed.
Tensions were already high as they were taking a trip into the USA to visit a relative who was given a tough health diagnosis. The week leading up to the trip, their youngest got what was considered to be a routine vaccine. Except in this case, she ended up getting sick from the live vaccine. She seemed to mostly recover, and life was good. Everyone got in the van and left.
Then, it hit again. Within hours, mom and one of the other children were sick, another child was complaining of being uncomfortable, and being on a budget, the only place to sleep was in the van for rest stops on the way down. Screaming kids, sick kids, sick adults, no where to sleep that is comfortable. You feeling overwhelmed yet?
Of course, no story ever stops there. The sickness with the one child only got worse. Mom wasn’t sleeping for a couple days, and everyone was just worn right down.
On the way home, following the instructions of a local sheriff to get to the highway, a turn was missed and they ended up lost, in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, with no cell service, in the yard of a backwoods, Tennessee mountain trailer home. They did get turned around, and maybe now things would look up.
Until mom got what appeared to be food poisoning (and I hope I am getting this detail right), but the sickness the family thought they were done with, and what seemed so bad then, was like a small sneeze in comparison to what awaited the next 36 hours.
They finally did make it back home to Canada, then dad got sick.
-> Who thinks this family was overwhelmed? Makes me overwhelmed just hearing about it. And I didn’t tell you most of the details (for that talk to the family directly. The story is painful). But oh man….talk about rough.
-> Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. Everyone gets stressed. Everyone gets anxiety. Everyone has struggles that seem to get the best of them. Some things that overwhelm are small: For example, I don’t like rodents, and if I think one is either going to crawl on me as I sleep, or fly around my head, I feel some anxiety.
-> But we have a lot of things that can overwhelm don’t we? Family troubles, financial worries, job losses, health concerns, problems at school, bullies, a loss of a pet, a conflict with a friend, a car breaking down, the house needing major repairs, need I go on? And that is before we even flip on the news to hear about nations fighting, political instability, crazy world leaders, scandals, violence, etc… We would have a lot less anxiety if we would stop listening to the news.
-> Everyone struggles.
How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
-> I invite you to turn to Philippians 4:4-7. Going to unpack that this morning.
-> The church in Philippi (to whom Philippians is written) was first church Paul started in Eastern Europe. Believed to be written around AD60-62 which was later in Paul’s life.
-> Written in the context of uncertainty and danger (were they overwhelmed?)
a) Paul is in prison, and muses about his own potential execution
b) People are preaching, imitating him, but with mal intent
c) The church is in a Roman stronghold – there was strong patriotic nationalism in Philippi due to army veterans who settled there, which then led to persecution when Christ was presented as King instead of the Emperor of Rome.
d) Nero was the Emperor of Rome (He was a tyrant who felt he answered to no one – he was brutal, strong handed)
e) Conflict in the church (between Euodia and Syntyche)
->The whole of the letter revolves around key theme expressed in Phil 2:5. Asks the question: “How does a follower or Jesus live like a follower of Jesus in anxious times?”
-> In that context we read Phil 4:4-7
1) Choose true joy
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Paul is saying: Pay attention – this is important! States ‘rejoice’ 2X with emphasis
‘Always’ – In the face of your trials, in defiance to them bringing you down, rejoice always… (Paul was living this first hand!!)
Being able to rejoice was possible in being independent from their immediate surroundings, and being based in a relationship to Christ. Christ brings joy (ROM 5:1-2)
In the face of our trials, the strength Christ brings will be our joy (Neh 3:10)
-> Even though they were facing all sorts of trials, even though Paul was living through overwhelming and anxious times, a follower of Jesus lived like a follower of Jesus (had the same mindset of Christ) by choosing joy.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
2) Don’t react, trust Jesus
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near”
Some translations say “graciousness, you are considerate, etc.” It speaks to your attitude in how you respond to hardships and trials.
In hardships, don’t respond in anger. Don’t get all worked up and frustrated with everyone and everything (not an easy lesson).
In the case of someone (rather than something) being the issue, don’t pursue a
desire for revenge and retribution. Don’t be a vigilante. Instead, let your calmness
be known to all.
Why? Because Jesus sees you and is taking care of you. Because Jesus will at some point return to judge the world, and if He doesn’t bring about justice before, He will then. Our job isn’t to make justice happen. Ours is to put our lives in the hands of God and trust that He is fighting for us and that He will right wrongs.
Not a prescription to be a door mat and let yourself be trampled and taken advantage of – IMPORTANT CLARIFIER. There is a difference between standing up for what is right and being a vigilante.
-> Even though Paul was in the hands of those who wanted to harm him, even though there were those preaching the gospel with mal intent, even though the Emperor was tyrant who was against the church, even though there was conflict in the church, even though things were uncertain ahead, even though they may have been overwhelmed by everything around them, the church’s response was to be one of trust in God that He was fighting their battles and taking care of them. To the rest of the world, that would show a follower of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
3) Let go and let God
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation…..”
When overwhelmed, fight the urge to become anxious about it.
Why? Because anxiety cripples (what are the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of anxiety on a person?)
What ever the situation (in every moment) pray and request of God.
Prayer is an act, but also an atmosphere. Have a balance of both.
With thanksgiving? But isn’t this a trial? How can I be thankful in the middle of something hard? If you are joyful in the Lord always, you can, even in trials, be thankful. You don’t need to be thankful that you are going through overwhelming situations. But you can be thankful to God for what He has done, what He is doing now (even if you don’t see it) and what He will do because He is faithful.
-> Even though it would have been easier to be anxious about all that they were facing (and we could likely make a strong case for it), instead they had to learn that they could and should trust God instead of spinning in anxiety. They needed to understand that if He held the whole of the universe in His hands, that He also held them. They didn’t need to have all the answers and solutions. Followers of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus means responding to anxiety with the willingness to let go and let God.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
4) Let His peace protect you
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard…..”
God’s peace is perfect, all encompassing for those who trust. (Isa 26:3)
The peace of God transcends (it defies, breaks through, goes beyond) understanding
His peace guards: army picture – keep external influences out.
Hearts – Seat of the emotions and soul, Minds – thoughts and intellect.
This ultimately comes through trust in Jesus Christ.
-> If the church wanted to be followers of Jesus, living like followers of Jesus, adopting His mindset, they needed to trust God enough to let the peace of Christ cover them. With the peace of Christ covering them and guarding their hearts and minds, they could truly act like Christ did when He was encountering accusations, trials, and dying on a criminal’s cross. As they faced their own persecution, Paul’s arrest and possible execution, and everything else, the only thing that would get them through was to have the peace of Christ. They needed to let His peace protect them.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
-> Right now, people are overwhelmed. Life has always had its fair share of things to be concerned about: Family troubles, financial worries, job losses, health concerns, problems at school, bullies, a loss of a pet, a conflict with a friend, a car breaking down, the house needing major repairs, need I go on? And that is before we even flip on the news to hear about nations fighting, political instability, crazy world leaders, scandals, violence, etc…
-> And then add all the unique tensions of COVID to the mix. We are still largely isolated, under tons of restrictions, we can not enjoy a lot of the same things we used to because they can’t open, a lot of family and friend get togethers don’t happen, going shopping is a lot more inconvenient, we cant physically meet with our health care providers, we don’t know if our kids will be back in school come September, we may not have a job to come back to, we may lose our house because of being backwards on payments, the stress has killed our marriage, we may walk out and catch COVID, family members who shouldn’t be out are and are now at huge risk, etc…
-> And the longer COVID goes, the more tense people are. At the start, there was anxiety. People were overwhelmed because this was so new. Then we all settled down and settled in. People calmed and made the best of it. Now we are all tired and grumpy with making the best of it. And it shows. People are overwhelmed. People are short and grumpy with each other. People are offended with each other. Conflict seems like it is always around the corner, and there are a lot more egg shells to be walked on. And people who normally don’t react and are quiet with their opinions suddenly have a whole lot more to say and don’t care how they say it.
-> We are all uncertain about the future, and rather than live in the tension and trust God, we are clambering to find answers, something concrete, something to give us a plan. Instead of praying to God, we are prying open the door of self sufficiency that leads to further hurt, confusion, and self destruction.
-> This is not the way God intends for His people to live, as followers of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus. Instead of spinning in anxiety and allowing our feelings of being overwhelmed to drive us, choose true joy in every situation. Don’t react, trust Jesus. Let go and let God, and let His peace protect you.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
Posted by Hanover Missionary Church on Sunday, July 5, 2020
Let me tell you another road trip story where I am sure “are we there yet” was on the minds of everyone!
Our story starts in March of 2020 (hindsight suggests it may not have been the ideal time for a vacation). We have friends who live in Washington state, who we had not seen for years. We were able to book the time off work, scored an amazing deal for flights, and we were finally ready for our first big family vacation. We are the type of parents who enjoy surprising (or tormenting) our children, so the only thing they knew was we were going somewhere and they would miss a few days of school. As the date drew near, we were becoming more aware of Covid-19, and the US outbreak near our destination. We monitored travel advisories, discussed it with our friends in Washington, and made the decision to proceed with our trip, but wash our hands often, and buy toilet paper before leaving.
We left on a Wednesday morning and made it inside the London airport before the girls realized they were actually getting on an airplane for the first time in their lives!
Because they had never left the province before, their first view of mountains was from the air, which is an incredible view! Wednesday afternoon we land in Abbottsford BC and drive the 2 hours to our friends’s house, and the kids finally believed us that we really weren’t going to Disney.
But then Covid-19 started rapidly evolving. Wednesday we arrived. Thursday, schools in Washington state closed for 6 weeks. Friday, Ontario schools closed for 2 weeks following March break. Saturday, Trudeau starts suggesting Canadians return home, and there is concern that Washington state will have mandatory stay at home days, which could make it hard for us to get home. Sunday, we decide to cut our trip short, and bunker down in an Abbottsford hotel and wait for our flight on Tuesday.
Sunday night saw whispered conversations in a hotel room hallway while the kids slept. Based on information we had, and consulting with a lovely doctor in our church family, we determined cancelling our flight, extending our vehicle rental and driving home was the most responsible choice for us.
Monday morning’s conversation: “So kids, you know how you’ve always complained about never leaving Ontario before? Now you’re going to get to say you’ve seen BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northern Ontario!!!”
Strangely this was met with a resounding “NOOOOOOO!”
We ignored their protests and started the cross country trek.
We took shifts driving (my husband doing most of the driving using a combo of red bull and sunflower seeds to stay awake). My first shift started at dusk, in the mountains. Having never driven in mountains before, and doing so in a rental I was unfamiliar with, I was slightly nervous. It did not help passing a tractor trailer on it’s side. Or driving through an emergency scene involving two more tractor trailers. When the GPS alerted me to falling rocks ahead, my nerves were shot. I white-knuckled it until there was somewhere safe to switch out with my husband, who had not slept at all because I was so nervous he needed to stay awake.
We switched back and forth as we sped for home. The kids slept, and played on their tablets, and were suprisingly well behaved. We made it past Winnipeg before the first tears happened (it wasn’t me, but I felt close). After much discussion (and perhaps some disagreeing, and concern about our marriage lasting the remainder of the trip) we checked into a hotel in Thunder Bay, around 2 am on Wednesday morning. Never have we been so thankful for beds and showers! 6 am, we were back on the road, and 11pm Wednesday night we crawled into our own beds, and began our quarantine.
The biggest advantage of the trip is, when the kids now complain about being stuck at home, we simply ask if they want to go for a road trip again, and they stop complaining immediately!
I am sure that for that family, everyone just wanted the trip to end; they wanted to arrive. And if they could have screamed it, they probably would have said “are we there yet?”
We are on a strange journey as a church. Everything has been closed or cancelled (so it seems) due to COVID. Our churches are no exception. Until recently, no one was allowed to meet. And even as restrictions lift a bit, the ability to properly meet is still in question. And now even as we hear that we can maybe meet again, but also wrestle with if it is the wisest option, we are left asking “Are we there yet”? We all just want this wild ride to stop, and we long for some sense of normalcy. Yet, we also know that we are not quite sure where we are actually going; the final destination is unknown. What is normalcy? Everywhere we turn, we hear “life will never be the same” or “there will be a new normal”. What does that mean? And how does that impact our life as the church? Truthfully, I don’t really know (prayers for myself and all our leadership team would be great!)
Regardless of what church life ends up looking like, how we worship, how we carry out the mission, certain values drive us, and will always be the same. We are: Generations Following Jesus Together. That is our vision statement, who we want to become. We believe this happens as we Gather, Grow, Give, and Go. These are mission statements, or how we practically live out and achieve our vision.
So far, we have focused on the first three:
i. Gather: We believe that we are a connected family and community. We find ways to gather together because when we are together, life happens, relational and spiritual growth happens, and we reach our full, God given potential.
ii. Grow: Spiritual maturity is a continual process, and as followers of Jesus, we know that we are to grow deeper in our relationship with Him, and grow to become more like Him in our words, attitudes, and actions.
iii. Give: As we grow more mature, we understand that we are to give of ourselves from the gifts and abilities God gives us to serve others. We have looked at two central ideas so far:
God gives so you can give it away.
The very reason you have gifts and abilities is so that you can invest it in the lives of others for the purpose of building up the Kingdom of God here on Earth and for eternity.
Faith and humble service go hand in hand.
Serving others humbly is an evidence of who you are following. Following Jesus (doing as He did, following His example and His teachings) means humble service.
Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!
As we talk about being the family and a community, and we together make it our goal to follow Jesus more, we embrace the idea that we are all able to serve someone; that God has given us all abilities so that no one is with excuse. Everyone can serve someone.
As we talk about everyone serving someone, what are some helpful tips from the Bible? What are some things we need to remember so that we can serve others the way God intends? I Invite you to turn to Romans 12:3-8.
The book of Romans written to the church in Rome, later on in Paul’s ministry It was written to the context of a divided church. The church in Rome was made up of Jewish and non Jewish believers. And as certain things happened in the life of the church, fractures became more apparent.
a) The Jews exiled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius during his reign (anywhere from 41AD – 54 AD) (See Acts 18:1-2)
b) When they were allowed to return, they returned to see a church that was not what they left. It was not Jewish in flavour as for all this time, the Jewish contingency was gone. As a result, there were tensions regarding practice and traditions.
c) Tensions arose over what it looked like and meant to follow Jesus.
Romans was written to address that tension. The first 11 chapters give thorough theology of the gospel. Then from chapter 12 and on, we are given the practical application to the theology, or how it works in every day life. The discussion around everyone being able to serve is a part of that practical application that is handled. So, based on what is written in Romans, what is important to understand as we serve?
1) Keep yourself grounded. Don’t be crowded by egos.
Paul starts with the phrase “By the grace given to me” Here Paul is addressing his role given to him by God, by His grace. Paul’s role as an apostle and teacher was a gift of grace given to him by God. I will unpack this more in a bit, but out of this grace that was shown in how Paul was called, he has the authority to issue a warning. To the church he says:
Stop having inflated view of yourself:
a) This was written to a church with cultural tensions. Remember that up to very recently, those who were considered Gentiles were considered unclean. And now these same people who were once unclean were now equals in the church. There had to be a learning curve.
b) This was written to a church struggling with traditions.
c) There could have been tension based on giftings. There may have been some gifts that they viewed as being superior.
Instead of having an inflated view, Paul says: be honest with who you really are, using the measure of faith given. This is a fancy way to talk about what would be the standard for faith and of faith. What is this standard?
a) Jesus is the standard. So, measure yourself by how He lived.
b) Also, measure yourself by what He did for you. Jesus is the great equalizer / level ground for all people. There is nothing in the gospel that would encourage anyone to have a superiority complex. SEE GAL 2:20.
APPLICATION: How do you view yourself? Do you have a healthy view of who you are? (In this context, are you conceited? Prideful? Do you think that no one can live without you and what you contribute)? We need to think right about ourselves before we can think right of others, and start to serve them. This is a scriptural principle. See PHIL 2:3-5.
2) We are a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that requires our active participation
Verse 5 starts out by talking about there being one body in Christ / Christ’s body. Followers of Jesus are a part of this body:
a) Jesus was incarnate (God made present in human form) as He physically lived on Earth, making Himself known in personal form.
b) We are now the incarnation of Christ to world. The church is the physical vehicle by which Christ makes Himself known to the world.
c) In this body, every part has a special function. Every part has a role. The
health of the body is dependant on the parts working. Even the smallest part being out of order can affect the whole body.
d) In this body, all parts belong together.
This was in direct opposition to the mindset of Roman church that those who were of a different background or held different traditions did not have a place in the body. It was in opposition to those who claimed superiority based on giftings.
APPLICATION: Is there anyone who you see as being less than you in the church? Or any role within the church that you see as less? Or any church that you think is less? Or maybe you see others as being way better than you? Do you think that they (and not you) are able to make a difference or are more important? Is there a church that you think is superior? Jesus is the great equalizer. He levels the playing field. There is no room for an ego trip while following Christ. Anyone who calls on His name will be saved. And anyone who is His follower is a part of His body. Yes, our level of ‘responsibility’ within the role may seem different, and some roles will attract more attention, but in terms of the Body working, we need all parts working together. 1 COR 12:14-21.
3) Whatever the ability, use it!
Paul starts off this section with the phrase “According to the grace given” Some translations say “In His grace…”. Does it sound familiar? It should. It is very similar to the language used in the start of verse 3. Paul once again equates how people are gifted and called to serve as an act of grace.
Paul makes the statement in verse three that each person is differently equipped and has different gifts because of God’s grace for us.
a) God designing us different is an act of love and grace to us. Imagine if we were all the same? How messed up life would be? How impossible it would be to function together? Community would fall apart and life would not happen.
b) The early church needed to understand that it was God’s grace, not inconvenience that brought them all together, all be it all different from each other. Their differences were a part of God’s loving design for the Body of Christ.
What Paul then tells the church is “what ever your different gift(s) are, use them how ever you are able!” We have an obligation to serve as we are able. Paul then lists some of the spiritual gifts that people in the Body may have. He does not give an exhaustive list here, but is simply making a point.
a) He mentions Prophesy: These are direct messages from God about the present or future. And it is to be exercised as per the standard of faith that has been taught and given.
b) Serving, Teaching, encouragement, generosity, leading, and mercy / kindness are all mentioned.
-Paul follows the mention of each gift with an exhortation to use the gift, what ever it may be, in the way it was intended. The gifts are not meant to be hidden or hoarded.
APPLICATION: Everyone has gifts to be used. Everyone has a place to serve and function, no matter the gift. Regardless of how you view your gift, it is needed and important. So, use it! Obviously, serving and using the abilities that God has given each one of us will be a core value of our church when we do re-open, just like it has been before we closed. But even now, it is a core value, though the church building may be closed. Why? Because the church is bigger than the building. The church is the people. And anywhere the people of God gather together to do the things of the people of God, there the church is. Even as you are in your living room today gathering with others in your family, there the church is. And as His church, you are sent out to serve, regardless of where you meet, and with how many you meet. Serving isn’t reserved for just in the church building. It is meant to be shared in the community at large where ever and to whomever there is a need. And as you serve in the way you are gifted, to those around you, the body of Christ still functions.
Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!
FAMILY CHALLENGE: Who can you serve, in the ways that God has gifted you this week as a family? Find someone to serve. Be courageous and step out. And as you serve, I want to hear your stories.
When will we be open again?
As you are likely aware, last week the provincial government made a provision available for churches to begin to meet again in person. For many of us, that decision was met with excitement as we long to be together again. The last few months have been difficult on all of us. Many of you have been asking “when is the church going to open up?”
Last week, I promised you that I would have a plan available to you for this week. After meeting with staff and with ministry council, we do have an update ready to share.
Let me start by saying that we love you all, and we miss you all. We look forward to seeing you again.
Let me also say that we are living in unprecedented times where information is changing frequently and readily.
Because we love and care for you, because we are concerned for your well being, and because we have a desire to keep you and our community safe, our physical church building will remain closed for the near future for the purposes of Sunday gatherings. Our decision was made based on the information that we have been currently given. This could quickly change as regulations and restrictions change, but as of this point we will continue to provide online services streaming through Facebook and our website, as well as broadcast on Wightman Channel 6.
There were many factors that played into our decision, but let me share with you some of the rationale behind us not physically meeting as of yet:
1) Last Wednesday, I was in a video call hosted by Dr. Ian Arra with 100 other church pastors and faith leaders in the Grey Bruce region. In the video call, Dr. Arra affirmed the role that the church plays in the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of people in these times. He also stated that the safest way for people to engage with church is online if possible. Meeting in a crowd, even with proper protection, still carries a level of risk.
2) We would not be able to participate in the aspects of the service that we hold dear. The health unity has requested that singing would not be allowed due to the concern that singing is as bad as (or worse than) coughing. Also, communion would not be allowed to happen due to the risk of transmission. As well, there would not be the opportunities to mingle and connect with people before or after the service as we would have to adhere to social distancing protocols.
3) There are many other churches in our denomination that I have been in contact with that are over a certain size that have decided that they will likely wait the summer out and not push to re-open until September.
4) Within Hanover, a large number of the churches have expressed recently that they will also be holding off on opening as late as the fall by request of their denomination or church council.
5) Upon conversations with a few different sources within the medical field, a common theme expressed was concern of the church opening too quickly and potentially introducing a large number of people to an infection that has not disappeared yet and could be on the brink of a second wave.
6) Our building does not have the capacity to hold everyone who may want to be back at this time. Rather than having to say who can and can not be here, we feel it is better to wait until we can all come together as a family and worship together.
What I do offer, with a word of caution, is the freedom, as long as you can do so while observing proper social distancing measures, is the ability to get together in casual, unofficial groups of 10 or less at your homes, or in your front and back yards to participate in the service, doing so as a community.
I understand and acknowledge that this will come as a bit of a disappointment for many. We have all been looking forward to being able to meet again. Last Monday, it probably felt like a glimmer of hope had returned!
Please know that while these are not ideal times, we also make this decision as followers of Jesus, seeking to set for our community an example of respect and submission to the authorities over us. Romans 13 tells us that this is a good thing for us to do, and that it acknowledges the authority of the God who placed them there.
Also, please know that this decision was not made out of fear. We are not fearful of the days that are ahead because we believe our God knows the past, present, and future. We know that nothing takes Him by surprise, and that He can turn even the most difficult and stressful situation and bring something of amazing beauty and wonder out of it. While we are inconvenienced right now and our routines are further turned upside down, we can confidently believe that as we follow God in this, He will bring something amazing out of this time.
Also, while it is hard not to meet in our church building, we are reminded that we are the Church. The Church is built by God. The building is only a man-made structure where we meet. Wherever and however the people of God meet together to worship Him, there the church is.
The encouragement and challenge to us today is to find creative ways to continue to be the Church.