Weirdo – Pastor Greg

Usually, we don’t like to be known as the weirdo. A weirdo is someone who seems strange or eccentric. They just don’t fit in. If we remember back to our days in Junior High, we all tried desperately to not stand out. We all have this innate desire to belong. Sure, there are those who like to buck the system, but even those who are considered on the fringe are usually part of a “fringe” group, so they still belong to something!

This desire to fit in can be a good thing, but it also can be a hinderance to our spiritual life and the life of those around us. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, addresses the issue of partnering up with the world. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Like it or not, we are weird. We don’t fit in. This is by design, since as believers we are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We have been made new, and that means our whole worldview, purposes, goals and priorities are to be different.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians, was dealing with a church that had become quite friendly and accommodating with the culture around them. They were still practicing the idolatry that was expected of good citizens at that time. Paul quotes an Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 22:10 which would have been familiar, especially to the Jewish believers – don’t mix with the surrounding nations. Here, Paul applies it to the whole world system that is opposed to the things of God.

Peter continues this thought in 1 Peter 2:12 – “Keep your behavior excellent among the gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (judgement).” If that isn’t applicable for today, I don’t know what is! How often have we, as Christians, been accused of being narrow-minded, unloving, hateful and judgmental as we hold to God’s truth. Maybe some of the charges have been earned, but most of the time it’s due to an unsaved world that doesn’t want their deeds exposed. Expect this to get worse. The more we hold to the faith, the more we will stand out (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet we are exhorted to stand firm, continue to do the good deeds we have been doing in Christ Jesus, knowing we will get blow-back. But God also promises that we will be exonerated in the end as we stand before Him, and those who slandered us will have to give glory to God for the good deeds we have done.

Paul exhorts Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:14a, to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of.” We, too, are to continue to live such lives that others will notice. As we continue to live like this, the culture will continue it’s downward slide. As the differences grow, we will stand out more and more. We can expect to be slandered, sidelined and hated (of course, they hated Christ first). Living in this country, we are often taught not to take guff from others, but that isn’t what following Christ requires. We are told to be different in our responses. Our natural response when attacked is to retaliate in turn, but we are told to leave that to God (Romans 12:18-19).

Talk about being weird. Standing firm, not taking revenge, and looking forward to our Savior’s words of “well done!” is most unusual in this world. But that is what it takes as we journey forward to that country that will be home. So stay weird my friends.

The Day Drawing Near: Encouragement from Hebrews 10:19-25, by Pastor John

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

I am anticipating our return to worship with the church assembled together, in one place. We’ve announced the coming changes to our Lord’s Day service, and I want to share some things that for me, helped to underscore a need for that change.

I think we have all struggled with uneasy concessions in this season of pandemic. The strain of separation paired with “remote gatherings” is acute. Our worship services have sufficed, but not compared with the gold standard from God’s Word for all-in worship.

For me, a rough analogy is food. You could live on protein powders and supplement pills, but that’s not the same as participating in a delicious meal. In this season, we’ve endured the powder and pill, often downing our “meal replacement” all alone. Think of it: would you be thrilled to receive my invitation to “view our simultaneous nutritional intake on-screen?” I didn’t think so. But an invite to come to a home-cooked meal and table fellowship? That gets to God’s heart in giving us food and fellowship. “Do not forsake!” How much more is God’s heart in calling us to corporate worship!

Like a release from confinement, or a return from a distant country, there’s nothing like being together with the family again. Nothing compares. The Lord does not say, “Find your solitary way and focus on isolated worship of me.” No, He admonishes us to draw near.

The day draws near for the Lord’s next phase, as we see our world rapidly devolving. This should not surprise us or cause our retreat (2 Tim. 3; 1 Pe. 4). I see our nation and the world’s downward acceleration as the ongoing sin-fueled quest for what it is: deny God, and try to become a god through power and control. As Solomon mused, there truly is nothing new under the sun. This is evidenced in the agenda-driven policies adopted under the veil of the virus. For much of mankind, fear and confusion are the seedbed to grow an exhausted compliance to the mantra: “Stay home, stay safe; we’ll deliver what you need to your door. We are in control; we know best and we will take care of you.” For assurances of safety and security, there is a gradual but unrelenting surrender of freedom. A meal in exchange for the birthright. Sound familiar?

While the population watches their mailbox, neighbor, temperature, screen, and four walls, what is occurring? Ever-widening governmental programs and regulations. Shutting down entire sectors of the economy, with the careers that composed them. Signing into deeper world-governance alliances. Spiraling, unextractable debt. Dilution of our schools. Legislation for “woke” radical social objectives. Cascading madness in race wars, equity, and cancel culture. Vaporizing of a free press and journalistic tenets. Victim narratives that demand continual outrage about everything: big, little, real or perceived. I haven’t even touched on social media, morality, vice, entertainments, or the sorry state of sports today!

Not wanting to be long on description and short on remedy, what does this mean for us, the Body? In a world that is opposed to its Creator, steeped in rebellion no different from Eden’s, we find encouragement by the writer of Hebrews. We must hold fast to the Lord and our profession of salvation in Him alone, extending this “holding” through His Word to every truth and gift of God that He has given to us.  

How is your grip today? There is one Word. Only one Savior. There is one truth of our creation: male and female. There is one defining truth of the institution of biblical marriage. Of family. For God’s sake, have you not read? The Creator has fashioned only one race.

We are to grasp the importance of living this life and worshiping God from a clean conscience, not yielding to coercion. It is apparent, now with truth declared fluid and relative, that we will not be in the popular, majority camp. Our perception by the world will be that of being “the problem,” much as we see of the despised early church in the Book of Acts. Not surprisingly, this hatred will also come through much of the apostate “church” that is following lockstep in their religion of humanism. The Lord, who does not know them, has noted them, already.

So again, how’s your grip? The road is going to get rougher.

The writer of Hebrews does not pull his punch. “Let us consider” is a call for each of us to think deeply about how our individual involvement in corporate worship makes a difference. How our testimony among the assembly is absolutely critical and essential. How our corporate time is truly for us as priests, to minister before our Lord in the holy place, and in so doing, to serve one another. We are coming together first to give, and in our giving, we then receive.

In worship, may we be led of God’s Spirit to be aware of all who are around us, regardless of age, race, income, background… that we assemble together – not immediately split into conventional, cultural groupings – and in that assembly, in sincere heart with full assurance of faith, we hold up our confession of hope in Christ.

May it be that our children may learn what it means to sit under God’s Word, as a family. That they grow to see it is our call to worship Him together, as the Body. That we realize we all have a necessary contribution to make to our corporate worship. And that we, the “learned,” may even relearn the same things!

As is the habit of some: Some found it difficult to assemble, even before the pandemic on a sunny day. The past year has further sifted that truth out. Many today may find it hard to break from the newly formed habit of isolation. A spirit of discipline will need to be embraced soberly.

Remember this truth: There are some that would love to attend that simply cannot. For these, we will always have a video service. This should not be the norm for those able-bodied who are perfectly capable to come in person. Convenience, mood and schedules should not determine my corporate involvement in worship. These were never a factor for sporting events or travel, were they?

Some may realize that even when faithfully attending services, there has long been a theme of isolating; wanting to receive but not give. Flitting in and out, as one grabs a to-go order. May the Lord grow them, and dispel that mindset that stunts personal and corporate growth.

So we continue, and so we begin again – looking forward to our worship, service, and mutual encouragement in the truths of the Lord.

And that, for a starting point, is why we are moving forward in Worshiping Together.

 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1

Life Together

We are looking forward to returning to more of our  activities and fellowship very soon. Planning for our “new normal service” began last year – a new vision for how to better be the family of God in our worship and fellowship. We have prepared a video to help us all see what our new Sunday timeframe and worship elements will be, Lord willing, starting after Easter. This will be a gradual building of our new format, as more join us in person and we (prayerfully) reach more in our community to come worship and serve with us. We welcome your encouraging comments and suggestions as we move forward.

– Pastor John & Pastor Greg