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

The Simple Life – Pastor Greg

     Green acres is the place to be
     Farm livin’ is the life for me
     Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
     Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

Anybody remember that opening song? It was from a TV sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1971. It starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, a New York City couple who have moved to a country farm to live a simpler life. Though it was meant as a comedy of city folk attempting to run a farm, it also tapped into the desire to experience a less complicated life. We can read daily of those who are tired of the rat race and decide to quit their careers to head off to the country for a slower pace. Many of us, I’m sure, have often longed for something less hectic, less noisy, something quiet. 

The apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 states the following: “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” The word ambition means, “to seek after earnestly, to aspire to”. Paul is saying that leading a quiet life should be our aspiration and be sought after. Not only should we desire quiet and peace, we are told to make it a goal! 

In Paul’s day in the Roman culture, there was a practice of a client/patron relationship. That is, a rich patron would support financially a “free client”, a person who was a free Roman citizen, who in turn would be required to speak well of the patron and do favors that were requested of him (think of the godfather). This was such a widespread practice that clients were often considered parasites that lived off the good will of others (which they did.) As they often had much free time and were expected to give good press concerning their patron, clients would often spend their time in political discussions in various forums of the city. Clients lived in dependence on the system and were busybodies. Paul taught that it was not to be this way for believers. Paul makes it clear that he had already spoken regarding this, and that the motivation is for believers to provide for their own needs. The NLT states verse 12 this way: “Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” While Paul is not teaching that Christians should not be involved in politics, he is saying that our lives should be marked by focusing on our walk with God and to take care of our own business. That way we will not be in need because of our idleness.

Many times, our own decisions are the source of our stress and anxiety.  Paul makes it clear that our lives are to be lived quietly or “in stillness”. This makes me think of still waters and green pastures. To put my hands down and know that God is God alone. It is often the case that the less I mind my own business, the more anxious, tense and disquieted I get. Oftentimes we can get sucked into a world that seems to go faster and faster. We are so concerned about many things, and the tension rises as the demands grow.  We all need a reset from time to time, to hit pause and reevaluate. To stop fussing about the things I cannot not change and focus on my own business. To live in the green pastures (acres?) by the quiet waters. Maybe that time is now?