Why Meet in Person?
Over the past few months, most churches have stopped meeting in person. A global pandemic, government regulations, and a desire to serve each other and society have kept us from gathering. Instead, we’ve held “services” online, met “virtually,” and used technology to connect.
Many churches are now resuming our meetings, or will soon. But these new services feel strange. Our sensitivities are heightened, our differences are on display, and we have to endure restrictions and protocols that are awkward, inconvenient, and frustrating. Then, no matter how safe we make it, some of our church family still can’t come.
With all this in mind, some believers may feel tempted not to come at all. If our restored gatherings are so different and restricted, our online options so available and convenient, and our physical presence a genuine vulnerability, why should we even meet in person?
This is a valid question. But before we make our decisions, we need to reflect on the importance of our gatherings so that our desire to meet grows instead of atrophying.
So unless you’re someone who needs to stay home for health reasons, here are ten reasons to come back to church.
1. We’re Embodied Creatures
God made Adam from earth’s soil, Eve from Adam’s side, and humanity from their union (Gen. 1:26–27; 2:18–25; 3:20). We’re embodied souls, male and female, in his image. We’re not ethereal beings made to float in virtual space. We’re not just pixels and screennames, headshots on Zoom and Facetime. We’re human beings. We’re designed to see and hear and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God’s made. In recent months, we’ve seen the power of our online world. But we’ve also felt its limitations. No loving couple gladly accepts a “long-distance relationship” as ideal. Neither should a loving church family.
2. The Church Is One Body
The Bible consistently teaches that the church is Christ’s body on earth (Eph. 1:22–23). Each believer is a different body part, but we’re intricately knitted together (Eph. 4:15–16). We’re not independent but interdependent. Our spiritual gifts are like eyes and ears and hands and feet that each play their part in the body’s growth and mission. Yes, even at a distance, we’re still Christ’s body. But like any healthy body, we shouldn’t want to stay dislocated.
3. The Spirit Is Drawing Us
Not only are believers one body; we also have one Spirit (Eph. 4:4). The Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—inhabits God’s church, and he’s always drawing us toward unity. God’s Spirit can’t be divided, so when believers are separated involuntarily, we feel the tension—like a rubber band stretched too far. The Spirit within us yearns for us to be together, like that same rubber band pulling us back in.
4. We’re A Spiritual Family
In the church, God is our adoptive Father, so we’re all spiritual siblings—God’s “household” (1 Tim. 3:15). With our different ages and genders, Paul even calls us fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters (1 Tim. 5:1–2). But families aren’t meant to be separated. Healthy families live together, laugh together, cry together, and help each other. Parents with grown children love when the adult kids get together—and those parents are only fully satisfied when everyone’s present. We must be faithful during this season to reach out to those who can’t safely join us. But all who are able should seek to gather for our life-giving family reunions.
5. Preaching Is A Sacred Moment
Our generation is used to John Piper sermons and Beth Moore videos and Ravi Zacharias clips. Phones and screens and apps are now our default medium. In just three months, we’ve even grown used to watching our own pastors and leaders teach God’s word through WiFi and glass. In this digital environment, we must remember that preaching is fundamentally a live, sacred moment (Acts 20:20, 27). Yes, it can be streamed and recorded and posted, benefiting both virtual attendees and future hearers. But for a local family of believers, God’s word is best communicated live as the Spirit empowers an appointed preacher and trusted shepherd to articulate God’s word personally in a moment pregnant with purpose and possibility. In these moments, pastors shepherd their own sheep, and sheep hear the voice of their shepherds. In these moments, we’re struck not only by the content of the message but also the gravity of the moment. When we hear God’s word taught in a congregation, we resonate not only with our risen Lord and his royal word, but with each other. A feast enjoyed together is better than food eaten alone.
We’re human beings. We’re designed to see and hear and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God’s made.
6. There’s Nothing Like Singing Together
There’s no experience on earth like congregational singing (Ps. 95:1–2). Singing together glorifies God by re-enthroning him in the hearts of his people. Singing together brands our minds with truth and warms our hearts with grace. Singing together symbolizes our unity as we harmonize over the gospel. Singing together expresses our emotions to God (and we have lots of emotions right now). But we don’t just sing to glorify God; we also sing to encourage each other (Col. 3:16). And we can’t sing to each other through a screen. Yes, we’re vulnerable:
Congregational singing could get an American Christian infected, just like it could get a Chinese Christian arrested. But like the underground church has always done, God’s people will figure out how to praise him together, as faithfully and safely as possible. We’ll wear masks, or clean the air, or meet outside, or recite psalms, or even whisper. But ultimately, God will hear the rising praises of the Christian church, and it will be good if we’re there to express them together.
7. We Need Baptisms And Communion
Whether your church has practiced these ordinances “virtually” or not, every believer needs to see and taste these gracious symbols so that we can sense the gospel story once again. Baptism and communion remind us that God communicates to us in sensory ways. In these two ordinances, we taste and touch and see and hear the gospel, whether the splash of water in a baptismal tank [pictures the …] new believer dies and rises with Christ, or the broken bread and crushed grapes that feed us with the remembrance of his sacrifice (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:26). The way we practice these things may look different for a season, but our hearts will need them more than we know.
8. You Have A Job To Do
If you’re a believer, you have a job to do when the church gathers. The work of ministry isn’t mainly for pastors and leaders. It’s for every Christian. Every believer has spiritual gifts meant to be used, and every church body desperately needs every body part to be active (Rom. 12:4–8; Eph 4:15–16; 1 Pet. 4:10–11). When we stay home, we can still listen and give and call and text virtually. But there are many ways we simply can’t serve or encourage or build up Christ’s body unless we’re physically present.
9. Our Worship Is A Witness
Each week our friends and neighbors and coworkers walk through the same broken world we do, but without our hope and our map. Each week they suffer challenges and tragedies that make them wonder where grace and truth can be found. Yes, there are ways we can minister to them online, and we should rejoice that God’s now reaching new people with new methods. But the unbelieving world also needs to see the gospel’s transforming power embodied in a local family of Christians who love God and serve each other in the most gracious and gritty ways.
10. Greetings Change Lives
It may seem strange to end with the act of greeting—a simple activity that’s become so restricted and complicated. But all over the New Testament, the writers not only greet the churches but ask Christians to greet each other. These greetings aren’t just an afterthought tacked onto the end of their letters. These greetings symbolize the reconciling power of the gospel and foster our family dynamic. The way we greet each other—and the fact that we greet each other—is central to the church’s life and witness. Happy greetings remind us of the gospel unity we enjoy in Christ. Awkward greetings declare that the healthy church shows no partiality. Avoided greetings remind us to resolve our conflicts and reconcile our hearts. Every greeting reflects God’s love, reunites Christ’s body, enables hospitality, cultivates selflessness, opens doors for ministry, and bears witness to the God who’s welcomed us through Christ. Even if these greetings are masked, touchless, and distanced, they’re still life-shaping micro-events in every church. Just recently, our church held an outdoor worship service in our parking lot after not meeting for ten weeks. What were the happiest, most explosive moments? Our greetings. We need to see each other.
You may not be able to return right away. You might need to exercise caution for yourself or those you love. You might need to keep watching from a distance for a while. But when the time is right, God’s people can and must gather again, and I hope you’ll join in. After all, our gatherings are ultimately a taste of heaven. The Bible’s vision of heaven doesn’t look like a quarantine, a livestream, or a Zoom call. It’s a “face to face” encounter with the risen Christ and a worshipful reunion of both saints and angels (Heb. 12:22–23; Rev. 22:4). In the life to come, we won’t be siloed and segregated in mansions of glory, but living and working and loving and serving together in a new world where righteousness dwells (2 Pet .3:13). So, once we know it’s safe, wise, and no disservice to our communities, let’s gather together again—in person—until all things are new.
One thing that is so wonderful about God’s word is the fact that, regardless of whatever the era, generation, culture or government system, the Word of God is never out of date, never out of touch and never ‘at a loss’ for an answer. The truths contained in scripture are timeless and eternal, and will always be found relevant, appropriate and valid in any age. For the Word of God tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”. James 1:17
For our Saturday Morning Bus Ministry/Sunday School prayer time, we will look at how the acts of an Old Testament king speak to our situation today. The King’s name was Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, whose legacy was pretty much wrapped up in the label that God would later give him; “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin”. The Lord makes this reference to him fourteen times. So, safe to say he was a pretty bad King.
In the book of 1Kings, after a series of events that followed the death of King Solomon, the kingdom would become split, and Jeroboam, who was a servant of Solomon would be proclaimed King of Israel in the north, taking with him ten of the 12 tribes of Israel, and Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, would become King of Judah in the south, reigning over the remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin from the capital city of Jerusalem.
All that led up to this division can be found in the books of 1Kings 12, and 2Chronicles 10, so to limit the length of our devotion I’ll not go into much of the details except to say this …Sin was the root cause of it…as always. But rather the focus will be on what would be the ultimate goal of that division.
1. The ‘new normal’
Jeroboam, as the king of Israel, new that his success as king would depend heavily upon this; that the ten tribes under his control maintain their identity as God’s people. But Jeroboam would re-establish that relationship on new terms..his and not God’s. He knew that he had to do something to keep them from going to Jerusalem to worship…as they should have. This he couldn’t allow, knowing it would cost him the kingdom; “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah” 1Kings 12-26,27
Understanding that their desire to worship would draw them back to Jerusalem and back to the truth, he had to give them some kind of an ‘alternative’. So, what does he do? He does what is the unthinkable and turns the people to idols. He sets up two images of golden calves, one in Dan and the other in Bethel. He then appoints Priests at his leisure, not from the tribe of Levi, as God had ordained in Num 1:47-53, but from among the common people. He continues the imitation game by establishing Temples (high places) as new centers of worship. All of this because he knew that if they went “up” to Jerusalem to worship, that the truth would win, they would return to the house of David (King Rehoboam) and ultimately return to serve God as God would have it. It seems that King Jeroboam may have been the first to coin the popular phrase, “new normal” And sadly we don’t have to look too far to see the same thing happening in our world today, especially in this hour.
2. Idols are never idle
Jeroboam’s idols represented much more than a just a corrupted alternative to worship, they stood, by design, as spiritual roadblocks to the children of Israel; intending to keep God’s people from true worship and the truth of God’s Word. We can see the same “imitation game” being played out today, not only to keep the lost in darkness, but to keep God’s people from dwelling and abiding in the truth. Would the Devil move to capitalize somehow on our current state of separation from the norms of congregational worship? I think yes, and his own declaration in Isaiah 14 would sustain the accusation; “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north”. To imitate God is the Devil’s nature and this is a game that He understands very well. Satan has made the imitation game to be his primary precept and practice ever since the day of his creation; “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High”, Isa 14:4. But Praise the Lord, verse 15 comes after 14, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit”.
That’s right, he is defeated!
3. Our God has a desire
There are great lessons we can learn from this passage and the acts of Jeroboam, but the greater of them is this: That the truth of God will always prevail. In 1kings 13:1 God sends a prophet to rebuke Jeroboam and remind him that his imitation game was known of God and that a King out of the house of David would later burn the bones of his prophets upon his altar. This “man of God”, sent by God, came to declare the truth of God, by the Word of God, “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel”. And there he “cried against the altar in the word of the LORD”.
Although this prophet would later err, his willingness to rebuke the evil of his day is what I would like to be our focus. Isn’t this what we need today, the man of God to declare the truth of God’s word and the boldness to do it. We know well that our God is an omniscient God, that our God is omnipresent and omnipotent, and we know that He needs nothing. God certainly has a desire and design though for the “Man of God”.
Does the Lord have a design and desire for His children?” Yes, He does…He desires that the Preacher would preach the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. He desires His people to raise up holy hands in prayer, rather than to corruptible idols. He desires for a Sunday School Teacher to share and teach Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen again. He desires for Bus Captains to go out into the highways and hedges and bring them in that they may come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yes, He desires much for you and I!
He desires a nursery worker to whisper hymns in the ears of those little ones, He desires today, more than ever, that men and women will take the time to love and teach Teens and Juniors. Beloved, have our young people ever needed God more than right now? Suicide, drug use, anxiety, godlessness, hopelessness; only look around…has it ever been this dire? God desires that His people would step up to accomplish these wonderful works.
4. The High Places of Jeroboam
The Covid Virus pandemic has taken the lives of so many, and with it has come a pandemic of fear and unrest. But it also brought out a lot of good from the citizens of this great country; health care workers, first responders and retail workers have really put it on the line for all of us. But the actions of some has not been to heal and lift us up, but to tear down and promote chaos. However, we know who and what it is that we wrestle against, Eph 6:12.
5. What will it take?
Ultimately we understand this, that the focus of the evil of this world is trained on Jesus Christ and Him alone, for the world hated Him long before it hated us; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you”, John 15:18.
What did it take to set Jeroboam back on his heels? It was God’s man crying against those works with the “Word of the Lord”. The Word of God, that is the weapon of warfare, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” Heb 4:12a.
And what will it take for us to set the evil of this day back on its heels? The same thing; Men and Women of God, crying against it with the “Word of the Lord”, for we do not depend on the arm of flesh but on God, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”, 2Corith 10:4
The sum of the matter is this: That God is in control and none of this has taken Him by surprise. Even in the days of Jeroboam and the division of the kingdom, God never once had his hand off the wheel. He raised up a voice then, and He will do it again today. And when the devil lifts up his hand and points his finger at those who declare the truth of God’s word, the Lord will cause it to dry up, just as he did with Jeroboam’s in 1Kings 13:4.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” Isaiah 6:8
Is He asking you to be that voice?
- Spencer Close, Bus Ministry Director, Sharon Baptist Church
“Christ is all I need, Christ is all I need, All, all I need. Christ is all I need, Christ is all I need, All, all I need. He was crucified, For me He died, On Calvary. That He loved me so, This is why I know, Christ is all I need.” (Hymn - Author Unknown)
This great hymn is found in most hymnals but bears the authorship of unknown. Perhaps this is best because any Christian can put their name as owning these words.
In Colossians chapter 2 Paul is writing to Christians in Colossae and also Laodicea. Paul emphasizes what is most needful for the Christian life and that is Jesus Christ Himself.
The Bible tells us concerning the Laodiceans that they had become lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-22). How did this happen? They were lukewarm because they had turned away from the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In doing so, they became dulled to their spiritual poverty.
Consider the following statements:
There is no such thing as a Christian without Jesus Christ.
There is no salvation without Jesus Christ.
There is no real victory without Jesus Christ.
There is no resurrection unto life without Jesus Christ.
There is no reconciliation without Jesus Christ.
There is no peace without Jesus Christ.
These few words, though magnificent in their subject, are but a small drop in the bucket; wholly insufficient to describe our wonderful Lord and Saviour and our life with Him.
If I could say it more pointedly and plainly, our lives are meaningless and empty without Jesus Christ. Further, our ministering to others will come to nothing if He is not the beginning, middle, and end of all that we are and do.
He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Beginning and the End. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith; but we forget He is also the Sustainer of our being.
From Colossians chapter 2 we may note a few items concerning our fellowship with the Lord.
We see first of all:
The Great Conflict
Paul had a great conflict. He states, (v1) "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them that are at Laodicea…” The word translated as 'conflict' in this statement means agony. Paul is expressing the great 'agony' that he had for those young believers in both Colossae and Laodicea. His 'agony' was for these Christians not to forsake what should be primary in their Christian life; fellowship with Him (Jesus Christ). Many Christians have come to a place of emptiness because they have allowed their personal fellowship with the Lord to become nonexistent.
Paul goes on to say that he desires that they would be comforted (v2). Today, we recognize that we live in troublesome times. We can say for certainty that these are the last days. Paul describes these days in II Timothy 3:1 as ‘perilous times.' Peter describes this time period as the ‘last days’ (II Peter 3:3) and Jude describes it as the ‘last times’ in Jude 18. If this is so, how are we to be comforted in these days?
The answer is, we are comforted in the riches of Christ Jesus. Paul describes this for us in verse 2. He states, we are to be knit together in love. ( v2 “….being knit together in love…”) This being knit together in love has everything to do with Jesus Christ. (See Colossians 2:19) The word love used by Paul here is godly love; an agape love. That kind of love is only possible through a vibrant relationship and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
He continues his thought stating that not only are we to be knit together in love but “…unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding…” We are to have a firm persuasion or conviction as to the truth (God's Word). Does this mean that there are Christians that waver in their faith? Yes there are! Any Christian that gets away from Jesus Christ will not have the comfort and full assurance of understanding. When people do not have a firm handle on their life 'in Christ' they will be lacking comfort and this assurance of understanding. When doubt begins to creep into the heart, it indicates a lack of fellowship with the Lord.
Paul finishes this verse by stating that those enjoying the riches of Jesus Christ come “…to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;…” This mystery concerns the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And it is indeed a mystery! Paul does not say we have plunged to the depths of this mystery, but we acknowledge the Triune God. John Philips said this about this phrase, “The mystery of God is Christ. He is the one who incarnates the fulness of the Godhead. There’s enough mystery in that one thought alone to keep our minds and hearts occupied for all eternity." And to that I say – Amen….Our fellowship with Jesus Christ should be thrilling to us!
Not only do we see the great conflict but we are given:
The Great Command
In verse 6, we find these words, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:” In other words, the conversation of our lives (how we live day to day) has everything to do with Him. We are to walk “in Him...” In verse 7 Paul describes both an abiding and an abounding as we walk "in Him..." Notice this phrase, we are to be “Rooted and built up in him," and “stablished in the faith.” This phrase speaks to the beginning of the Christian life and all that pertains to it afterward. We are born again having received the seed of the Word of God, that message of Salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. That Word then sprung forth from the soil of our hearts and we are to be built up “in Him.” Paul moves forward from this subject of abiding to the subject of abounding. He states, “…as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." A great many people have invested their knowledge of Jesus Christ in you. There has been much in the way of training, preparation, and teaching that has gone into your Christian life. So much so, that all of us could say, 'as I have been taught…' These in Colossae had been taught, and with that impartation of great spiritual knowledge there was a stewardship. They were not only to abound in the teachings of Jesus Christ but they were to do so with thanksgiving. One of the biggest ways for us to continue in our vibrant fellowship with the Lord is by praying with thanksgiving. Oftentimes we are so quick to supplicate, but let us first remember to be thankful. Sometimes it would do us good to just thank God for all that He is and all that He has done in our lives.
We see not only the great conflict, and the great command, but next we see:
The Great Caution
If there was a warning label we could affix to every Christian, it would begin with the words BEWARE (v8). What are we to beware of? Paul states in verse 8, beware of Philosophy and Vain Deceit. Philosophy and vain deceit come into the Christian life when we begin to place anything above our personal fellowship with the Lord. Any number of idols could be mentioned. (ie. Service to the Lord, Church Attendance, Numbers on Sunday, Souls-saved, Verse Memorization etc...) These byproducts of walking "in Christ" are not bad things, but can quickly become idols. Once these idols are set up, philosophies and vain deceit will become appealing. We will often be tempted to utilize the “latest philosophy” which is often carnal in design to achieve the byproducts of the abundant Christian life. These philosophies and deceiving ideas can quickly be identified by trying them against the Word of God. We find that these philosophies and traditions of the World are after the ‘rudiments of men.” In other words, they are flesh born and not after Jesus Christ.
To combat this common infirmity of the flesh, Pauls speaks finally of:
The Great Completion
Notice his statement in verse 10, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” What a tremendous statement! Oh, how that should comfort our weary souls! There is nothing more that we need, He is our all in all. Paul pens for you and I in this verse that we are lacking nothing in Jesus Christ. What we need is a vibrant fellowship with Him! Let it be our firm desire and conviction to cherish our fellowship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, after all Christ is all we need!
Pastor James, Associate Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
As the world continues its descent into chaos over a global health crisis, it provides a unique
opportunity to check on our spiritual health. With houses of worship shut down, Satan would love to use this opportunity to separate believers, sow fear and discord among His children, and stop every opportunity to witness. Unfortunately for him, we have many tools available to continue our witness.
I have seen countless missionaries and many churches, including Sharon Baptist Church, using social media to spread the good news of the gospel. I am asked a lot by my coworkers what God's plan through all of this is. I can honestly say to them that whatever is going on in life or in the world, God's plan has never changed. Everything is centered around an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! That is it. It is what our eternal destination depends on. It is the most important decision we will ever make.
This time in our history is a perfect example of how GOD can show us how easily life can change on a moment's notice. Those that have their trust in bank accounts, houses, cars, and other riches now see how fragile life can be. Within a matter of approximately a few weeks, our way of life has changed drastically. I can tell my coworkers I am shocked as much as they are, but the bible gives us assurance.
Isaiah 40:31 tells us, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
The bible tells me I have no reason to be afraid. No one wants to contract this virus. With all that being said, you and I need to use common sense during this crisis. Wash our hands regularly, protect our brothers and sisters in Christ, and everyone else we come into contact with. I have the blessed assurance that if I do get sick, I can trust GOD to heal me, or call me home to be with Him, but “not making it” is not the end for me. The bible tells me it is just the beginning.
All believers have had that “moment” when GOD showed us that HE was there. I can look back to my own testimony. I was serving in the military in Iceland in the mid 90's, close to the North Pole. Certainly, I thought, GOD isn't here. Shortly after I had that thought, GOD began to work on my heart, and my wife's heart at the same time. We both desperately had a burning desire to hear His word. I knew that the base chapel would not provide what we desired, so we both started to pray about it.
Suddenly, I was getting my haircut, and the barber started talking about an Easter Cantata at church. I asked about the details, and he told me about an American missionary that started First Baptist Church Njardvik. Brother Johnny Wright had been serving there approximately 2 years. Once under the preaching of God's word, I found my assurance of Salvation and found myself getting baptized the following week. GOD WAS there! The next thing I knew, I was going door knocking in a foreign nation. What a wonderful time in my life! Jesus took every sinful addiction I had as a young sailor, and used me where I thought was impossible only a few weeks after my prayer to Him. To this day, my wife and I are partial to any missionary family we come into contact with. We thank GOD someone answered His calling, regardless of the circumstances in their lives to carry out the LORD's work. We want every missionary that Sharon Baptist Church supports to know that your name is lifted up in prayer every week.
In closing, this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to point to Jesus Christ as the answer. Just as in Noah's day, the world was busy. Now, we are at a standstill. For all of the fear that is loose in our nation and the world, let us turn people to our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If one person within our personal circle comes into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, this crisis will be worth it. I urge all of us to take this opportunity that the LORD has given us.
- Dave Kruger, Sunday School Teacher, Sharon Baptist Church
How could it not be? With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the nation and most states currently under a shelter-in-place order, maintaining our cherished Easter traditions has become all but impossible. Extended families will not gather together this year. Parents will not inflict bow ties on their sons and fancy Easter dresses on their daughters: most churches will observe Easter Sunday in an online-only format this year, so there’s really no need to get all dressed up. I’m sure there will be a marked decline in large-scale Easter egg hunts too (social distancing, you know).
But then again, the first Easter was a little different too. Dead men do not rise. Our common human experience and intuition are quite decisive on this point. Once a body is laid to rest, that is it. No more gatherings. No more conversations. Not in this life anyway. At least that was the case, until that first glorious Easter Sunday morning when a dead man did rise. And in so doing, He defeated death and Hell forever. Those malign enemies are now but fangless, clawless specters to all who know the Lord. They can scare us. They can trouble us. But they cannot ultimately hurt us, because Christ the Lord is risen from the grave.
The coronavirus is like that too. It can trouble us. It can hurt us. It can tank the stock market and inflict loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty. It can even take our loved ones from us. But that is the worst it can do, because Christ the Lord is risen from the grave. The coronavirus can never separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31–39). It can never remove our unshakable hope for a far greater country in the life hereafter, where every tear will be wiped away and where sickness, sorrow, sin, and death will be obliterated forever as Jesus makes all things new (Revalation 21:4–5). It cannot even change the fact that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing, promised us an unfading inheritance, and positionally seated us in the heavens with Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:1–6). The coronavirus looks very scary to us right now, but in the grand scheme of things its influence is quite limited. One day God will effortlessly sweep it away along with every other sickness, pain, trial, and atrocity of this life, and He will replace it with all that is good and pure and joyful. And the greatest news imaginable is that you and I will be there to see it, because Christ the Lord is risen from the grave.
Easter is going to be a little different this year. But that’s okay, because Easter isn’t really about the traditions. It’s not about the family gatherings or Easter egg hunts or special services. It is about the fact that Christ the Lord is risen from the grave, and on the basis of His death and resurrection, He promises eternal life to all who trust in Him. So, whatever happens over the next few months, you can trust Him. Even if everything in this life comes crumbling down around you, you can cling to Jesus, the wonder-working Savior, who triumphed over death and redeems all that is broken and undone.
He is risen! He is risen indeed.
Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
P.S. Sharon Baptist Church family, don’t forget to email your pictures of your family Easter gatherings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In these challenging days with many churches having an online presence for their Sunday Service instead of meeting in person, it is important that every member realize this truth:
My church’s on-site worship services may have been cancelled, but my church’s ongoing mission and ministry continues. Church members’ faithful, weekly giving makes possible the continued fulfillment of the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ for their church in their community and throughout the world. How can members remain faithful in their giving responsibility and thus continue to invest in and fund the continued mission and ministry of their church?
Here are some ways:
1. Continue giving weekly through your personal banking online bill pay service.
I heard someone say recently, “I rarely write a check anymore.” This is because most people pay their bills online these days. Simply fill out the information regarding your church and add them as one of the organizations you “pay” or in this case “give” to. This method does not cost the church or the giver any additional fee.
2. Use your church’s online giving option on your church web site. Some churches make online giving very easy by offering a menu option that has simple instructions on how to give online through the church web site.
3. Send your donation weekly through the U.S. Postal Service. This may be the option of choice for members who are not tech savvy. The “fee” for using this method is simply the Fifty-Five cent stamp required to send it. Members need to take precautions and make sure that when they send a letter that they don’t have symptoms that might lead to the spread of a virus via a letter.
4. Drop the donation off at the church if your church has on site workers to be able to collect it. Obviously with the encouragement to work from home and the need for social distancing, this would be the least optimal of the options mentioned. The same precautions mentioned in number five above need to be practiced if this option is utilized.
Sharon Baptist Church
2625 N. Armistead Ave.
Hampton, VA 23666
Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Pastor Carroll's notes from Wednesday Night Prayer and Bible Study
Lamentations 3: 20-25
Many people woke up this week to a world they never imagined. It happened because of the coronavirus outbreak. Along the way we learned a new word: pandemic. We know the word epidemic, which refers to widespread disease, but what is a pandemic? It means "a disease has spread to many parts of the world." What started in China spread quickly to South Korea and Japan. Travelers took it to Iran, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, and soon it spread across the entire globe. As of this service Italy and Spain are in lockdown, borders are closed including the United States. Almost every country in the world has issued travel restrictions to keep out anyone infected with the coronavirus.
We live in strange times.
Schools are closed, restaurants are closing, sporting events have been canceled, large assemblies are forbidden, and we’ve all learned about "social distancing," which means you stay away from me, and I’ll stay away from you. Some counties, and the City of San Francisco are under a "shelter in place" order, which means you stay home round the clock, with only a few specific exceptions. All because of a tiny microbe that is incredibly contagious and extremely dangerous, especially to those over 60 and those with compromised immune systems. This is life for all of us right now. No one knows when things will get better. This may last a few weeks, or it may last a few months. It could last longer. We are living with a level of anxiety we haven’t seen since 9/11. People worry about their health and the health of their loved ones. We’re worried about losing our jobs and our income. Our 401K's have become 20.5K's. Most of us feel trapped by events that we can’t control. No wonder people are hoarding toilet paper. No wonder we can’t sleep. No wonder we feel shaky.
How should Christians respond to all that the Coronavirus has brought on?
A. Be Calm
Christians ought to be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord, and he
holds the future in his hands. There is no panic in heaven over this pandemic. If you spend all your time perusing the latest news, you will doubtless lose your perspective. Focus on the Lord, remember his promises, and everything will be well with your soul.
B. Be Prepared
Since no one can say what tomorrow will bring. It would be good to stock up on the essentials we will need. Some of those items might include: food, medicine, other essentials (toilet paper), and perhaps a little cash. Who knows, we might be asked to "shelter in place" or "self-quarantine" ourselves to one degree or another. At the very least, we’ll all spend more time at home than usual. So be prepared, but have an optimistic outlook.
Take wise precautions. Wash your hands! (with soap as we tell the Day School kids). Practice "social distancing" (6 feet apart), but most of all don’t despair and don’t give in to fear.
God has equipped us for times like these.
Notice the following passage in the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 6: 6-11 "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,  Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.  How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?  Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:  So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man."
C. Be Ready To Share
Keep your eyes open for those in need. This includes senior citizens, the sick, and those who are otherwise overlooked by society. We will all find plenty of opportunities to minister in the days ahead.
We don't need to give in to fear.
1 John 3:17 "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
D. Pray Fervently
1 Timothy 2:1-2 "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
E. Be An Encourager
Even though many business establishments have temporarily closed and social contact is limited. There are still opportunities to reach out and love others. How can we accomplish this?
- Through phone calls, text messages, emails, video calls, and social media.
- You can check in to see how loved ones are doing and encourage others with prayer, a kind word, or sharing a passage of God’s Word.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
F. Stay Informed
In times like these, it’s easy for misinformation to spread. Check with your local health services, or your family Doctor to stay up to date about what’s happening in your community. The website Hampton.gov has a great deal about the virus on its website. Another resource is the (CDC) or the Center for Disease Control Website.
Proverbs 1:5 "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:"
G. Be A Witness (to a needy world)
Pray and ask God to give you opportunities to witness in these unperilled times. Seek or look for the opportunities you have prayed for. Follow through and wittiness to them.
1 Peter 3:15 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"
CONCLUSION: While there is a number of things we should do and a number of things we could do. The most important things is for us to overcome our fear with faith in Christ.
Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
In the book of Acts we have recorded for us several messages that Paul the Apostle preached. All of these messages, as with the other Apostles, pointed people to Jesus Christ. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas are new on the mission field. They arrive in a town called Lystra and during Paul’s conveying of the Gospel a man who was “impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb…” was healed miraculously by God through Paul’s actions. In verse 10, faith is seen both in Paul and the impotent man. Unfortunately, those who witnessed the preaching and the miracle that had taken place wrongly understood what it meant.
As this situation progressed, it became understood by Paul and Barnabas that these idolaters believed Paul and Barnabas were gods. In verse 13 the Bible declares that the “priest of Jupiter” began to commence leading worship of the two missionaries. Of course, once the apostles “heard of” it, Paul began to convey the truth. One phrase in particular I would like to draw your attention to is in verse 15. Paul in speaking to these states, “We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:…”
The direct phrase here really sums up the choice that every man must make. We must turn from these vanities unto the living God.
In Psalm 31:6 the Bible uses a similar phrase and speaks of “lying vanities…” Jonah in his prayer from the fishes belly cries out using the exact same expression stating, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8)
What exactly are these vanities that are spoken of? In this passage the vanities are lies concerning false ‘gods’ that the people had believed and held onto. In fact, the very stone and wooden idols that these lost people worshipped were themselves vain (false or worthless). This word employed by Paul is an adjective describing what the people had chosen.
As we go back to Acts 14 let us make note of a few items declared in this passage. First of all, we can be admonished that:
All People Are Of Like Passions
Paul started his correction of these people’s behavior explaining that “We also are men of like passions with you…” (In our text the miraculous healing of the impotent man influenced their thoughts toward Paul and Barnabas.) Sometimes those that are without get the idea that Christians are ‘holier than thou.’ In this case, Paul was exhibiting great faith in God and was used in the miraculous healing of this man. Paul wanted to set the story straight that they were men of like passions. These idolaters looked at Paul and Barnabas because of their superstition as being ‘gods.’ If we are not careful, we will allow people to think we are something other than sinners to whom Christ has saved and transformed. The truth is that Christians are different. They are children of Light rather than children of darkness (John 8:44; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 5:5). However, the difference is Jesus Christ! Paul was careful to explain, we are “…men of like passions...” In other words, we are not “gods” we are Christians. We are sinners that have trusted in Jesus Christ as our Saviour!
Secondly, we can glean that all men:
Should Turn From Vanities
Paul is expressing a matter of principle here, that all people have a God-given ability to choose (individual Soul liberty). He signifies this by stating these people “should” turn from these vanities. He does not state that the people would turn from them. All around us, there are people that are choosing the empty and the worthless over the all-sufficient God. Christians are not immune from this sad state either. Oftentimes, we choose the empty and worthless over fellowship with God. Learning from the passage in the book of Psalms and Jonah above, we find that these vanities lie to us with promises of fulfillment but have no ability to provide what God can only give us.
Not only should all people turn from these vanities, but they:
Should Turn To The Living God
These people needed to turn to Jesus Christ. The great need of the day is for all men to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The lost person needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The Christian needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. As we survey the Bible we see God’s message of Salvation. It is the story of God reconciling man unto Himself. But God has given you and I the choice to turn from vanities to Him. May we pray fervently in this new year that God would help us to always look to our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and forsake the lying vanities of this world.
- James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalms 19:14
The Psalmist David speaks of three things in this Psalm; one, the Power and beauty of the Heavens, or what is the natural world; two, the Power and beauty of the law of God; and thirdly, David closes the psalm with two verses that speak on the subject of himself, his standing before God and his sin; either known or unknown. After he wonderfully declares the glory and honor of God, David concludes by looking upon himself in contrast to God’s magnificence. This is wisdom. The majesty and glory of God ought to act as a mirror; causing us to look at ourselves in the light of it.
In the final verses of the psalm, he asks the Lord to keep him from sin; both those that are evident, and those that come with subtly. He reminds the Lord that God alone is the keeper of His soul and that the Lord will deliver him from the ‘great transgression’. How we need to remindourselves the Lord of His goodness towards us in the giving of His Son; how that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God and delivers us from the great transgression. David desires that the words of his mouth, and the meditation of his heart be acceptable in the sight of God. David understands that the two, the heart and our words, go hand in hand. He understands, as we ought to understand, that the meditation of our heart is often reflected in our words. The things we say testify to the greater part of what we think and believe; or what is the meditation of our heart.
Peter, the night that the Lord was arrested, sitting outside the palace of the High Priest, denied he knew the Lord three times; Peter, that great apostle! This was certainly a Peter far different from the one we heard say earlier, “though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” You would think, by the way that he portrayed himself before Jesus’ arrest, that he would rather have choked to death on those words than to ever let them out of his mouth. Yet his words revealed a truth; a condition of the heart. We also know what became of Peter, how through the power of the Holy Spirit of God his heart would become equal to his boldness in the Lord.Jesus makes the same connection of the heart and our words in Luke 6:45, saying, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh”.
Brother Paul, in his letter to the Romans, in that life changing passage we know as ‘Roman’s road’ (vss 10:8-10), he again reinforces the importance of that relationship between the heart and our words. That even in the process and act of how we might believe upon Christ and be saved, they are again found together. There is power in both the heart and our words when referred to separately, but O’ how powerful they are when referenced together. David finishes his song reminding us of how important this is concerning our heart and our words; reminding us that it is the power God and His strength alone that keeps them both. So Like David, let me ask of God that my heart and my words be acceptable to Him first. Let me ask of the Lord as David did in Psalms 141:3, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
Notice, at the end of Verse 14, David declares the answers to his desires that he lays out in the verse’s beginning; He answers the How and the Why.
Desire: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight..”
Answer: “…O LORD, My Strength and my redeemer."
Let us meditate day and night on the Word of God, storing up in our hearts His truths, which cleanse and purify and are able to keep us from falling; presenting us faultless through Jesus our Savior. Let us confess our sins daily, calling upon Christ, resisting the devil that he may flee from us.
To God’s glory Let our words reveal in us a clean heart, a pure heart; words that are seasoned with salt, edifying to the hearer and so being acceptable to the Lord.
How? Because He is my Strength
Why? Because He is my Redeemer
- Spencer Close, Bus Ministry Director, Sharon Baptist Church
I'm not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but God's Word has something to say about the "beginning of months" and "years." Take for instance the passage in Exodus 12:2 were the Word says, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you."
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, not only was their way of life changed, but even the way they kept track of time. A new calendar was started by the Lord beginning around the time of the Exodus. Each new year would automatically make them remember their beginning when God led them out of bondage from Egypt. Perhaps it would do us good as God's children to see the start of the new year as a time of personal reflection and a time of remembering of what God has done for us during the past year and leading us out of the bondage of sin at the moment of our salvation.
Then in Deuteronomy 11:12 we find these words, "A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." We know that in the context of this verse God is speaking to Moses and is referring to the promise land that He prepared for the nation of Israel. But I believe that these two verses can have meaning for Christians today as we prepare to launch into a new year and a new decade.
Often times there is an inward and outward transformation that takes place at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. It is as if I can hear Paul audibly speak as he pens down the words of scripture in Philippians 3:13 "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
To be quite honest, some of us need to leave some things behind in the old year. I’m referring to those things that have been hindering our walk with Christ, those things that weaken our testimony, and those things that are in clear disobedience to the will and way of Christ. Leave them behind in 2019 and stretch forth to those things that are before us in 2020.
Stretch forth to things such as prayer, faithful church attendance, serving and ministering within the local church. We also must include meditating on God's Word, regular support of our local New Testament church by our tithes and offerings, and our obligation to reach others with the Gospel of Christ through Grace Giving Missions and personal Soul-Winning.
Paul writes in Hebrews 12:1b "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Would you be willing to do that as we enter into the new year? Do you have the desire to experience the joy of a cleansed heart by confession and repentance? If we are willing to do that, only then will we be able to say, "Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness." (Psalm 65:11)
While contemplating those questions, remember that "The eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:12)
- Pastor Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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